Humans are definitely omnivores, by Matan Shelomi, Zoologist
- The best evidence is our teeth: we have biting/tearing/ripping incisors and canines (like carnivores) and chewing molars (like herbivores). Animals with such diverse teeth tend to be omnivores.
- Chemically, we lack cellulases or cellulosic symbionts that many herbivores have, and have lots of proteases that carnivores do. But we do have sucrases that let us digest fruits. Humans require vitamin B12 to thrive, which can only come from animal sources or certain bacteria (vegans must supplement their diet). We also require vitamin C, which is present in citrus fruits and organ meat, the latter probably being our evolutionary ancestor’s main source.
- Interestingly, we have very powerful livers (the detoxification organ) and a very strong ability to smell rot/decay/decomposition relative to other animals. This suggests we may have evolved as scavengers, eating dead (but not too decayed) carcasses killed by other animals.
- About 20% of the human body is made up of protein. Because your body doesn’t store protein, it’s important to get enough from your diet each day. You can get protein from many food sources, including plants and animals. Some people claim that the source of the protein, whether animal or plant, shouldn’t matter. Others suggest that plant protein is superior to animal protein.
- Lastly, our closest evolutionary relatives, the chimpanzees, are omnivores. The leading theory as to how humans evolved is that we became long-distance runners and hunted food by running it down until it tired, and that our access to meat and protein enabled our brains to evolve further than otherwise. So meat-eating is in our history as well as our DNA and physiology.
The Amino Acid Content of a Protein Depends on its Source
All proteins are made up of amino acids, although the amount and type of each amino acid varies based on the protein source. When eaten, protein is broken down into amino acids. Proteins and amino acids are used for almost every metabolic process in the body. However, different proteins can vary greatly in the types of amino acids they contain. While animal proteins tend to contain a good balance of all the amino acids that we need, some plant proteins are low in certain amino acids. For example, some key plant proteins are often low in methionine, tryptophan, lycine and isoleucine.
Animal foods are the highest quality protein sources. Plant sources lack one or more amino acids, which makes it more difficult to get all the amino acids that your body needs. There are 20 amino acids used by the body every day for essential, life-sustaining, functions. For optimal health, your body needs all the essential amino acids in the right ratios. Animal protein sources, such as meat, fish, poultry, eggs and dairy, are similar to the protein found in your body. These are considered to be complete sources of protein because they contain all of the essential amino acids that your body needs to function effectively. On the contrary, plant protein sources, such as beans, lentils and nuts are considered to be incomplete, as they lack one or more of the essential amino acids that your body needs. Some sources report soy protein as complete. However, two essential amino acids are only found in small amounts in soy, so it isn’t comparable to animal protein.
Foods that contain animal protein tend to be high in several nutrients that are often lacking in plant foods. Animal protein sources are higher in certain nutrients, such as vitamin B12, vitamin D, the omega-3 fatty acid DHA, heme-iron and zinc.
- Vitamin B12: Vitamin B12 is mainly found in fish, meat, poultry and dairy products. Many people who avoid animal foods are deficient.
- Vitamin D: Vitamin D is found in oily fish, eggs and dairy. Some plants contain it, but the type found in animal foods is better used by your body.
- DHA: Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) is an essential omega-3 fat found in fatty fish. It’s important for brain health and is hard to get from plant sources.
- Heme-iron: Heme-iron is predominantly found in meat, especially red meat. It is much better absorbed in the body than non-heme iron from plant foods.
- Zinc: Zinc is mainly found in animal protein sources, such as beef, pork and lamb. It is also more easily absorbed and used from animal protein sources.
Of course, there are also plenty of nutrients found in plants that are lacking in animal foods. Therefore, eating balanced amounts of both is the best way to get all the nutrients you need.
There Are Unhealthy Animal Meats That Can Cause Disease
Processed red meat is associated with an increased risk of disease. Unprocessed red meat and other lean meats are generally healthy.
- In a large observational study including 448,568 individuals, processed meat was linked to an increased risk of death, with no effect for unprocessed red meat.
- Another study involving over 34,000 women made similar observations. In this case, processed meat was associated with heart failure.
- Also, a large review of 20 studies found that processed meat was associated with an increased risk of heart disease and diabetes. Again, no association was found for unprocessed red meat.
- Additional studies have confirmed that unprocessed red meat consumption is not linked to heart disease.
- Despite this, one study found that replacing 1 serving per day of red meat with 1 serving of poultry was associated with a 27% lower risk of stroke.
Furthermore, the health risks associated with processed red meat are not linked to fish and other meats, such as turkey and chicken.
Health Benefits of Animal Proteins
Animal protein is also associated with positive health effects, despite often being portrayed as unhealthy compared to plant protein. Certain animal protein sources are linked to a reduced risk of heart disease, improved cholesterol levels, weight loss and increased muscle mass.
- The Nurses’ Health study reported that poultry, fish and low-fat dairy were associated with a lower risk of heart disease.
- People who eat fish regularly are also likely to have a lower risk of heart attacks, strokes and death from heart disease.
- One study of more than 40,000 males found that those who regularly ate one or more servings of fish per week had a 15% lower risk of heart disease.
- Additionally, eating eggs has been linked to improved cholesterol levels and weight loss. In one study, women who ate eggs for breakfast, rather than a bagel, reported feeling fuller and ate less later in the day.
- Eating animal protein is linked with increased lean muscle mass and a reduction in the muscle loss that occurs with age.
There Are Benefits In A Vegetarian Diet
- Lower Risk of Heart Disease: A study found that a diet rich in protein (about half from plants) lowered blood pressure, cholesterol levels and the risk of heart disease more than a standard diet or a healthy high-carb diet. The EcoAtkins trial found that a low-carb, high-plant protein diet helped lower cholesterol and blood pressure more than a high-carb, low-fat diet.
- Reduced Risk of Type 2 Diabetes: One small study of people with type 2 diabetes found that replacing 2 servings of red meat with legumes 3 days per week improved cholesterol and blood sugar. However, another small 6-week study of diabetics compared a diet high in plant protein with a diet high in animal protein. No differences were found in blood sugar, cholesterol and blood pressure.
- Protection Against Weight Gain: Diets high in plant protein may also help you control your weight. An observational study following 120,000 men and women over 20 years found that eating more nuts was linked to weight loss. Also, eating one serving of beans, chickpeas, lentils or peas per day can increase fullness and may lead to better weight management and weight loss.
One thing to consider is that people on vegetarian diets tend to be more health-conscious than the general population. Therefore, the health benefits of vegetarian diets are likely due to overall healthier diets and lifestyles, rather than any inherent difference between plant and animal proteins.
In Other Words…
In order for a human to maintain their muscle mass and for their body and mind to continue to function properly they must have COMPLETE proteins every single day. The best source for complete proteins is ANIMAL MEAT. Our serving size must decrease; we really only need 2 to 4oz of animal meat per meal, depending on the type of protein. Most meat eating men eat 8 to 16oz of animal meat in one meal, usually red meat. But please remember unprocessed meat is always best; processed meats are filled with unnecessary chemicals and salt that your body cannot use. Combining certain plant proteins can make a complete protein but it is a difficult process of combining unusual, sometimes horribly tasting – depending on your palate, foods to get those complete proteins. As you can see you can reduce your risk of illness and disease by choosing to eat less meat overall, avoid all processed meats, and by consuming more plant foods in every form. Simple.
MotherGaias.com promotes a naturally balanced life for the best possible health outcomes, without extreme modifications to lifestyle or diet, simply by eliminating the unnecessary, and harmful, elements and adding the natural, and healing, elements.