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Oxford Dictionary definition: Plant-eating animal
Our definition: Herbivores are animals which are anatomically designed to live on plants. Herbivorous mammals have well-developed facial musculature, fleshy lips, a relatively small opening into the oral cavity and a thickened, muscular tongue. The lips aid in the movement of food into the mouth and, along with the facial (cheek) musculature and tongue, assist in the chewing of food. The lower jaw of plant-eating mammals has a pronounced sideways motion when eating. This lateral movement is necessary for the grinding motion of chewing.
The dentition of herbivores is quite varied depending on the kind of vegetation a particular species is adapted to eat. Although these animals differ in the types and numbers of teeth they posses, the various kinds of teeth when present, share common structural features. The incisors are broad, flattened and spade-like. Canines may be small as in horses, prominent as in hippos, pigs and some primates (these are thought to be used for defense) or absent altogether. The molars, in general, are squared and flattened on top to provide a grinding surface. The molars cannot vertically slide past one another in a shearing/slicing motion (as carnivores’ teeth do), but they do horizontally slide across one another to crush and grind. The surface features of the molars vary depending on the type of plant material the animal eats. The teeth of herbivorous animals are closely grouped so that the incisors form an efficient cropping/biting mechanism, and the upper and lower molars form extended platforms for crushing and grinding.
These animals carefully and methodically chew their food, pushing the food back and forth into the grinding teeth with the tongue and cheek muscles. This thorough process is necessary to mechanically disrupt plant cell walls in order to release the digestible intracellular contents and ensure thorough mixing of this material with their saliva. This is important because the saliva of plant-eating mammals often contains carbohydrate-digesting enzymes which begin breaking down food molecules while the food is still in the mouth.
Because of the relative difficulty with which various kinds of plant foods are broken down (due to large amounts of indigestible fibres), herbivores have significantly longer and in some cases, far more elaborate guts than carnivores. Herbivorous animals that consume plants containing a high proportion of cellulose must “ferment” (digest by bacterial enzyme action) their food to obtain the nutrient value. They are classified as either “ruminants” (foregut fermenters) or hindgut fermenters. The ruminants are the plant-eating animals with the celebrated multiple-chambered stomachs. Herbivorous animals that eat a diet of relatively soft vegetation do not need a multiple-chambered stomach. They typically have a simple stomach, and a long small intestine. These animals ferment the difficult-to-digest fibrous portions of their diets in their hindguts (colons). Many of these herbivores increase the sophistication and efficiency of their GI tracts by including carbohydrate-digesting enzymes in their saliva.
In herbivorous animals, the large intestine tends to be a highly specialized organ involved in water and electrolyte absorption, vitamin production and absorption, and/or fermentation of fibrous plant materials. The colons of herbivores are usually wider than their small intestine and are relatively long.
“Thus, from comparing the gastrointestinal tract of humans to that of carnivores, herbivores and omnivores we must conclude that humankind’s GI tract is designed for a purely plant-food diet.”
Read the rest of the in-depth article by Dr Milton Mills, which includes comparisons with carnivore and omnivore anatomy and physiology, from which this definition was taken.
We are not fully raw; we still enjoy cooked potatoes, and lentils; we have rolled oats for breakfast; we eat tofu. But we do include as much raw as we can in our diet and it makes us feel great. Energised. I love juicing fruits and greens and making them into ice pops. I love frozen bananas instead of shop-bought ice cream. I love raw, and semi-raw cakes and treats which contain no sugar or added sweetener, and no gluten, are actually good for me, and yet make me feel indulgent as they are superior in taste and feel-good factor to traditional sugar-laden sweets. I am excited about all the new things I have learned this year about raw foods and how good they make me feel and I am grateful to so many people who have shared their experiences so that I can learn more.
One of these people is Kristina Carrillo-Bucaram, better known as FullyRawKristina
This lady is a positive inspiration, and though many of us may not be in a position to live as she does – such large quantities organic fresh produce are very expensive – we can each do as much as we can within our own means and feel better for it. For example, I have found that when I tried to be fully raw I got too skinny and simply wasn’t eating enough. Now that I compromise by adding cooked potatoes and lentils, for example, to my raw fruit and veggies, I feel great, am back to my normal weight and still getting a very nutritious diet. I love this video because Kristina encourages us to look at her example, and take from it what works for us. It’s all about experimenting until we get it right and being our own best, our own happiest, in our own way.
I’ve said it before
And I’ll say it again
You don’t miss out
When you’re raw vegan!
Recipes adapted from Basic Formula for Nut Burgers and Basic Formula for Candy, page 147 of 12 Steps to Raw Foods by Victoria Boutenko
“Why are you a vegan?”
Said Andrew Jones to me.
“Does your mum make you be one?
Do you have to drink herbal tea?”
“Don’t you wish you could eat this?”
He showed me the meat on his pizza.
“Have you ever even tasted fish?
You’d probably like it Jamila.”
“You can’t even drink milk can you?
Your mum must be ever so strict!
You can have some of mine if you want to,
Drink from the side I haven’t licked.”
“I feel sorry for you,” Andrew said
“If you’re not allowed egg and chips.
Does she make you eat raw seaweed?
And swallow your apple pips?”
I waited for him to stop talking,
He had a lot to get off his chest.
I began to think he didn’t want answering,
But then he gave his voice a rest.
“I’m vegan because I want to be,”
I told him. He looked unconvinced.
“Eating animal flesh is revolting to me.
Eggs are from chickens’ bottoms.” He winced.
“That milk was pumped out of inside a cow,
I don’t know how you can drink it.
You don’t need milk, you’re a big boy now.
Look at me, I’m healthy without it!”
“I don’t know why you think I’m weird being vegan
When my food is seeds, veg, fruits and nuts.
Don’t you think it’s weirder to eat dead bodies,
Stuff from animals’ innards, and things that come out of their butts?”
See the illustrated picture book version of this here
See it on YouTube