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There was a time when meeting a full-fledged vegan was about as likely as getting into Crow Pose on your first try. But now, abstaining from animal products is becoming more mainstream in America—and Hollywood is following suit.
Jessica Simpson reportedly went on a vegan diet for about two weeks leading up to her wedding last weekend, a source tells Us Weekly, and she’s just the latest star to try or stick to a plant-based diet. “Vegan eating is on the rise with everyday people and celebrities alike,” says Lisa Lange, senior vice president of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). “But when Hollywood’s most successful and respected actors are outspoken about their commitment to eating vegan—and stars like Beyoncé, Jay-Z, and Jennifer Lopez are discussing how great they feel when they try out vegan meals—it really makes a splash.”
It’s no wonder that Hollywood is foregoing foie gras: Studies have shown that vegans have lower cholesterol and blood pressure, face a lower risk of cardiovascular disease, and are thinner than their meat-eating counterparts. Here are six more stars who traded steak for tofu and why it’s good news for their health.
Beyonce and Jay-Z announced last December that they would be taking a 22-day vegan challenge to celebrate his birthday. (The challenge from health food company 22 Days Nutrition invites carnivores to go meatless for a minimum of 22 days.) Although the diet didn’t stick, Jay and Bey, who both appeared slimmer at the Grammys in January, have since been seen dining out at vegan joints like L.A.’s Cafe Gratitude, a popular health food restaurant that serves up everything from baked kale chips to kelp noodle pasta.
The Benefit: Weight Loss “A plant-based diet, by default, may be lower in calories,” says Marjorie Nolan Cohn, national spokeswoman for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. “Additionally, plant-based diets require your digestive tract to work harder, a function of overall fiber content, so you’re naturally burning more calories, which can keep weight in check.”
Jennifer Lopez also partook in the 22-day vegan challenge and was thrilled by the results. “I felt really good and I even stayed on with it a few more weeks,” she told Ryan Seacrest. “Now I’ve just incorporated a little bit of fish here and there.”
The Benefit: Healthier Overall Lifestyle “The most likely reason a vegan has more energy is related to his or her lifestyle,” Cohn says. “Those who choose veganism are probably working harder to have an overall healthier lifestyle in general.”
Alicia Silverstone, a longtime vegan, outlined her reasons for ditching meat and dairy in her 2011 best-seller The Kind Diet. Since then, the eco-conscious actress has continued to spread the word about a plant-based diet in her new book The Kind Mama as well as by sharing vegan recipes like Cauliflower Buffalo Wings on her natural-living website The Kind Life.
The Benefit: Easy Digestion “Plant-based foods are naturally higher in water and lots of fiber, and water keeps things moving,” Cohn says. “It can have the beneficial side effect of regularity.”
Olivia Wilde was inspired by her Butter co-star Silverstone to go vegan when Silverstone whipped up healthy meatless dishes they could share on the set of the 2012 indie flick. “Being vegan is not always easy and accessible, but it’s a way of life and makes me as a person feel really good and physically look better,” Wilde told The Huffington Post. “My skin was better, my energy was better.”
The Benefit: Better Skin “This is most likely related to higher water and vitamin and mineral intake,” Cohn says. “Also, dairy is notorious for causing breakouts, so simply cutting dairy can make a difference for many people with acne-prone skin.”
Jared Leto, 42, has publicly credited his vegan diet (and yoga practice) as the secret weapon behind his boyish good looks. “Twenty solid years of eating vegetarian/vegan and taking care of myself, that probably helps the preservation process,” the Oscar winner told British GQ last year.
The Benefit: Anti-Aging “Fruits and veggies are high in flavonoids and carotenoids which are antioxidants,” Cohn says. “Antioxidants stabilize free radicals from your body that cause premature aging.” In other words: you’ll feel better and look better, too!