Diet and Nutrition

Pescatarian Diet: Is It Healthy?

Pescatarian Diet: Is It Healthy?

Key Takeaways

  • The pescatarian diet, which is also called as pesco-vegetarian diet is a form of vegetarian diet that includes fish and other seafood items.
  • The most important reason why fish is beneficial for one's health is that fish contains high amounts of omega-3 fatty acids. 
  • The pescatarian diet is a great choice for individuals who want to limit their intake of animal meat.

What is a pescatarian diet?

A pescatarian diet involves the consumption of seafood and fish along with vegetarian food, but not chicken, pork, steak, or any other animal meat. Some pescatarians also include eggs and dairy products in their diet. 

The pescatarian diet has been around for more than 1,000 years mostly across Japan, certain portions of Asia, and the Mediterranean regions. The population in these areas have been heavily dependent on fish as their source of protein since ages. A variety of seafood including fish is known to be loaded with fatty acids and dietary proteins, which is why it has been regarded as one of the healthiest food sources in the world. For example, sardine and salmon are filled with various types of nutrients such omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin D, amino acids, and vitamin A. There are also other types of fish and seafood, which contain all of these nutrients including vitamin B and certain minerals such as calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, and selenium.

The pescatarian diet is a great choice for individuals who want to limit their intake of animal meat. In other regions, the consumption of meat depends on climate changes. The production of livestock tends to increase the greenhouse gas emission. Hence, if more people consume a meat-free diet, it would actually help save the environment. However, the environment is not the only factor why one should limit the intake of meat. 

It has been said that reducing the consumption of red meat and going for leaner options would actually help reduce the risk of developing heart-related problems. Certain studies also encourage people to include oily fish in their diet at least a few times a week to improve their dietary intake and overall health.

How healthy is the pescatarian diet?

There are many individuals who choose less meat or have a vegetarian type of diet. These diets can vary depending on the preference of the individual. A vegetarian's food intake would heavily rely on vegetables, which are also healthy. However, there can be cases wherein a few vegetarians would choose to keep fish in their diet. 

Fish or other seafood items have a lot of nutritious benefits. For this reason, it is a good option to include them in your diet. Seafood items usually have nutritious elements, which most vegetarians lack. Below are some of the deficiencies faced by strict vegetarians, but are very well included in fish and seafood:

  • Anemia due to iron deficiency
  • Protein deficiency due to a lack of certain amino acids
  • Cravings of refined carbohydrates
  • Vitamin B12 deficiency
  • Improper ratio of fatty acids

Importance of Protein

Protein is one of the vital nutrients our body needs since it is known to help build every single part of the body, which includes the tissues, muscles, and cells. Usually, carbohydrates are regarded as the main source of energy. However, in certain cases, high protein food items can also be converted into glucose, which can be then used as a source of energy or fuel for the body.

Protein content differs from one food item to another, and not all food items that contain protein offer the same benefits. Not all plant-based foods offer a complete source of protein. Animal meat remains to be the source of complete proteins.

The molecules of proteins are made of individual chains of amino acids. These amino acids are further divided into essential amino acids and non-essential amino acids. The essential amino acids are the ones that our body cannot produce. Hence, they must be sourced from the food that we consume. On the other hand, non-essential amino acids can be synthesized from the essential amino acids, so they are often less of a concerning topic.

Fish and other animal products such as beef, dairy items, and poultry, are complete protein food items. They are quite needed to be included in the diet to prevent any case of protein deficiency in an individual.

The Benefits of a Pescatarian Diet

1. Lowers Inflammation

The omega-3 fatty acids found in fish or seafood are very valuable since they have the ability to fight off any kind of inflammation in the body. Omega-3 fatty acids help control inflammation, which is often the main cause of a number of medical conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, cancer, and asthma.

The two types of polyunsaturated fats (omega-3 and omega-6) play a pivotal role in the various functions of the body such as the formation of hormones, cell membranes, responses of the immune system, and many more. However, one should note that the omega-3 and the omega-6 fatty acids have opposite effects when it comes to dealing with inflammation.

An increase in the levels of omega-6 and low levels of omega-3 would lead to inflammation in the body. As mentioned earlier, inflammation is one of the underlying causes of illnesses, so if the level of inflammation can be reduced, then there would be an avoidance of so many diseases such as heart-related problems, cognitive decline, and cancer.

The omega-3 fatty acids are known to be present and are the main core of the pescatarian diet. Food items rich in omega-3 fats include algae, seafood, and green leaves. Omega-6 fats are usually found in nuts, vegetable oil, and to a certain extent, in animals that eat grains or corn. 

Although most people choose packaged products loaded with omega-6 nowadays, one should also try to go out of the way and also consume fish and any other sources of omega-3 so that the ratio of these polyunsaturated fats is properly maintained leading to a reduction in the inflammation of the body.

2. Loaded with Omega-3 Fatty Acids

The most important reason why fish is beneficial for one's health is that fish contains high amounts of omega-3 fatty acids. Nowadays, there are so many food items that mostly contain omega-6 fats such as vegetable oils and plant foods leading to an imbalance of the polyunsaturated fats in the body. In such cases, one should start consuming food items that are loaded with omega-3 fats to balance the ratio in the body.

Omega-3 is known to act as a counterbalance against the omega-6 fatty acids. It is known to control the levels of inflammation in the body, which is usually caused by the imbalance in the ratio. Thus, omega-3 fatty acids are termed as "anti-inflammatory", whereas the omega-6 fats are termed as "pro-inflammatory". Our body needs both of these fats, but more often, the body lacks omega-3.

Apart from controlling inflammation, omega-3s have innumerable health benefits, which have been confirmed in many of the studies. It also depends on the region, where people consume more fish and seafood items such as the Mediterranean, wherein the pescatarian style of diet is common. A diet rich in omega-3s has been known to improve the mental health of the individual, reduces the risk of cardiovascular diseases, increases fertility and improves the reproductive health, lowers the risk of having diabetes, lowers the triglyceride levels in the body, and also fixes hormonal imbalances.

3. Lowers the Risk of Cancer

It has been proven that by consuming fish and other seafood items rich in omega-3s has known to benefit the immune system of our body, which in turn is ready to fight against the cancer-causing cells by reducing or suppressing the inflammation.

Individuals who eat a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables are likely to benefit, since these foods also lower the risk of cancer. The diet of a vegetarian is associated with an overall reduction of certain types of cancer such as colon cancer. As per certain studies, those who have a pescatarian diet are more protected from cancer in comparison to vegetarians and non-vegetarians.

Including food items rich in omega-3s in the diet can lower the rate of inflammation in the body and also limit the progress of cancer-causing cells. If an individual has already been diagnosed with cancer, eating foods rich in omega-3s would help stall the growth of the tumor. It has been proven beneficial for those individuals who undergo radiation therapy and chemotherapy since omega-3s can help preserve the muscle mass and can help regulate inflammatory responses, which in the case of cancer patients are already compromised.

4. Improves Heart Health 

For keeping the heart healthy and free from inflammation, EPA and DHA are necessary. To fight against any kind of disease or infection, a systemic inflammation in the body is the response of the immune system, which leads to an increase in the production of white blood cells (WBCs) and other substances.

If an individual starts to consume at least 200 mg to 500 mg of EPA and DHA per day, it would lead to a reduction of heart-related conditions as well as avoid death due to heart disease. A combination of nutrients found in fish and seafood is also known to regulate the heartbeat, leading to normal blood pressure levels and lowering the levels of cholesterol in the body. It would also help control the level of triglycerides and reduce the formation of blood clots, preventing the risk of having a stroke or heart attack.

5. Fights Depression and Stabilizes the Mood

The omega-3s present in fish and seafood are known to maintain a healthy cognition and also reduce the risk of developing dementia, ADHD, depression, and anxiety attacks. This would mean that if an individual religiously follows the pescatarian diet, then the food in the diet automatically acts as a natural remedy when it comes to fighting against any kind of anxiety, reduce the symptoms of ADHD, and deals with the signs of depression.

6. Promotes Healthy Weight Management

Individuals who tend to gain weight and are obese lack omega-3 rich foods in their diet. Certain studies reveal that individuals who tend to consume more plant-based foods in their diet have low BMIs and can control their weight better because their diet has a low amount of saturated fats and calories.

You can effectively control your weight even if you always include whole plant-based foods in your regular diet with seldom fish. Vegetarians would tend to find themselves eating more carbohydrates in the forms of pizza and bread, and a lower proportion of calories, which come from healthy fats and proteins. Such diet leads nowhere and instead, it would cause fluctuations in the blood sugar level. The person would also be inclined to overeat and there can be problems in regulating the level of insulin. To feel full along with maintaining a healthy weight, always choose to eat healthy proteins and fats.