Pescatarian Diet: Reasons Why This Diet Might Be Great for You

Don’t be too quick to dismiss the idea – you’re..

Pescatarian Diet

Pescatarian Diet: Reasons Why This Diet Might Be Great for You

Don’t be too quick to dismiss the idea – you’re on the right track!

Your next step is to find out exactly how you should take control.

And honestly, there are tons of diets out there for you to try to achieve better health. You may have heard of the Mediterranean diet, the Atkins diet, vegetarianism, or even veganism.

But here’s one you may not have heard much about: pescatarianism.

You may be thinking, “What on earth is a pescatarian?”

Don’t worry – this post will cover all of your questions, and explain why a pescatarian diet might be right for you.

So, if you want to try a new and healthy diet, keep reading to learn 10 reasons why you should consider pescatarianism.

First, let’s find out what it really is.

What is Pescatarianism?

Pescatarian diets may seem new to you, but they’ve been around for thousands of years.

In fact, Asian and Mediterranean cultures have relied heavily on fish for their nutrients for generations.

The logic behind the modern form of the diet goes something like this:

If we hadn’t been forced to kill the creatures we had to as early humans to get our protein due to the scarcity of wild fruits and vegetables, we all would have been vegetarians or vegans.

And now that we can choose for ourselves what we eat on a daily basis, we should be smarter about what foods we eat.

And that choice should involve seafood products instead.

Pescatarians stay away from land animals and birds, which includes chicken, beef, pork, and other poultry.

Instead, they eat seafood like salmon, tuna, trout, whitefish, and sardines. Pescatarian diets also allow for shellfish like lobster, shrimp, or crayfish.

But it isn’t just seafood.

In reality, pescatarianism is more of a slight variation on traditional vegetarian diets.

Pescatarians can eat any kind of fruit, vegetable, grain, bean, seed, or nut.

They just choose to bring more nutrients and health benefits into their diets from seafood than they’d get through plant products alone.

Benefits of Becoming a Pescatarian

1. Nutrient-Rich

Pescatarians have no problem reaching their recommended daily allowances of virtually all the nutrients their bodies need.

Fish contain many necessary vitamins, including the B-complex vitamins, vitamin A, and vitamin D – all of which are known to be beneficial for the nervous system, vision, and bones.

Fish also have loads of essential minerals, like zinc, iodine, selenium, and iron.

Seafood is also the best source of omega-3 fatty acids you can find. According to MayoClinic.com, a high intake of these fatty acids is linked to a decreased risk of heart disease, high blood triglyceride levels, and high blood pressure.

So, while vegetarians and vegans have to supplement many of these nutrients into their diets, pescatarians needn’t think twice about whether they’re getting them or not.

2. Full of Protein

If you become a pescatarian, you’ll most likely have a lower risk of dying from every major chronic medical problem.

Why?

Because of the incredible amount of protein in seafood.

A study published in the “Archives of Internal Medicine” in 2012 reported that people who received more of their protein from fish and plants than red meat were far less likely to die prematurely.

Also, the significantly lower amounts of fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol per serving contribute to a much healthier body overall – one that can make use of all that extra protein more efficiently than ever.

3. Increased Fertility

There’s a reason oysters are thought to be an aphrodisiac. In addition to adding to your life, a pescatarian diet may help you bring new life to the world.

The high levels of those amazing omega-3 fatty acids found in fish can help regulate your body’s reproductive hormones, and increase blood flow to your reproductive areas.

Zinc and selenium, also found in high amounts in fish, are very important to testosterone and sperm production.

So, if you’re having trouble conceiving, you should definitely consider a pescatarian diet.

4. Better Mental Function

If your brain doesn’t get the right nutrients it needs on a daily basis, you can forget expecting it to work at full power.

And you guessed it – a pescatarian diet can help your brain reach its full capacity. How, you might ask?

Once again, it’s because of those omega-3s! Research into the impact on the function of the brain shows that omega-3 fatty acids can boost the function of neurotransmitters, and improve complex cortical processing and attention.

In fact, pregnant women who consumed lower levels of omega-3s were shown to give birth to children who had lower memory test scores and trouble with learning.

So please, think smart, and eat more fish.

5. Reduced Risk of Cognitive Decline

As we age, we’re more susceptible to memory loss and brain impairments like Alzheimer’s disease or dementia.

However, when you consume the amount of omega-3s in fish, you can naturally treat and prevent such diseases and disorders.

And while we are still learning about the brain and its impairments, one study concluded that a higher intake of fish was associated with a lower risk of developing diseases like Alzheimer’s.

6. Healthy Skin and Hair

True beauty secrets are hard to come by – even though it seems like everyone has them. Unfortunately, you can’t just go out to your local cosmetic store to find them.

But have no fear: you can go to your local supermarket instead.

There’s a wide range of evidence to support the effectiveness of omega-3s found in fish in supporting healthier skin and fighting off undesirable skin conditions.

Some laboratory studies have revealed that omega-3 fatty acids reduce skin inflammation and the effects of psoriasis.

Research has also shown that a high-seafood diet could reduce the appearance of both acne and eczema – again thanks to its high omega-3 content.

Supplements of omega-3s are often reported to nourish hair follicles for shinier and stronger hair.

7. Better Circulation and Heart Health

All 100,000 miles of blood vessels in your body can be enhanced by the anti-inflammatory effects of a pescatarian diet.

Higher cholesterol, blood clots, and inflammation increase blood pressure – but the omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA reduce the risk of damage to your blood vessels.

Seafood also is thought to increase levels of nitric oxide in the body, which results in a relaxation of blood vessels that improves blood flow.

So if you want a healthier overall cardiovascular system, consider ordering the fish instead.

8. Lower Risk of Cancer

One of the leading factors in developing cancer is high levels of inflammation.

That’s why so many people try vegetarian and vegan diets – to get away from the inflammatory effects of meat products.

But research has shown that consuming more fish and seafood can help fight cancer by suppressing that inflammation.

In fact, pescatarians are even better protected against cancer compared with vegetarians, according to some studies.

The omega-3s in fish may even be able to stall tumor growth in people who have already been diagnosed with cancer.

So, if you’d like to lower your risk of cancer – or better your chances of fighting it, try going pescatarian.

9. Faster Weight Loss

As with any alternative diet, there are promises of weight loss with pescatarianism. However, eating lots of fish over other fattier meats may be truly effective for losing weight!

Low intakes of omega-3s are now associated with obesity and weight gain.

And, unsurprisingly, people who eat more plant and fish foods have lower BMIs and better weight control.

Protein in fish is also linked to higher satiety – or fullness.

That means you’ll need to eat less overall.

And if you’re looking to get stronger by increasing your muscle tissue. 

The huge amounts of protein in fish will help you build muscle more quickly.

10. Environmental Benefit

When you cut beef out of your diet, you’re helping the planet.

The Vegetarian Resource Group reported that one pound of beef required 2,500 gallons of water to produce.

Compare that to a pound of wheat, which requires only 25 gallons of water.

A Smithsonian Institution study showed that the demand for more grazing land meant that every day. A land area equivalent in size to seven football fields is destroyed as a result of cattle farming.

In fact, for every hamburger that came from an animal raised on rainforest land, approximately 55 square feet of forest was destroyed.

And in the United States, more than 260 million acres of forest have been cut down for animal agriculture since 2005 alone.

In other words, moving away from beef altogether could be the greatest contribution you make in your life to saving our planet. And you won’t even have to become a vegetarian to do so.

The Disadvantages of a Pescatarian Diet

Too much of a good thing is not always good, as the saying goes. A pescatarian diet includes fish but no other meat, along with fruits, vegetables and grains.

The American Heart Association recommends you eat two servings of fish a week for heart health.

Fish is a good source of protein and healthy fats.

But eating too much may be bad for your health, increasing your exposure to pollutants and mercury.

Exposure to Pollutants

Fatty fish, such as salmon and mackerel, as well as certain varieties of white fish including sea bass and halibut. 

Contain low levels of certain pollutants that can build up in your body over time.

Excessive exposure to these pollutants on a pescatarian diet increases your risk of cancer, diabetes and thyroid disease.

Pregnant women who consume excess amounts risk having low-birth weight babies and developmental delays in their children.

To limit your exposure to these pollutants, it is recommended that you limit your intake of these fish.

Recommendations vary for different groups.

Women and teens who are pregnant or who can become pregnant should have no more than two servings a week. 

With one serving equaling 5 ounces, and men, children and women who cannot become pregnant should limit their intake to no more than four servings a week.

Too Much Mercury

Fish also contain varying amounts of mercury. 

Which is a natural element that fish process into a toxic substance called methylmercury.

As a pescatarian, you may be increasing your exposure to the toxin.

High intakes of this substance affects your nervous system and can cause severe developmental delays in infants exposed to mercury when in the womb.

Due to the varying amounts of mercury in different types of fish. The recommendations on how much you can eat depends on the fish.

For example, fish with low amounts of mercury include sardines, herring and tilapia, which you can eat without concern, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council.

Fish with high levels of mercury, such as bluefin, chilean sea bass and yellowfin tuna, should be limited to no more than three servings a month.

Limited Food Choices

If you like your protein foods and fish is the focus of your meals, you may get bored eating the same type of foods over and over again.

To improve the variety, as well as the quality, of your diet, include other nonmeat sources of protein.

Good choices include beans such as chickpeas or black beans, soy foods such as tofu or tempeh and nuts and seeds.

For example, instead of fish tacos, try a black bean burrito, or whip up a tofu stir-fry instead of shrimp.

Swapping out your fish with these other nonmeat proteins may also decrease your exposure to pollutants and mercury.

A Pricey Protein

It’s expensive to be a pescatarian.

Compared to other nonmeat sources of protein, fish is significantly more costly.

Prices for fish vary depending on where you buy your fish, time of year and whether you’re buying fresh, frozen or canned, but fresh salmon can cost more than £10 a pound at the time of publication.

By comparison, a package of tofu may be less than £5 and a can of beans less than £3.

Types of Foods That a Pescatarian Can Eat

By definition, a pescatarian (or pescetarian) is a person who eats seafood but not other types of meat.

Pescatarians are similar to vegetarians. But the difference is that pescatarians eat fish and shellfish in addition to an otherwise vegetarian diet.

However, there is no consensus on whether a pescatarian diet includes eggs and dairy since many vegetarians consume those types of land animal products.

Major vegetarian organizations, including The Vegetarian Society, do not recognize pescatarians as true vegetarians.

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.

Seafood in a Pescatarian Diet

Pescatarians do not eat land animals or birds, including chicken, beef, pork and other types of poultry.

They do, however, eat seafood, including fish such as salmon, tuna, trout, whitefish, sardines and even fish roe, also known as fish eggs or caviar.

This type of diet also allows for shellfish like lobster, shrimp (or prawns), crawfish and crab as well as mollusks like scallops, clams, mussels, squid, octopus and oysters.

These foods can be prepared in any manner, as long as they are not prepared with ingredients that contain meat that doesn’t fall into these categories.

Plant Foods in a Pescatarian Diet

Fruits and vegetables are the main attraction for pescatarians, much like vegetarians and vegans.

Pescatarians can eat any kind of fruit, vegetable, grain, bean, nut or seed.

They can also eat plant-based proteins like soy and tempeh.

Some pescatarians rely on beans, nuts and dairy for the majority of their protein, eating fish and seafood only on occasion.

Others eat at least one seafood meal per day.

Snack Foods for a Pescatarian Diet

Being pescatarian doesn’t automatically make you healthier, in the same way that being a vegetarian doesn’t equal instant health.

There are a wide variety of snack and junk foods that do not contain animal products, such as potato chips, cakes, cookies and even ice creams.

Pescatarians still have to be careful of their saturated fat intake even though they do not eat land animals or birds.

Eggs and Dairy in a Pescatarian Diet

According to Pescatarian Life, pescatarians may or may not eat dairy, like other types of vegetarians.

This is a personal choice that each pescatarian makes based on his own values and opinions about the dairy system.

It’s not safe to assume that pescatarians eat dairy when preparing meals. It’s always best to ask.

The Disadvantages of a Pescatarianism

Fish is a good source of protein and healthy fats, but eating too much may be bad for your health, increasing 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), so you may want to check the EPA site when eating locally caught fish.

Certain types of commonly eaten fish and shellfish including shrimp, albacore tuna, sea bass and swordfish contain low levels of mercury that can build up in your body over time.

Excessive exposure to these pollutants on a pescatarian diet increases your risk of cancer, diabetes and thyroid disease.

The FDA and EPA caution women who may become pregnant, pregnant women, nursing mothers and young children to not eat shark, swordfish, king mackerel and tilefish.

For fish with lower levels, such as canned light tuna, shrimp, salmon, pollock, and catfish. 

Those same types of people should limit their intake to 12 ounces per week while locally caught fish in areas where there are no advisories should limit the intake to 6 ounces per week.

Healthy Meals for Pescatarians

On a pescatarian diet, you may need to be conscientious about iron consumption, making an effort to include dark leafy greens, beans, soy products, and dried fruits in your diet.

If you consume very minimal amounts of fish or animal products, be certain to choose vitamin B-12 fortified foods, like breakfast cereal or soy milk. 

To make up for a potential deficit, or ask your health care provider to recommend a supplement.

Many common breakfast foods fit into a pescatarian diet without difficulty. If you are including eggs and dairy in your pescatarian diet, opt for eggs, omelets or yogurt for breakfast.

If you aren’t, then cereal or oatmeal with non-dairy milk or toast with nut butter are nutritious options.

Lunch choices might include sushi, a sandwich, a salad with chickpeas and sunflower seeds or a salmon burger.

If you are limiting your intake of fish to once a day, there are plenty of healthy meatless dinners that include whole grains, beans and vegetables.

Whatever type of lifestyle you choose to better your health and positively impact the environment deserves praise.

But don’t worry if you can’t switch to pescatarianism entirely from day one.

Work your way into it by choosing certain days of the week where you cut out other meat products entirely.

Eventually, you’ll be a fully-fledged fish fanatic.


Daniel Messer, RNutr, CPT
Daniel Messer, RNutr, CPT

We eat clean, are always motivated and helpout beginners in need. We sell guides on Cutting, Bulking and Muscle Building. Checkout our website!

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