A pescatarian diet is the one that includes seafood and fish, but not any other types of animal meat. It can be termed as a meat-free diet. Pescatarians are very much similar to vegetarians. The only difference between the two is that a person who follows a pescatarian diet also eats fish and other seafood items apart from vegetarian food. However, in certain cases, pescatarians also tend to include eggs and dairy items in their diet. Hence, such diet basically differs from person-to-person. Pescetarians believe that by following a meat-free diet except for fish and seafood, they can improve their overall health as well as save land animals, which would have a positive impact on the environment.
Vegetarian Food in a Pescatarian Diet
For those who go for a pescatarian diet, the main attraction would be to include fresh fruits and vegetables, which is very much similar to a vegetarian diet. There is no restriction to an individual on which plant-based product they want to eat. They can consume any kind of beans, grains, seeds, nuts, fruits, and vegetables. Their diet can also include plant-based proteins such as soy and tempeh. Certain individuals heavily rely on nuts and beans as their protein source and consume fish and other seafood items on rare occasions. A few others would include at least one type of seafood in their regular meal.
Fish and Seafood
Fish is known to be a good source of proteins as well as healthy fats. But eating too much of fish is also not beneficial since it could lead to the intake of pollutants including mercury. Some bodies of water contain pollutants such as polychlorinated biphenyls or PCBs and perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS). Thus, it is essential to check the site of US EPA before going buying and eating any locally caught fish.
The best foods in the pescatarian diet would include naturally fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel, herring, sardines, and anchovies. It is always recommended to choose wild-caught fish rather than the ones raised in a fish farm. Wild-caught fish have lower levels of toxins and chemicals, which are otherwise mostly used in fishes raised in farming facilities. The logic is quite similar to grass-fed animals, which contain higher nutrient levels.
Fish grown in farms have lower levels of DHA and EPA as compared to fish caught from freshwater. Farmed fish also contribute to heavy metal toxicity. For these reasons, it is very important to carefully inspect the fish before purchasing to avoid getting low-quality fish or seafood such as the commonly sold farmed salmon. Also, when trying to buy seafood, avoid buying catfish and shellfish. It has been assumed that shellfish are a good source of proteins since they are low in calories. However, shellfish is not good for the health due to a number of reasons.
Bottom-feeders such as shellfish tend to be contaminated due to its intake of heavy metals in the ocean. Shellfish tend to carry antibiotics, chemical residues, parasites, and xenoestrogens, which are bad for humans. Most shellfish are raised in farms and also lead to overfishing, which is a matter of ecological concern.
Shrimps, tuna, and sea bass contain low levels of mercury. However, the regular consumption of these seafood items can lead to a build-up of mercury in the body, which is very harmful. Too much exposure to any of these pollutants when on a pescatarian diet can lead to an increased risk of having certain medical conditions such as diabetes, cancer, and thyroid problems.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has warned women who are pregnant, planning for a pregnancy, or nursing a baby as well as young children to avoid the intake of seafood such as tilefish, swordfish, shark, and king mackerel. Moreover, other seafood such as shrimps, salmon, catfish, and pollock should also be avoided. When consumed, make sure that the intake should not be more than 12 ounces a week.
Below are the most recommended fish and seafood since they are high in DHA and EPA:
The question arises how much fish should one eat. Certain experts recommend that for starters, an individual can eat fish or seafood at least 3-4 times a week. To get enough amount of anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids as well as EPA and DHA, the main goal should be to eat 3-6 ounces of fatty fish on a weekly basis.
How to start a pescatarian diet?
A pescatarian diet would help individuals get rid of high saturated fat, which mostly comes along with red meat. Below are a few steps one can take for transitioning to a pescatarian diet:
- Discuss this new diet plan to the members of the household with whom you share meals. You can explain to them that you would no longer be eating any animal meat or animal-based products such as pork, chicken, lamb, turkey, beef, and other products that are made from these foods such as animal-based gravies or broth. You can talk to your household members about how well this diet plan can be handled.
- Check the kitchen cupboard, drawers, and refrigerator for any meat products and remove them. Moreover, go through the labels of canned products, soup, and frozen meals to check if any of the ingredients include meat. It is important to note that gelatin, which is often used to thicken foods and rennet, which is found in cheese, also contain animal-based ingredients. If you are the one who is looking to avoid dairy items, then you can stay away from cheese, yogurt, whey, cream, and milk.
- When it comes to seafood or vegetarian food, it is advisable to prepare food at home. Try new varieties of recipes such as vegetarian soups, curries, salads, and stir-fry meals. You can use fish or seafood items to prepare recipes such as fish tacos, seafood stews, seafood sandwiches, or the simplest would be to either grill them, bake, or just season it and have them.
- Also include nuts, beans, and seeds in your diet, which are known to be good sources of protein, especially on days when you cannot eat seafood to fulfill the protein your body needs. There are some pescatarians who include dairy items or eggs in their diet, whereas others choose to stay out of it.
Remember that it takes time for our body to adjust to new changes, so take it gradually. Try making small changes in your lifestyle as well. If on any day you tend to slip and consume animal-based products, then do not be hard on yourself. These kind of minor issues are quite normal in the beginning days of starting a pescatarian diet. However, you should not often give in to such temptations or else it would not allow you to reach your goals.
Considerations of a Pescatarian Meal
There are plenty of common breakfast items that perfectly fit into a pescatarian diet without having any difficulties. You can include eggs, cereals, bread, fruit smoothies, or omelets as part of your breakfast. If you do not mind consuming soy, then replace sausages or bacon with soy foods. For lunch dishes, you can go for fish sandwiches, sushi, sunflower seeds, chickpea salad, tuna, or salmon. Keep dinners as light as possible by including vegetarian pasta and soup made from beans or any other delicious items. You can also eat a quick and easy broiled fish with the inclusion of freshly cut veggies.
Advantages of Pescatarian Meal
1. Low Saturated Fat
Those who adopt a vegetarian or pescatarian diet tend to consume lower amounts of total fat, cholesterol, and foods that have less saturated fats than those individuals who consume meat-based products. If you are the one who needs to start a pescatarian diet, then the most important thing is to first plan the meals, wherein meat and poultry items are removed from the diet and replacing them with healthier options. It has been confirmed by studies that individuals should include seafood in their diet since they are filled with essential nutrients. Salmon is an oily fish and is a great source of omega-3 fatty acids.
2. Improves Overall Health
A pescatarian diet helps reduce the risk of having cardiovascular diseases such as a heart attack or stroke. It also helps reduce the risk of getting cancer, diabetes, osteoporosis, arthritis, high blood pressure, and obesity. The animal meat, which is very often consumed, tend to be filled with pesticides and harmful chemicals. After an extended period of consumption, these meals can become dangerous for human use. It has been said that every bit of pork contains various cancer-causing pesticides. In a pescatarian diet, most of the iron, which the body needs, come from fish, whole grains, fresh fruits, and vegetables. When it comes to protein, one can get it from consuming a good amount of whole grains, tofu, and other plant sources. When it comes to saturated fats, then fish has a very low amount of it but contains huge quantities of polyunsaturated omega-3 fatty acids.
3. Helps the Environment
Certain reports suggest that a pound of beef contains around 2,500 gallons of water and one pound of soy contains just 250 gallons of water. Hence, if one needs to save water, try to cut off animal meat from the diet. Also, there is a tremendous amount of deforestation carried out to create more space for livestock.
Similar to other types of diet, one may feel restricted from consuming certain food groups, which often leads to certain issues. There can be cases when the individual would start to feel mentally deprived during the course of following a pescatarian diet due to the fact that there is no consumption of meat and any animal-based products.
In some cases, individuals can get bored after some time when they continuously eat fish over and over again just to obtain enough amount of proteins in the body. At times, individuals tend to consume food that contains carbohydrates, which lead to weight gain, feeling tired or fatigued, protein deficiency, and other health conditions.
One of the other crucial points to consider in a pescatarian diet is that consuming too much fish can lead to an increase of mercury in the body. Mercury is very toxic but its toxicity gets mitigated with the help of a mineral known as selenium, which is also present in wild caught seafood items. However, based on the issues of global warming and the rise in the number of pollutants found in the ocean, it really becomes a matter of concern.
Thus, it is recommended to mainly focus on consuming smaller fish breeds. The main reason behind it is that small fish have lesser amounts of mercury stored in their tissues. As fish moves up the food chain, the mercury levels also build up, which would mean that the bigger the fish, the higher would be the level of mercury present in it.