Skip to main content

Carnivore, Herbivore, or Omnivore: The Prehistoric Menu and the Vegan Future of Homo Sapiens

The debate about the evolution of the human diet is complex and multifaceted. After all, are we carnivores, herbivores, or omnivores? Recent research suggests that the answer is not as simple as a single category. In fact, the human diet has evolved to be flexible, allowing adaptation to a variety of foods available in the environment, including a mix of plant and animal-based foods.


Our oldest ancestors, such as the Orrorin tugenensis, who lived about 6 million years ago, were probably predominantly herbivores, but also consumed insects and small vertebrates. It's interesting to note that current gorillas, who are our close relatives, are also predominantly herbivores. Contrary to what many may think, gorillas are gentle creatures, much less dangerous than chimpanzees, who have been filmed hunting other smaller monkeys. As environmental conditions changed, our ancestors had to adapt, leading to the development of bipedalism and a more omnivorous diet.


Moving forward in the evolutionary timeline, we encounter creatures like the Orrorin tugenensis, who lived more than 6 million years ago. These hominids, depicted amidst vegetation, were still predominantly herbivores, but were already beginning to show signs of a more diversified diet.


With the emergence of the Homo genus, our ancestors began to include more meat in their diet. The Homo habilis, for example, is known for using tools to obtain meat. This species, which lived about 2.1 to 1.5 million years ago, represents a milestone in human evolution. The image of a Homo habilis squatting, holding a rudimentary tool, is a powerful reminder of how our ancestors began to master their environment.


As we move forward to Homo erectus and Homo sapiens, meat continued to be an important part of the diet, but plants were also consumed. Homo erectus, for example, consumed a variety of plant-based foods, including fruits, nuts, and roots.


Early Homo sapiens were hunter-gatherers, consuming a varied diet of both animal and plant-based foods. However, with the advent of agriculture, we began to consume more grains and other cultivated foods. This led to changes in our health and development, including a decline in body size and dental health.


Modern humans, Homo sapiens, are omnivores. We have teeth and a digestive system that can process both plants and meat. However, contemporary studies suggest that a plant-based diet may be the healthier and more sustainable option for humans today.

homem primitivo sapiens

As our ancestors ventured into colder and more inhospitable territories, the need to adapt to these new environments became crucial for survival. In regions where vegetation was scarce due to the icy climate, hunting animals became an essential part of the diet. Early man, armed with rudimentary spears, braved the intense cold and challenging terrain to hunt the necessary prey to sustain their tribe. This shift to a more meat-centered diet was a direct response to environmental demands, demonstrating once again the incredible adaptive capacity of our species.

homem moderno

Evolution doesn't necessarily mean a transformation for the "better," but rather an adaptation to the environment. Armed with the knowledge we have today about nutrition and the harmful impacts of our actions on the environment, our evolutionary path should involve a greater investment in transitioning to a vegan or plant-based diet. This could culminate in the transformation of mankind into a fully evolved being in the broadest sense of the word, the Homo Sapiens Ethicus. This being would use their superior cognitive abilities to implement a lifestyle that minimizes environmental impact and animal suffering, thereby maximizing the sustainable expansion of the human population and taking the reins of conscious evolution. And remember, evolving doesn't always mean improving - as the saying goes, sometimes we might "evolve ourselves into oblivion." So let's choose the evolution that leads us to life, health, and sustainability!

vegetariano na floresta

However, it's important to emphasize that advocating for vegetarianism doesn't need to rely on the fact that there were times when some groups of proto-humans were vegetarians or herbivores. Vegetarianism, with its benefits to health and the environment, has its own merits that go beyond any debate about our ancestors. Choosing a vegetarian or plant-based diet is an informed and conscious decision that reflects a modern understanding of nutrition and sustainability.

darwin vegetariano

In conclusion, the evolution of the human diet is a complex topic that involves many factors, including environmental changes, tool development, and social behavior. Although our ancestors consumed both plant and animal-based foods, it's important to remember that the life expectancy of these early "carnivores" was significantly shorter than ours. Even today, we see examples of populations around the globe that have very meat-centered dietary habits and, consequently, have a shorter life expectancy. In contrast, modern research suggests that a plant-based diet, especially a whole-foods vegan diet, may be the healthier and more sustainable option for humans today. Moreover, this dietary shift not only benefits the planet, but can also provide greater longevity with quality of life to the human animal. It's an exciting prospect, inviting us to look to the future with optimism and to make conscious choices for our health and that of our planet.

Related articles:

alex aquarelaAuthor: Alex Fernandes
Webmaster of IVU and Guia Vegano
About the author: Alex Fernandes has been vegan since 2004 and vegetarian since 1995, volunteered in various projects promoting vegetarianism and veganism, standing out as webmaster of SVB (Brazilian Vegetarian Society), advisor to SVB, advisor to IVU (International Vegetarian Union). He has given lectures at various Vegfests around the world always focusing on the analysis of the behavior of the vegetarian and vegan community.

  • Berners-Lee, M. et al. (2012). "The relative greenhouse gas impacts of realistic dietary choices." Energy Policy, 43, 184-190. Link to the article

  • Poore, J.; Nemecek, T. (2018). "Reducing food’s environmental impacts through producers and consumers." Science, 360(6392), 987-992. Link to the article

  • Springmann, M. et al. (2018). "Options for keeping the food system within environmental limits." Nature, 562, 519–525. Link to the article

  • Willett, W. et al. (2019). "Food in the Anthropocene: the EAT–Lancet Commission on healthy diets from sustainable food systems." The Lancet, 393(10170), 447-492. Link to the article

  • Smith, T. M. et al. (2023). "The Evolution of Human and Ape Hand Proportions." Nature Communications, 6(7717). Link to the article

  • Rehner, J. et al. (2023). "The Effect of a Planetary Health Diet on the Human Gut Microbiome: A Descriptive Analysis." Nutrients, 15(8). Link to the article

  • Burkhard, B. et al. (2023). "A sustainability analysis of environmental impact, nutritional quality, and price among six popular diets." Frontiers in Sustainable Food Systems, 7. Link to the article

  • Bold, B. et al. (2023). "Assessment of Mongolian dietary intake for planetary and human health." PLOS Global Public Health, 1(1). Link to the article

  • Burkhard, B. et al. (2023). "Novel Lines of Research on the Environmental and Human Health Impacts of Nut Consumption." Nutrients, 15(4). Link to the article

  • Tilman, D.; Clark, M. (2023). "Global diets link environmental sustainability and human health." Nature, 515, 518–522. Link to the article

  • Created on .

The Seventh Day Adventist Church's Impact on Vegetarianism and Veganism

jesus with lamb

The Seventh Day Adventist Church has made historically transformational contributions in various areas related to vegetarian and vegan nutrition education, public health research, and business development. These contributions are certainly worthy of 21st-century "vegetarian visionary" commentary, as they have played a significant role in promoting plant-based diets, conducting research on the health benefits of vegetarianism, and driving innovation in the health food industry.

Pioneering Contributions to the Health Food Industry

The church has been involved in the development of the health food industry, with some Adventists known for their innovations in producing and marketing health foods.

Grain Coffees

Seventh Day Adventists have long sought alternatives to traditional coffee, which they believe can have negative health effects. As a result, they were instrumental in the creation and popularization of grain coffees, caffeine-free beverages made from roasted grains such as barley, wheat, and rye.

Plant-Based Meats

Adventists have also been pioneers in the development of plant-based meats, working to create meat substitutes that are not only nutritious but also satisfying in terms of taste and texture. Their efforts have contributed to the growing market for meatless products, providing more options for vegetarians, vegans, and flexitarians.

Other Vegetarian and Vegan Products

In addition to grain coffees and plant-based meats, the Seventh Day Adventist Church has been involved in the production and marketing of various other vegetarian and vegan products, such as dairy alternatives, egg substitutes, and whole food supplements.

Advancing Nutrition Education

Seventh Day Adventists have played a role in promoting the benefits of plant-based diets and conducting research on the health effects of vegetarianism and veganism.

Books and Articles

They have published numerous books, articles, and other educational materials on nutrition, healthful living, and plant-based diets. These publications have reached wide audiences, increasing awareness of the advantages of vegetarian and vegan lifestyles.

Educational Programs

The church has also organized and supported various educational programs aimed at teaching individuals and communities about the benefits of plant-based diets. These programs have helped spread the word about the potential health advantages of vegetarianism and veganism.

Healthful Living Initiatives

Many Seventh Day Adventist institutions, such as schools, hospitals, and health centers, have implemented healthful living initiatives that promote vegetarian and vegan diets. These initiatives serve as a testament to the church's commitment to spreading the message of the benefits of plant-based eating.

Public Health Research on Plant-Based Diets

The church has been involved in public health research related to plant-based diets, conducting studies on the health outcomes of Adventists who follow vegetarian and vegan lifestyles.

The Adventist Health Studies

The Adventist Health Studies, a series of long-term, ongoing research projects, have been instrumental in examining the relationship between diet, lifestyle, and health outcomes among Seventh Day Adventists. These studies have provided valuable insights into the potential health benefits of plant-based diets.

Findings on Vegetarian and Vegan Lifestyles

Research conducted through the Adventist Health Studies has shown that Adventists who follow vegetarian or vegan diets tend to have lower risks of chronic diseases, such as heart disease, diabetes, and certain types of cancer. These findings have contributed to the growing body of scientific evidence supporting the health benefits of plant-based diets.

Influence on Global Health Recommendations

The research conducted by the Seventh Day Adventist Church has had a far-reaching impact on global health recommendations. Their findings have been cited by numerous health organizations and have influenced dietary guidelines around the world, promoting the adoption of more plant-based diets for improved health outcomes.

Reception of Early Adventist Innovations: A Mixed Response

The reception of early Seventh Day Adventists' (SDA) innovations, including dietary, natural health, and vegetarian practices, likely varied depending on the specific context and time period. In some cases, skepticism or resistance may have been encountered from those unfamiliar with or unsupportive of vegetarianism and plant-based diets, due to cultural, social, or economic factors that made it challenging for people to accept or adopt new dietary practices. On the other hand, their contributions might have been welcomed and appreciated by those interested in exploring alternative dietary choices and healthful living practices. As the benefits of plant-based diets became more widely recognized and accepted over time, the Seventh Day Adventist Church's contributions to the promotion of vegetarianism and veganism garnered greater recognition and appreciation.


Overall, the Seventh Day Adventist Church has made significant contributions to the promotion of vegetarianism and plant-based diets throughout its history. While the specific individuals or periods of time referred to as "historically transformational" may vary depending on one's perspective and criteria for evaluation, the church's influence in these areas is undeniable. Through their pioneering work in the health food industry, nutrition education, and public health research, the Seventh Day Adventist Church has left a lasting legacy that continues to shape the way people around the world view and practice plant-based living.


What is the Seventh Day Adventist Church's stance on vegetarianism?
The Seventh Day Adventist Church encourages a plant-based diet and promotes vegetarianism and veganism as part of its health message, although not all Adventists choose to follow these dietary practices.

How have Seventh Day Adventists contributed to the health food industry?
Adventists have been involved in the development of various health foods, including grain coffees, plant-based meats, and other vegetarian and vegan products.

What are the Adventist Health Studies?
The Adventist Health Studies are a series of long-term research projects examining the relationship between diet, lifestyle, and health outcomes among Seventh Day Adventists.

How has the Seventh Day Adventist Church influenced global health recommendations?
The church's research on plant-based diets and health outcomes has been cited by numerous health organizations and has influenced dietary guidelines around the world.

What kind of reception did early Adventist innovations receive?
The reception of early Adventist innovations likely varied, with some facing skepticism or resistance and others being met with acceptance and appreciation. Over time, as the benefits of plant-based diets became more widely recognized, the church's contributions to the promotion of vegetarianism and veganism gained greater recognition and appreciation.

  • Created on .

Native Americans and Vegetarianism


Choctaw Indians of Mississippi and Oklahoma

This article first appeared in the Vegetarian Journal, September 1994, published by The Vegetarian Resource Group

By Rita Laws, Ph.D.

How well we know the stereotype of the rugged Plains Indian: killer of buffalo, dressed in quill-decorated buckskin, elaborately feathered eaddress, and leather moccasins, living in an animal skin teepee, master of the dog and horse, and stranger to vegetables. But this lifestyle, once limited almost exclusively to the Apaches, flourished no more than a couple hundred years. It is not representative of most Native Americans of today or yesterday. Indeed, the "buffalo-as-lifestyle" phenomenon is a direct result of European influence, as we shall see.

Read more: Native Americans and Vegetarianism

  • Created on .

Champion of Compassion: Remembering the Inspiring Life and Legacy of Nellie Saiom Shriver, the Guiding Light in Vegan Advocacy

Nellie Saiom ShriverNellie Saiom Shriver (1942 - 2023) was an influential figure in the animal rights movement and played a significant role in introducing Alex Hershaft, a prominent vegan activist, to the cause. She was known for her tireless dedication to animal welfare and her unwavering commitment to promoting veganism and compassionate living.

Early Life and Background

Nellie Saiom Shriver was born in 1942. Little is known about her early life, but her commitment to animal rights and veganism became a central focus of her adult life.

Influence on Alex Hershaft

Shriver had a profound impact on Alex Hershaft, who later became a leading figure in the vegan activism movement. According to Hershaft, Shriver was instrumental in introducing him to the concept of veganism, which ultimately became a driving force in his life and career as an activist. Hershaft described Shriver as an "irreplaceable mentor and friend" and credited her with playing a significant role in his dedication to animal rights.

Contributions to the Animal Rights Movement

Throughout her life, Nellie Saiom Shriver was actively involved in various animal rights organizations and initiatives. She was known for her passionate advocacy for veganism and her commitment to raising awareness about the ethical treatment of animals.

While specific details about her affiliations and involvement in organizations are limited in the source article, it is clear that Shriver's dedication to animal welfare had a significant impact on the movement as a whole. Her influence extended beyond her immediate circle, inspiring countless individuals to adopt a more compassionate lifestyle and to stand up for the rights of animals.

Personality and Impact

Nellie Saiom Shriver was described as a kind, compassionate, and dedicated individual. Her unwavering commitment to animal rights and her genuine enthusiasm for the cause were an inspiration to many. As an advocate, mentor, and friend, Shriver's impact on the lives of others will not be forgotten.


Nellie Saiom Shriver's legacy in the animal rights and vegan communities is one of inspiration and determination. Her influence on Alex Hershaft and her contributions to the animal rights movement will continue to be remembered and celebrated for years to come. Shriver's life serves as a testament to the power of individual action and the indomitable spirit that drives positive change in the world.

Later Life and Passing

Nellie Saiom Shriver remained dedicated to animal rights and vegan advocacy until her passing in 2023. Throughout her life, she maintained strong connections with fellow activists and mentored many newcomers to the movement, helping to shape the future of animal welfare and compassionate living.

Recognition and Tributes

Following her passing, many individuals within the animal rights and vegan communities paid tribute to Nellie Saiom Shriver, acknowledging her significant contributions to the movement. Her influence on the lives of both animals and fellow activists remains a lasting testament to her passion and dedication.

Influence on Future Generations

Nellie Saiom Shriver's legacy continues to inspire future generations of animal rights advocates and vegans. Her work and unwavering commitment to the cause have motivated countless individuals to reconsider their relationship with animals and adopt a more compassionate lifestyle. As her story is shared and celebrated, Shriver's impact on the animal rights movement will continue to grow, fostering a more just world for all living beings.


Nellie Saiom Shriver's life and work in the animal rights movement serve as a powerful example of how one person's passion and dedication can make a significant impact on the world. Her influence on key figures like Alex Hershaft, her involvement in various animal rights organizations, and her enduring commitment to promoting veganism and compassion have left a lasting legacy in the vegan and animal advocacy communities. As future generations continue to be inspired by her story, Nellie Saiom Shriver's memory will live on, shaping the future of animal welfare and compassionate living.


  • Created on .

Download the Vegetarian Nutrition Booklet for Kids and Adolescents