Pescatarian diet is a plant-based diet that involves eating fish and other aquatic animals. The word pescatarian, sometimes spelled “pescetarian”, is coined in the early 1990’s from the Italian word “pesce”, which means fish, and “vegetarian”. In scientific literature, this diet is often described as pesco-vegetarian and lumped into the spectrum of vegetarianism.
There are two variations of a pescatarian diet. The first are those who limit consuming animal products to fish and seafood only. The second are those that include dairy and eggs in their diet. The second pescatarian diet is called a lacto-ovo-pescatarian diet.
Reasons behind people choosing for pescatarian diet varies. It has several health benefits even with the absence of meat. Moreover, if a person wants a planet-friendly diet, pescatarian might be good for his or her conscience. Ethical reasons are a considered factor why pescatarian is a chosen diet.
Let’s explore it one by one.
Most of the vegetarians have ethical reasons why they choose a plant-based diet. The same ethical reasons might be of pescatarians, too.
Here are some of the ethical reasons people choose to exclude meat in their diet:
- They are opposing the slaughter of animals for food.
- They refuse to raise livestock in inhumane practices.
- They refuse to support factory farms that have poor conditions for their laborers.
- They consider producing grains for animal feeds as an unjust use of land when global hunger is spread.
Environmental concerns are another reason for pescatarians shifters. Some who follow a pescatarian diet is because of its positive impact on the environment. Raising and processing meat, according to many supporters, not only takes up precious land but also contributes to dangerous emissions.
The United Nations (UN), for instance, stated that raising livestock has a 15% contribution to all human-made carbon emissions; while producing fish and seafood has a lower carbon footprint.
By reducing the consumption of meat and making sustainable fish choices, pescatarians believe that it may be able to create a healthier planet.
Keeping fish and seafood in the diet help with several common nutrient deficiencies. It is because pescatarian diet can still score complete proteins and vitamin B12 from aquatic animal products.
Vegetarians, whose eating habits exclude all types of meat, usually have a shortage of vitamin B12 and protein. They mostly have an imbalanced ratio of essential fatty acids or deficiency in iron.
Fish have a high level of omega-3 fats, which are considered anti-inflammatory unlike with omega-6, which is obtained from farm-raised animal products, that is pro-inflammatory. Meaning to say, pescatarian diet has a lower risk of obesity and chronic diseases like heart disease and diabetes.
According to Josh Axe, founder of Ancient Nutrition, the combination of nutrient found in seafood helps regulate heartbeats, reduce blood pressure and cholesterol levels, decrease blood clot formation, lower triglycerides, resulting for a prevention in having a heart attack or stroke.
There is no so much health drawback being a pescatarian. But larger species of fish can contain mercury and other toxins. For instance, smaller fish like salmon, sardines, anchovies, mackerel, and herring contains smaller mercury than the bigger fish (e.g. swordfish, tuna). Moreover, wild-caught fish are considered healthier than the farm-raised ones because they have lower toxins and chemicals.
Also, strict pescatarian diet, that is people whose diet exclude dairy and eggs, may have a challenge getting enough calcium and choline. Choline’s two best sources are egg yolks and liver according to Lauren Manaker, a dietitian in Charleston, SC.
Another downside of a pescatarian diet is the boring taste of eating fish over and over again. This can result in an increase in carbohydrate intake, which could cause weight gain, protein deficiency, fatigue, and other health problems. The best fix for this is to mix things up and try for new recipes and flavors.
How to follow a pescatarian diet
To be a pescatarian, one should consume meals that include fruit, vegetables, grains, legumes, freshwater fish, and seafood. Avoidance of red meats like beef and bison, as well as poultry, pork, and lamb, should be expected.
According to some sources, an ideal pescatarian meal includes 50% greens or vegetables, 25% seafood or plant protein, and 25% whole grains or other complex carbs.
If you are considering a pescatarian diet plan, you may give it a try for a week or two and see how you feel. These tips may come in handy if you decide to try.
1. Choose healthy cooking methods
When preparing meals, grill or broil fish using healthy cooking oils, steam fish, or use other lower fat methods. You will benefit more by using this method than frying fish and eating processed fish products.
2. Choose dishes that provide vitamin B12
Cobalamin, or vitamin B12, is important for maintaining a healthy nervous system, protein metabolism, and formation of blood cells and DNA. However, you may get less of it when you decide to be a pescatarian. It is because important micronutrient is typically found in animal food. Nevertheless, some of the meat-free products that are high in vitamin B12 are eggs, shellfish, dairy products, milk, and some fortified cereals.
3. Choose planet-friendly fish
If the environment is your priority for shifting to pescatarians, you may use the information listed in The Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch to find responsibly sourced food.
4. Avoid fish with higher levels of mercury
The FDA and EPA provide three categories of fish in a chart: best choices, good choices, and fish to avoid. The provided chart purpose is to help the consumer make healthy and safe choices when choosing aquatic food.
Best choices include herrings, lobster, scallops, and freshwater trout.
Good choices include monkfish, snappers, halibuts, and groupers.
Fish to avoid include shark, tuna, bigeye, orange roughy, and swordfish.
5. Take a cooking class
Continuous eating of vegetables and fish may come to a point where its taste becomes monotonously boring. Applying for a cooking lesson may help you with this problem. This will give you a lot of choices for food that you prefer.
You may also look for recipes online that you may apply to your cooking skills if you are not particular with taking classes. Moreover, there are food restaurants that deliver pescatarian-based food.