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Are Humans Really Omnivores?

A blog by Laura Buchenlicht

Looking out of a sunlit window, a small girl is biting into a green apple

Despite some vegans proudly wearing a “Herbivore!” t-shirt, most of us know that, anatomically speaking, humans aren’t designed to eat leaves or grass like a cow or brontosaurus.

Does that mean we are omnivores? Like many other people – both vegan and non-vegan - this was what I believed in the past. I only knew about herbivores, carnivores, and omnivores.

Until I learned that we are actually frugivores. What is a frugivore? It’s simply an animal whose anatomy is designed to eat fruit in the widest sense – that includes fruit, vegetables, shoots, seeds, nuts, and roots.

So what is it that makes humans frugivores? Let’s look at some of the traits:


Primates and apes (to which humans belong) have the biggest brains in the animal kingdom, compared to their size. Some people still believe the old myth that human evolution “needed” a meat-heavy diet in order to develop these big brains.

This is both plain wrong and also illogical. If consuming meat leads to the development of a big brain, then why don’t carnivores have the biggest brains?

The truth is that the type of nutrients which brains thrive on is glucose, a fruit sugar (not proteins). So this clearly is in line with the reality of frugivores having the biggest brains.

Furthermore, the evidence also points to humans having started to cook food in order to get even more glucose.

The plants with the most glucose are tubers and starchy vegetables like potatoes, turnips, parsnips, yams, etc. However, they are also indigestible for us as long as they are raw.

Cooking these types of plants makes them digestible and thus adds a very welcome new source of glucose for our hungry brain.

Whereas cooking meat does not change what nutrients are available to us.

In other words – we have big brains because we are fruit-sugar-loving plant-eaters who figured out how to unlock the superpower of potatoes!

A big round potato with a smiley face against a blue background

Cholesterol And Vitamin C

Carnists tend to have much higher levels of cholesterol than vegans, and most people know that high cholesterol levels put you at risk for cardio-vascular diseases like heart attacks and brain strokes.

If our bodies were designed to consume meat, this wouldn’t make any sense.

What is cholesterol? It’s a molecule that aids the proper functioning of cells and plays a role in creating hormones, certain acids, and vitamins. It’s therefore very essential for an animal’s metabolism.

And this is why all animals produce their own cholesterol – including humans. As plants don’t produce cholesterol, plant-eaters don’t need to worry about too much cholesterol.

Carnivores, however, don’t suffer from high levels of cholesterol as a result of eating other animals, and therefore taking in additional amounts of it. They have evolutionary adapted in such a way to their diet that their bodies found a way to expel excess cholesterol.

The case is different with vitamin C. This one does occur in plants, so plant-eaters don’t need to make their own. But carnivores don’t eat plants, hence they also produce their own vitamin C.

So as we can see, an animal’s body is perfectly adapted to their diet. We also see that in both cases we fall into the plant-eater category – our bodies don’t produce vitamin C and we can’t expel excess cholesterol.

When plant-eaters eat meat, they take in much more cholesterol than needed – they don’t need any source of external cholesterol at all, because their bodies already produce it.

And that’s why carnist humans struggle with high levels of cholesterol and the resulting diseases. So much so that it’s the number one cause of death in Americans. We clearly aren’t meant to eat meat.


Among mammals, primates and apes are the only ones to have what is called trichromatic vision. It means that we see the world in colour, whereas both carnivores and herbivores see it in black and white (called dichromatic vision).

The most widely accepted scientific explanation for this difference, is that it’s vital for primates to discern ripe fruit from unripe fruit based on their colour. Carnivores rely on movement to discern their prey, and for herbivores colour doesn’t matter much either, because all leaves are essentially green.

So the next time you admire the vibrant colours of a beautiful landscape, artwork, or ripe strawberries, you can thank your inherently plant-based body for that.

Many different fruits and berries are arranged according to their vibrant colours

There are many more points of evidence in our anatomy that clearly prove that humans are plant-eaters.

Omnivores have a mix of carnivore and herbivore traits. For example, a bear has claws like a carnivore, but they also have a long intestinal tract, like herbivores.

But compared to omnivores, humans are clearly more on the herbivore side. Just take a look at the chart below, which compares all types of diets and the accompanying anatomical traits of animals.

You will note that out of the twenty traits, humans and other frugivores only share one with carnivores!

A colourful chart showing photos of different animals' teeth, including humans', and listing anatomical differences

Therefore there’s absolutely no base for calling humans omnivores, when we clearly are frugivores.

And this is, I think, something that everyone should know, as it’s an important part of our nature, so it very much matters for our health. And for vegans, it’s not just a powerful argument to counter the persistent ideology of “It’s in our nature to eat meat”.

It also provides a strong psychological support. It’s both a relief and a joy to know that the evolution of our bodies has shaped us perfectly, over millions of years, to be plant-eaters.

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