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Both living things need to eat in order to survive. Animals are classified as herbivorous, omnivorous, or carnivorous based on their feeding habits. Herbivores consume plants, carnivores eat flesh, and omnivores eat both plants and animals. Several traits, such as an animal's digestive system, tooth shape, tooth structure, and surrounding environment, determine which group it belongs to. However, for certain species, these preferences are dictated by their appetite, personal desire, and taste, as well as the abundance of food supplies and social and economic influences. These feeding habits have various advantages, disadvantages, and affect both the environment and its inhabitants. Most human beings are omnivores since they feed on both plant and animal materials. They enjoy a wide range of advantages such as free choice, availability of high energy content in their food sources, biological adaptation to prevailing changes as well as ecological benefits. As a result, omnivores have the healthiest and the most environmentally sustainable way of feeding among the three categories.
Omnivores enjoy a free selection in their feeding habits in an environment where animals and plants are available (Hublin, 2009). This lack of limit exposes them to a wide range of nutrition sources that boosts their growth and development. Omnivores are less restricted in their food selection, and have an easier time when shopping, preparing food, dining out and are less prone to develop various nutritional deficiencies as compared to vegans (Halpern, 2016, p.36). Freedom saves time and energy when making a particular selection. Since more energy is gained from the variety of feeds than is required, the risk of excess weight is essential. From the ancient era, before the agricultural age came to be, humans have enjoyed this freedom of variety through feeding on fruits, meat, nuts, vegetables, and seeds. However, this advantage is slowly fading away since the world is increasingly becoming overpopulated, and these sources are growing scarce every day. Very few people can practice hunting like in the ancient world since it is illegal in most countries. Land cultivation has overruled in many places where hunting was practiced, and humans enjoyed a wide range of animal and plant products.
The omnivores’ energy food sources are one of the best energy sources available. They have high fats and fiber content, and thus omnivores have characteristic large and energetic bodies. “There is a consensus that Caucasian vegans have lower energy intakes than omnivores and are lighter and have a lower proportion of body fat”(Webb, 18). Plants are known to contain the most abundant energy content on the planet. Feeding on these plants makes omnivores more energetic in comparison to their compatriots, carnivores. However, since most plants have been genetically modified, the interference has made them toxic, thus posing problems to omnivores rather than giving them an upper hand.
Adaptation to prevailing conditions is a key characteristic to the survival of living things (Silverstein 2008). The manner in which an individual reacts to certain changes in the environment and climate determines the conditions of survival during that time and the successive seasons over which the changes might be in effect. The adaptation is usually biological and includes feeding on a wide variety of food. Omnivores can easily switch from plants to animal sources of food and vice versa. This versatility gives them a greater chance of surviving in difficult situations as they can rely on available food sources, including fungi and algae such as mushrooms. By consuming a wide range of plant sources, omnivores reduce the chances of taking toxic products that are harmful to their body. Therefore, a scarcity of food does not lead to drought for an omnivore as compared to specialized eaters such as carnivores and herbivores since the adaptive nature of omnivores gives them an added advantage over these categories. For instance, Koalas of Australia feed on eucalyptus leaves and rarely drinks water. They solely rely on water from the trees. In case, a disaster wiped all these tree species, the animals would suffer extinction since they would not adapt to alternative feeding habits (Silverstein 53).
Omnivores and Ecology
Omnivores play a prominent role in ecological balance, as it would be tremendously destabilized if one feeding category would dominate. Omnivores act to bring stability by ensuring that there are no excess herbivores or carnivores in an ecosystem since they feed on both. In a situation where one is in excess, the respective food source would face extinction. Therefore, omnivores keeps the food chain stable by feeding on animals that would otherwise deplete their food source like in grasslands (Lemons 112). For example, gazelles feed on plants. If their population and consequently their food needs were allowed to increases beyond the available plants, they would face starvation. To solve this problem, omnivores feed on gazelles thus reducing their number and in return increasing the chances of survival for the remaining animals, relying on plants as a source of food.
Being an omnivore has ecological benefits. “It means the animal can meet its dietary needs with a wide range of food and also alter food preferences to match changes in the availability of specific foods.”(Lemons 49).
Omnivores are however faced with the challenge of acquiring obesity through their feeding habits. The fat content in animal foods poses a great threat to them once it accumulates in their body. A person faced with obesity is at a higher risk of developing heart diseases, joint disease or even diabetes. These conditions are significant causes of death in their victims. Generally, omnivores take a high content of protein in their body yet only a small amount is necessary. Excess proteins can cause obesity. Milk and eggs taken by omnivores may contain toxic elements harmful to their body. Additionally, people no longer enjoy some of the omnivorous advantages due to the increasing world population and changes in land exploiting from animal rearing to plant cultivation.
Conclusively, the feeding habits of omnivores are advantageous for health and the surrounding environment since they share interdependence that helps both parties. Such adaptations help them to survive even in adverse conditions and in times of scarcity by hoping to an alternative source of food while maintaining ecological balance. The use of biotechnology, however, poses a significant problem to some benefits since population growth rate is high, and people tend to feed on available products rather than on their adaptation. However, despite these challenges, some strong points are worth enjoying, as compared to the ancient times, when there were no restrictions, and selection used to be a free choice.
Halpern, Jonathan. “Super Healthy Smoothies for Detox, Diet & Energy: Nutritionally, Energetically & Seasonally Balanced Smoothies.” Lulu, 2016.
Hublin, Jean-Jacques. The Evolution of Hominin Diets: Integrating Approaches to the Study of Paleolithic Subsistence. Springer, 2009.
Lemons, John. Ecological Sustainability and Integrity: Concepts and Approaches. Springer, 2011.
Silverstein, Alvin. Adaptation. Twenty-First Century Books, 2008.
Webb, Geoffrey P. Nutrition: A Health Promotion Approach. Hodder Arnold, 2008.
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