Carnivores vs Herbivores

For years, theorists have disagreed as to whether humans are herbivores, carnivores, or omnivores. Although widely considered omnivores because of our ability to metabolize both animal and plant foods, many argue that a closer look at our anatomy and physiology will tell a different story! the following are some interesting observations, you can take it or leave it..just make sure you read it before you decide!

a clean fit

Oral Cavity/Teeth

Carnivores and omnivores have large, wide mouths to help them tear into and firmly grasp their prey. Their jaws are built like simple hinges moving up and down primarily. This prevents them from properly chewing food, but they do not need to chew as they swallow whole food. They have piercing incisors, long sharp canines, and molars with blade like edges, all to aid them in ripping through flesh.

In comparison, herbivores and humans have smaller mouths with jaws that move up and down as well as forward and from side to side, which allows for crushing and grinding. To further assist with chewing, they have broad flat incisors, small blunt canines, and square flat molars.

Saliva

Because carnivores and omnivores generally swallow their food whole, they do not require digestive enzymes in their saliva. Herbivores and humans, on the other hand, rely on digestive enzymes in saliva to mix with and help further break down our pre-chewed food.

Nails/Claws

Carnivores and omnivores have claws to help them capture their prey. Because herbivores and humans do not generally capture prey with their hands, they do not need claws. Instead, they have flat nails or rounded hooves.

Gastro-Intestinal Tract

Carnivores and omnivores have large stomachs, which help them store their less frequently eaten meals. Their intestinal tracts, however, are short (about 3-6 times their body length), allowing them to pass their meat through before it rots. Herbivores and humans have smaller stomachs and much longer intestinal tracts (10-12 times their body length). These long intestines allow enough time for plant foods to be broken down, digested, and absorbed.

Because their intestines are short and smooth, carnivores and omnivores do not require fiber in their diets. Herbivores and humans, on the other hand, need fiber to help prevent rotting of food by pushing it through their longer digestive tracts.

Finally, carnivores and omnivores have very acidic stomach contents (pH 1-2) to help them not only break down food but also to kill any bacteria commonly found on rotting meat. Herbivores and humans who do not generally consume inadequately chewed meat and bones, on the other hand, have significantly less acidic stomach contents (pH 4-5).

Cholesterol

Carnivores are able to remove cholesterol much better than humans. The health of carnivores and omnivores is not harmed by a high-cholesterol diet. Unfortunately, humans do not share the same fate, and high cholesterol in our diets often leads to clogging of the arteries and heart disease.

Again, this is for you to ponder…or not. The take-home message here comes from Shakespeare’s famous quote, “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” In essence, who cares what we are called or labeled? What is important to remember is that although humans may be able to metabolize and survive on a meat-based diet (a survival advantage for times of famine), the goal is not just to survive but to thrive, and that we do best on a plant-based diet.

Sources: The Environmental Magazine 2002 Body of evidence: were humans meant to eat meat? By Sally Deneen, The Comparative Anatomy of Eating by Milton R. Mills, MD, Keep It Simple Keep It Whole By Alona Pulde, MD and Matthew Lederman, MD

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