A pescatarians are people who add fish and seafood to a vegetarian diet. There are many reasons people choose to avoid meat and poultry, but still eat fish. Some people choose to add fish to a vegetarian diet so they can get the health benefits of a plant-based diet plus heart-healthy fish. Others might be trying to curb the environmental impact of their diet. For some people, on the other hand, it might be simply a matter of taste. Here is more about the benefits and drawbacks of a pescatarian diet, including exactly what a pescatarian does and doesn't eat.
What Is a Pescatarian?
Pescatarians are similar to vegetarians, but the main and most important difference is that pescatarians eat fish and shellfish in addition to an otherwise vegetarian diet. Like vegetarians, most pescatarians include eggs and dairy in their diets.
Major vegetarian organizations do not recognize pescatarians as true vegetarians. However, pescatarians believe that they can improve their health, the plight of land animals and the condition of our planet by refusing to consume meats other than seafood.
While you can eat an unhealthy diet as a pescatarian, most pescatarians and vegetarians consume less total fat, less cholesterol and less saturated fat than people who eat meat regularly.
Therefore, most people should include more seafood in their diet because fish and shellfish are rich in nutrients, and oily fish like like salmon are a great source of omega-3 fatty acids.
Why Do People Choose a Pescatarian Diet?
There are several reasons people may choose to eat a pescatarian diet. Here are some of the main ones.
There are many proven benefits to plant-based diets, including a lower risk of obesity and chronic diseases like heart disease and diabetes. According to some studies, you can get many of those protective benefits from a pescatarian diet too. One study found that women who were pescatarians gained 2.5 fewer pounds (1.1 kg) each year than women who ate meat. And people who shifted their diet in a more plant-based direction gained the least amount of weight. This has shown that reducing your animal consumption may be good for you no matter your current eating patterns.
Another study found that pescatarians had a lower risk of developing diabetes at 4.8%, compared to omnivores at 7.6%. Moreover, one large study looked at people who ate meat rarely or were pescatarians. They had a 22% lower risk of dying from heart disease compared to regular meat-eaters.
Disadvantages of a Pescatarian Diet
Fish and shellfish are good sources of protein and healthy fats, but eating too much increases your exposure to pollutants and mercury. Depending on the waters that are being fished, some of those pollutants can include polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), dioxin and perflourooctane sulfonate (PFO). Excessive exposure to these pollutants on a pescatarian diet could potentially increase the risk of cancer, diabetes and thyroid disease. The risks of exposure are higher in pregnant women, women who may become pregnant, nursing mothers and young children.
What Do Pescatarians Eat?
A typical pescatarian diet is primarily vegetarian with the addition of seafood.
Pescatarians Do Eat
- Whole grains and grain products
- Legumes and their products, including beans, lentils, tofu and hummus
- Nuts and nut butters, peanuts and seeds
- Seeds, including hemp, chia and flaxseeds
- Dairy, including yogurt, milk and cheese
- Fish and shellfish
Pescatarians Don't Eat
A pescatarian diet can be quite healthy. In addition, it lets you avoid some of the ethical and environmental issues related to diets that include meat. Moreover, this way of eating provides more flexibility and some additional nutrition compared to a standard vegetarian diet. Overall, eating a plant-based diet with some seafood is a healthy choice.