When former President Bill Clinton forsakes burgers for beans, it's a sign that a vegan diet is no longer fringe. Clinton announced in a CNN interview last month that he lost 24 pounds on an almost entirely vegan diet, just in time for the wedding of his daughter, Chelsea, who is a vegan.
"Hardly a day goes by that there isn't something in the news about the benefits of a plant-based diet," said Evelyn Kimber, president of the Boston Vegetarian Society, which organizes this weekend's Boston Vegetarian Food Festival.
Oprah Winfrey brought her vegan passion into the homes of millions of Americans when she ate vegan meals as part of a 21-day cleanse in 2008.
The documentary "Food, Inc" and the book "The Omnivore's Dilemma" have caused many people to think about the broader impact of what they eat.
"There's been a huge shift in the last few years with people being more conscious about what they're putting in their bodies and how it affects their health, animals and the environment," said chef Tal Ronnen, author of the 2009 New York Times bestseller "The Conscious Cook," the first full-color vegan cookbook.
That shift also can be seen in the surge in attendance at the 15-year-old Boston Vegetarian Food Festival.
To accommodate crowds, the festival added a second day last year and drew about 25,000 people.