As a clinical nutritionist, I feel confident that a pescatarian diet promotes long-term wellness. But what is it exactly? A pescatarian diet is a vegetarian diet with the inclusion of fish and seafood. We pescatarians get our protein from fish, eggs, dairy and plant-based sources like beans, nuts and seeds. If you do choose to switch to a pescatarian diet, you'll get the known benefits of a vegetarian lifestyle in addition to lots of omega-3 fatty acids from fish, making this diet a powerful link to long-term health.
With any diet, there are pitfalls to look out for. We need to be careful of overfishing our oceans, so eating primarily vegetarian with occasional fish can help. Also, limit your fish consumption to three ounces per week of the following to avoid PCBs and heavy metal consumption: tuna, swordfish, shark and tilefish. Whenever possible, stick to low-on-the-food-chain seafood like sardines, anchovies, clams, mussels and oysters. And definitely consult the Seafood Watch mobile app from the Monterey Bay Aquarium when choosing which seafood you're going to eat.
1. You’ll Be Adding Anti-Inflammatory Fats to Your Diet
Anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids are underrepresented in the typical American diet, which consists of high quantities of factory-farmed meat, wheat, sugar and refined vegetable oils. All of the foods in the Standard American Diet (SAD) cause inflammation in the body and, if consumed in large amounts over time, can lead to heart disease and even autoimmune diseases.
Pescatarian foods, on the other hand, such as cod, salmon, pasture-raised eggs, walnuts and pumpkin seeds contain high amounts of omega-3s and can help lower inflammation in the body. Creating a diet with these foods at the center can lead to increased energy, health and even weight loss.
Read more: 13 Types of Fish to Avoid Eating
2. You’ll Improve Your Blood-Lipid Profile
Adding fatty fish to your diet just twice a week can lower triglyceride levels, according to the American Heart Association. A study done by the University of Eastern Finland found that upping fatty fish intake to three or four meals per week increased HDL concentrations. HDL is the good cholesterol that helps protect against heart disease.
3. You’ll Get Your Vitamins D and B-12
When you're on a strict vegan or vegetarian diet it can be tough to get vitamins D and B-12. Vitamin D is essential for teeth and bone health as well as for keeping your immune system in check. Vitamin B-12 is required for energy production. But sardines, salmon, tuna and cod all rank higher than land animals as sources of vitamin B-12, and salmon ranks higher than cow milk as a good source of vitamin D.
4. You’ll Eliminate Antibiotics and Growth Hormones From Your Diet
If you're sticking to Seafood Watch App-approved wild-caught fish and seafood or sustainably raised farmed fish and seafood, then you've eliminated growth hormones and antibiotics that would have been ingested through eating factory-farmed animals. Antibiotics are grossly overused in factory farms to prevent illness in animals, not just to treat the sick ones. In fact, it is estimated by the Natural Resources Defense Council that more than 29 million pounds of antibiotics are used in animal feed every year. Because of this overuse, antibiotic-resistant bacteria are promoted in the food supply and can ultimately cause resistant infections in humans, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).
5. You’ll Be Easier on the Environment
By decreasing our dependence on factory farms we can start to heal the environment. The amount of natural resources (such as water) spent on factory farms is enormous and pollutes local water sources from runoff. The clearing of rainforests to raise livestock is a detriment to the planet's ecosystem, and the greenhouse gases emitted from this type of farming is contributing to global warming, according to the Humane Society.
6. You’ll Bring More Mindfulness to Your Palate
Bringing a mindfulness practice to your plate can include thinking about where your food came from and how it got to your fork. Shockingly, 99 percent of meat on the market comes from factory-farmed animals that are subjected to horrendous conditions before they get to the slaughterhouse. Some of them are even diseased when they arrive but are sold as food anyway. When you educate yourself about seafood choices and then chose the seafood you eat carefully, you will be contributing to your own health and the health of the planet.
Read more: The 9 Safest Seafood Options
7. A Pescatarian Diet Can Be Less Expensive
Eating a mostly plant-based diet can be much easier on the wallet than omnivorous diets, especially the Paleo-type diets that focus on high-quality animal products. Sources of protein are usually your most expensive items at the grocery store, and high-quality fish and seafood can get pricey too. But these foods don't need to be eaten on a regular basis. Eating fish just two to three times per week can be enough to give your body the benefits of a pescatarian diet. One small trick for saving money if you are on a tight budget is to buy sustainably fished canned salmon (and canned sardines, if you can learn to love them like we have) for a fraction of the price of their fresh or frozen counterparts.
Read more: 21 Anti-Aging Foods
What Do YOU Think?
Have you ever tried a pescatarian diet or are you already a pescatarian? How well does the diet work for you? Would you consider trying it? Why or why not? Leave a comment below and let us know.