Mammals are characterized by the complex adaptations of their dentition, which are an indication that diet has played a critical role in their evolutionary history. Although much attention has focused on diet and the adaptations of specific taxa, the role of diet in large-scale diversification patterns remains unresolved. Contradictory hypotheses have been proposed, making prediction of the expected relationship difficult. We show that net diversification rate (the cumulative effect of speciation and extinction), differs significantly among living mammals, depending upon trophic strategy. Herbivores diversify fastest, carnivores are intermediate, and omnivores are slowest. The tempo of transitions between the trophic strategies is also highly biased: the fastest rates occur into omnivory from herbivory and carnivory and the lowest transition rates are between herbivory and carnivory. Extant herbivore and carnivore diversity arose primarily through diversification within lineages, whereas omnivore diversity evolved by transitions into the strategy. The ability to specialize and subdivide the trophic niche allowed herbivores and carnivores to evolve greater diversity than omnivores.