Photo: Fresh Salad with Greens

by Tracy Ternes

A plant-based diet is well recognized as a health-promoting, disease-fighting eating style for both the mainstream and the health, wellness and medical communities. Many famed leaders of the past and present have embraced a plant-based diet for optimum health and wellness. In recognition of Women's History Month, we would like to highlight a few influential women from the past and present whose achievements have inspired many and who have also chosen a healthy and ethical style of eating.


Rosa Parks, 1913-2005 - Famed Civil Rights Leader


“I am very much concerned for peace and prosperity and justice for all people. That is my one hope that we will one day be a world of peace. Our communities will be strengthened by working together.”


Rosa Parks was the famed civil rights leader well known for her courageous acts that sparked the Montgomery Bus Boycotts and inspired many subsequent efforts to end racial segregation in the U.S.


Rosa Parks became a vegetarian later in her life, prompted by heart problems. Recalling her childhood, Parks said, “I was not in the practice of eating a lot of meat. We had peach, apple, plums. We would go into the woods and eat blackberries. It was not hard at all for me to not eat meat. It was something that I wanted to do.”[1]


Coretta Scott King, 1927-2006 - Wife of Dr. Martin Luther King


“The greatness of a community is most accurately measured by the compassionate actions of its members ... a heart of grace and a soul generated by love.”


Coretta Scott King, wife of Martin Luther King Jr, was a lifelong social activist. Even before she met her husband she was travelling the world, campaigning for world peace. As Dr. King’s wife, her role was always as partner, fighting alongside him for social justice. Her continued efforts after his death lead to the establishment of the King Center as well as of the national holiday commemorating him. She adopted a fully plant-based diet in 1995, encouraged by her son Dexter King. She believed that Dr. King’s philosophy of non-violence should logically extend to non-violence against animals. [2], [3]


Christine Legarde, born 1956 - Managing Director, International Monetary Fund (IMF)


To me, leadership is about encouraging people. It's about stimulating them. It's about enabling them to achieve what they can achieve - and to do that with a purpose.


Christine Legarde is the Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the organization represented by 88 governments and accountable to 188 countries, which promotes financial stability worldwide.[4] In 2014 she was voted Diplomat of The Year by Foreign Policy Magazine and was ranked the 5th most powerful woman in the world by Forbes magazine. Previously she was the first woman to become finance minister of a G8 economy, and is the first woman to head the IMF. Her fearless determination and success in a sector of work generally dominated by men is inspiring to young women and she has spoken candidly of the unique strengths that women bring to the workplace. Legarde maintains her health with a vegetarian diet and plenty of exercise – especially swimming (In 1973, her synchronized swimming team won the French national championship) and cycling.[5], [6],[7]


Hanna Teter, born in 1987 - Olympic Snowboarder


“My goal from the beginning was that if I ever made it big, I would reach out as much as humanly possible. That’s the goal right now, to keep reaching out and touching other people and other places and helping to create positive change.”


Hannah Teter is an American Olympic snowboarder. She won the gold medal in halfpipe at the 2006 Winter Olympic Games in Torino, Italy and silver at the 2010 Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver. Hannah has always had a drive to help people and make a difference in the world. She donated all of her Olympic winnings and other prize money to charity and has started her own foundation, “Hannah’s Gold” (hannahsgold.com) which uses proceeds from the sale of her branded Vermont maple syrup and other products to fund clean water projects in the town of Kirindon, Kenya. Her example of generously giving back makes her a great role model for youth.[8]


In a 2010 interview, she remarks about being a vegetarian athlete, “I feel stronger than I've ever been, mentally, physically, and emotionally. My plant-based diet has opened up more doors to being an athlete. It's a whole other level that I'm elevating to. I stopped eating animals about a year ago, and it's a new life. I feel like a new person, a new athlete.”[9]


Carrie Underwood, born 1983 - Country Music Singer


“Everybody has the power to do something, to be a contributing force and I would rather people look back on my life and say, ‘She made the world a better place.’ We can all do things like that, and I believe that when opportunities arise for you to do good, you should do good.”


Carrie Underwood is a hugely successful country music singer who got her big break as the winner of American Idol in 2004. Twelve years later, she has won 7 Grammy’s, 17 Billboard Music Awards, 11 Academy of Country Music Awards and 9 American Music Awards. Her achievements have earned her a place in the Grand Ole Opry as well as the Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame.


Underwood is a longtime vegetarian and currently eats a vegan diet. In 2009, she established the Checotah Animal, Town, and School Foundation to support animal welfare and other causes in her hometown of Checotah, Oklahoma. She is an ongoing supporter of the Humane Society, has done several public service announcements in support of animal welfare and, in 2010, was the official spokesperson of the Pedigree adoption drive. Underwood and Pedigree teamed up to donate $10,000 to a New York animal shelter and in 2011 Underwood opened the Happy Paws Animal Shelter in Checotah, OK. [10], [11]


As plant-based eating continues to enter into mainstream society, we are sure to see more and more world leaders and celebrities embracing its benefits and advocating for this healthful, sustainable and ethical lifestyle. We applaud the above women for their many positive contributions to the world and hope that they inspire others to embrace a more plant-centric diet.

Footnotes: 

[1] Boyd, Herb. Rosa Parks remembers: Forty Years Later. The Crisis. January 1996. Pg. 33
[2] Reynolds, Barbara A. “The Real Corretta Scott King”. Saturday, February 4, 2006. The Washington Post. 22 February 2016. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/02/03/AR200602...
[3] Toronto Vegetarian Association Authors. “Coretta Scott King & the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr.” February 1st, 2006. 22 February 2016. http://veg.ca/2006/02/01/coretta-scott-king-dexter-scott-king-and-the-le...
[4] The IMF At a Glance. Sep 16, 2015. http://www.imf.org/external/np/exr/facts/glance.htm
[5] "Christine Lagarde." BrainyQuote.com. Xplore Inc, 2016. 22 February 2016. http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/c/christinel678490.html
[6] Guinness, Molly. July 16, 2011. “Is this the world's sexiest woman (and the most powerful)?” 22 February 2016. http://www.theguardian.com/world/2011/jul/17/christine-lagarde-worlds-se...
[7] Johnson Diane. “Christine Lagarde: Changing of the Guard”. AUGUST 22, 2011. Accessed 22 February 2016. http://www.vogue.com/865416/christine-lagarde-changing-of-the-guard/
[8] Hannah’s Gold. http://hannahsgold.com/?page_id=65. Accessed 22 February 2016.
[9] Andrews, Avital. “Hannah Teter, Gold-Medal Snowboarder, Carves a Meaningful Life.” Huffpost Sports, May 2011. Accessed 22 February 2016. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/avital-binshtock/hannah-teter-gold-medal-s...
[10] Contributing writer. “Carrie Underwood”. http://www1.cbn.com/music/carrie-underwood. Feb 22, 2016
[11] “Carrie Underwood”. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carrie_Underwood. Feb 22, 2016.