We’re all looking for the perfect diet—you know, the one which keeps us the slimmest, healthiest, and is the most environmentally sound.
Oh, and while you’re at it, make sure it consists of foods which taste good, and have enough variety to keep mealtimes interesting.
One diet which warrants serious consideration when it comes to nutritional balance, weight management, taking it easy on the environment—and yes, even tasting good:
The pescatarian diet.
A what? Simply put, a pescatarian diet is a plant-based diet that adds fish.
What are the Benefits of a Pescatarian Diet?
By sticking with a plant-based diet, many of the unhealthy components of today’s Standard American Diet (SAD) can be avoided.1)https://draxe.com/charts-american-diet/ These include low fiber, low levels of “good” fats, added hormones and antibiotics, and an abundance of processed, high-glycemic carbohydrates.
However, by adding fish to a natural, plant-based diet which is high in whole grains, fresh fruits, and vegetables, not only is the amount of lean protein increased, but so are healthy, omega-3 essential fatty acids, and fiber as well.2)http://www.goodfats101.com/fats-101/polyunsaturated-fats/omega-3-fatty-acids/
From an ethical standpoint, most factory farms3)https://www.farmsanctuary.org/learn/factory-farming/ raise cattle, pigs and poultry in crowded, inhumane conditions which have little concern for the animal’s wellbeing, beyond turning it into food. The raising of livestock also contributes around 14.5%4)https://insideclimatenews.org/news/22052017/factory-farms-cafos-threaten-climate-change-world-heath-organization of all human-related carbon emissions, whereas pescatarians are responsible for about 46% fewer carbon emissions than are meat.5)https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4372775/
Pescatarians are also 43% less likely to suffer colorectal cancer6)http://www.cnn.com/2015/03/11/health/vegetarians-fish-colon-cancer/index.html than meat lovers, as well as avoiding other health problems associated with the SAD, such as:7)https://nutritionfacts.org/topics/standard-american-diet/
- Obesity, diabetes, and heart disease
- Cognitive decline 8)https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3056912/
- High blood pressure
Pescatarian vs Vegetarian
Surprisingly, pescatarians lower their risk of colorectal cancer by about 27% over vegetarians9)http://www.cnn.com/2015/03/11/health/vegetarians-fish-colon-cancer/index.html and vegans, which is likely due to the additional omega-3 fatty acids consumed through seafood.
Plus, one of the main disadvantages of a strictly-vegetarian diet is the lack of vitamin B-12, an essential B-vitamin which requires an animal source. 10)http://healthyeating.sfgate.com/being-pescatarian-healthy-9848.html
However, by consuming fish and other seafoods, healthy B-12 levels can be adequately maintained without the use of vitamin supplements, and fish also provides an easily assimilated source of iron, vitamin-D, zinc, and other essential vitamins and minerals which a strictly vegetarian diet can fall short of.
Add to this fish being a healthy source of complete protein (includes all 9 of the essential amino acids)—something else not easily attainable with an all vegetarian diet—and we can assess that adding fish to your vegetarian diet is highly beneficial to your health.11)health.https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Complete_protein
Can Vegetarians Eat Seafood?
As far as sustainability, problems surrounding the pescatarian diet are minimal—so long as a few guidelines are followed.12)https://www.nrdc.org/stories/smart-seafood-buying-guide
This involves only consuming seafood which has been ethically harvested or farmed, comes from well-managed supplies, and where other fish and wildlife have not been harmed in the harvesting or farming process.
For animal welfare, it is important to avoid fish which is farmed in overcrowded conditions, or raised with chemicals and food products which harm water quality, wild fish and other wildlife. 13)http://www.animal-ethics.org/animal-exploitation-section/animals-used-food-introduction/fish-farming/
Fish which have been illegally harvested also need to be avoided, and if the market or restaurant you frequent cannot accurately tell you the source of the seafood they are selling, it is best to avoid buying from them altogether.
The best way to verify how well your seafood fits a healthy, sustainable criterion is to look for fish which has been given the “Best Choices” designation by the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch, a non-profit working to maintain healthy oceans and seafood sources.14)http://www.seafoodwatch.org/
Pescatarian Weight Loss and Diet Plan
Studies show us that the more plant-based the diet, the less weight gain there is. 15)https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/pescatarian-diet#section2
And, by adding lean protein which has a balanced omega-3-6-9 fatty acid content, studies show us that weight management is improved over a diet high in red meat, processed foods, and omega-6-9 fatty acids.16)https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/omega-3-6-9-overview#section2
This is likely because a diet high in omega-3 fatty acids—of which grain-fed beef and other farmed mammals contain little—provides a key improvement over a diet high in omega-6 and 9 fatty acids, which are responsible for more fat storage, and can also be attributed to high levels of inflammation in the body.17)https://draxe.com/pescatarian/18)https://www.livestrong.com/article/336486-side-effects-of-omega-3-6-9/
Healthy proteins and fats can also lead to lower calorie intake, since they contribute to feelings of being fuller longer, due to their slow rates of metabolism.
Adding eggs and dairy to an otherwise plant and fish-based diet also has some key advantages–and disadvantages.
To start, eggs and dairy are also sources of complete protein, and a diet high in protein can be attributed to a healthier BMI and improved sulfur levels—another important nutritional component not readily available in an all-plant diet.19)https://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2016/05/16/sulfur-in-the-body.aspx
However, both eggs and milk products can be associated with factory farming, although eggs and dairy products are often available from small local farms. Look for local producers who do not use growth hormones or antibiotics, and who feed their animals an all-natural diet which mimics what the animal would consume were it wild.
It is also advised that when possible, pasteurized and homogenized milk should be avoided, since the process of heating milk (pasteurizing it) reduces the beneficial enzymes, probiotics, and nutritional content of it. Unfortunately, raw, unpasteurized milk is becoming rare in our day and age, due to safety laws and regulations.20)https://draxe.com/pasteurization-homogenization-raw-milk/21)https://draxe.com/raw-milk-benefits/
There is also the question of whether adult humans should be consuming dairy, since we are one of the few species on the planet who does this, and the digestibility of dairy also comes into question. 22)https://www.thenakedscientists.com/articles/questions/are-humans-only-animal-drink-milk-other-species
Many, in fact, are lactose intolerant, which is something attributed to our innate inability to digest milk sugars beyond infancy. This is attributed to around 75% of adult humans no longer producing the enzyme lactase, which is essential in digesting milk sugars. 24)http://www.pcrm.org/health/diets/vegdiets/what-is-lactose-intolerance That said, eggs 25)https://www.bbcgoodfood.com/howto/guide/ingredient-focus-eggs are a particularly rich source of vitamin B-2, B-12, zinc, and dietary Sulphur, as well as other minerals and fats crucial to a healthy diet; and those who can consume 26)milkhttps://www.organicfacts.net/health-benefits/animal-product/milk.html products without an allergic reaction have an additional source of complete proteins, calcium, and—assuming the animal has been fed a natural grass diet—healthy fats as well.
A pescatarian diet can be one of the healthiest diets for you, especially if you live in an area where fresh fish is readily available. You may also enjoy this article that explores paleo, pollotarian and other “tarians”.
Contributing writer, Scot Mills is a professional writer with a passion for natural products, and health and wellness for over 40 years now. In addition to living and writing about a fit lifestyle, Scot’s education included graduating at the top of his class as a business major, and Phi Beta Kappa honors Society member. You can visit Scot’s blog here.
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