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THE TWO PERCENT

The term "One Percent," in its most common definition, refers to the wealthiest Americans. Individuals who control nearly 50 percent of total financial wealth. The term is considered derogatory by most people, which is understandable: ninety-nine people in a hundred are excluded from this elite group. Issues of wealth stratification, social class, the questionable merit of most jobs and the inanity of the monetary system aside, we'd like to briefly discuss another exclusive group, one not based on the size of your bank account but on the scope of your awareness, one you can easily be a part of. Who knows, perhaps you already are.

An article featured in Bloomberg BusinessWeek magazine discussed the new trend among CEOs, many of whom have tossed the bacon, eggs, steak, chicken breast, milk, ice cream, and all else animal, and replaced these foods with plant-based fare. And the list is long. Las Vegas mogul Steve Wynn, real estate tycoon Mort Zuckerman, business magnate Russell Simmons, and former commander-in-chief Bill Clinton are now exercising their chompers on plant ruffage. Other power people who have dropped the steak knife in favor of the salad include Ford executive Bill Ford, Twitter co-founder Biz Stone, venture capitalist Joi Ito, and Whole Foods Market CEO, John Mackey. Oh, and Mike Tyson, Alec Baldwin, and a host of other celebrities.

In short, the One Percent has become...the Two Percent. That's how many vegans there are in the United States, according to a recent Gallup poll. Yes, veganism is an exclusive club. Partly because it is thought of as expensive and time consuming. It is true that specialty items containing highly processed soy derivatives can cost as much as meat if not more. (But this has to do with issues of subsidization, a topic known as the Farm Bill which politicians are debating as you read this.)

As with everything else, veganism is how you go about it, and if you don't have a wallet that's as thick as newly-minted vegan Rupert Murdoch's (net worth 11.2 billion) pinching pennies may be in your favor, as far as your health is concerned. Because unprocessed or minimally processed foods - that is, whole foods in their natural state (fruits and vegetables and beans and seeds especially) - are easy on your budget and top shelf as far as nutrition is concerned. In fact, you can easily purchase food for a week for $100 or less, which is a very doable $15 a day, as I discuss in my book, The Paradigm Diet.

As for the motives America's wealthiest have for becoming vegan, who's to say. Some may do it for the environment, others to combat meat-induced heart disease, while some did it because their sweetheart did it first, as was the case with former head of Viacom, Tom Freston. But one thing is certain: The richest Americans know how to make money, and many do it by spotting trends. With veganism they've found a trend with benefits - longevity, vibrancy, and youthfulness - and it's here to stay.

So join the club. The vegan club. If enough opt in, it won't be so exclusive, and that (like wealth, which would be of greater benefit if more widely distributed) is better for us all.

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