While trends toward vegetarian and vegan diets leave many wondering whether an omnivorous diet is healthy, no research indicates that vegetarians or vegans live longer. The U.S. government's Dietary Guidelines for Americans suggest that a good, balanced diet includes meat, fish and poultry supplemented by lots of fresh fruits and vegetables. Meat eaters get more fat in their diet, which raises the risk of obesity, cancer, heart disease and diabetes, according to the American Heart Association. However, they get a host of other benefits from their meaty diets.
Omnivores Get a Good Balance of Healthy Cholesterol
Low-Density Lipoprotein (LDL) is the bad kind of cholesterol that blocks arteries and leads to heart attack or stroke. High-Density Lipoprotein (HDL) is good cholesterol that actually reduces heart attack risk. Omnivores get more cholesterol, which is necessary for survival. Our bodies depend on cholesterol to make acids for digestion and critical hormones. Cholesterol also aids in the production of the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K.
Omnivores Get Amino Acids
A diet of meat and dairy products provides essential amino acids, which are important for a healthy immune system, healthy skin, healing wounds, forming tooth enamel, growth in children, processing protein, vitamins and minerals, forming connective tissue and bones and other bodily functions. Vegans and vegetarians need to eat foods high in the amino acid lysine in order to stay healthy. Legumes, pistachios, quiona, tofu, tumpeh and soy meats provide lysine.
Omnivores Get B Vitamins
Omnivores get B vitamins naturally in their diet. B vitamins include B1 through B12 and each performs an important function. They turn food into energy, build strong muscles, joints and ligaments, fight inflammation and help the body absorb other nutrients. Vegetarians and vegans must take supplements to get these important nutrients.
Omnivores Get Carnosine
Carnosine protects against diseases of aging, such as cancer, Alzheimer's and heart disease. Research also indicates that it might be beneficial to autistic children. Omnivores get carnosine naturally in their diet by eating meat. The level of carnosine in our bodies decreases as we age, and it's become a popular anti-aging product marketed as a supplement.
Omnivores Eat More Lean Protein, Fewer Carbohydrates
Protein builds lean muscle mass, and omnivores typically eat more than vegetarians or vegans. Diets devoid of meat and dairy products are higher in carbohydrates, which can result in less overall strength and endurance. Carbohydrates are also responsible for fluctuations in blood-sugar levels, so diabetics must be careful not to consume too many because the body turns them into sugar. Some studies indicate that children raised on a vegetarian or vegan diet are shorter in stature than their omnivore peers due to less protein.