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Name: Alexandre
Status: student
Grade: 6-8
Location: Outside U.S.
Country: Canada
Date: Spring 2013

How come we are omnivores and vegetables and fruits are so much healthier than meat?

Humans, like all other creatures, evolved in ways that promoted highest survival rates for reproduction and thus continuation of the species. It is only very very recently that we have had the opportunity to choose so carefully what we eat. For most of human history short-term survival has been more important than long term health.

J Elliott

This is an involved topic. Basically, meat is already processed plant material for all animals obtain their food needs from plants directly or indirectly. Meat (muscle) is nothing more than reconfigured plant material. Before we became civilized and educated, meat was quicker to obtain, meat is easier to digest, meat provides most of the nutritional needs to stay alive, and meat protein fills the stomach quickly (stomach's job is protein digestion). Before grocery stores, these facts allowed many mammals to survive in an environment that offered no food security. Growing plants was labor-some, seasonal and time consuming. Modern technology and transportation allows for fresh fruits and vegetables which has been identified as better for long term health.

That brings up another related topic (this could go on and on). Early humans did not live long enough for to benefit long term health from eating plants. How would they know anyway, so the ability to eat meat was an essential element to our species survival. It was all about staying alive and nutrition was not even considered. Plants did have benefits in early man making for baking, etc. and when fruits and vegetables were available, early man certainly ate them. Nutrition benefits was not the reason however. Food was food and our species evolved to eat a wide variety of it from fruits, nuts, vegetables to meat.

This is a simple explanation and experts would insist that elaboration was necessary. It is my hope that this is explanatory enough to answer your question.

Steve Sample

You have to be careful about making generalizations concerning the nutritional value of various foods. That is a topic filled with opinion and little data. It is easy to find many examples and counter- examples. Many vegetables and fruits contain toxic substances. Even defining the term “healthy” is very tricky. Labeling a substance as “meat” vs. “plant” and “fruit” has many pitfalls. Not all plant foods are healthy. One blatant example of an unhealthy vegetable substance is “high fructose corn syrup.” Our diets are loaded with this vegetable derivative. But I don’t know of any nutritionist who would classify that substance as “healthy”.

Vince Calder

Hi Alexandre,

Thanks for the question. We are omnivores so we can obtain energy and nutrients from multiple food sources. Meat is not "unhealthy" if eaten in moderate portions. Meat is very rich in protein, saturated fat, and iron. We need these nutrients for everyday life. Fruits contain little protein and saturated fat. We need fruits, vegetables, and meats as part of a balanced diet.

I hope this helps. Please let me know if you have more questions. Thanks Jeff

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