If you are a health-conscious seafood lover, chances are the thought of becoming vegetarian prompts at least a little discomfort. You’re torn between your desire for optimal health and your love of seafood, and the thought of replacing fresh fish with salad just doesn’t sit well. Enter pescatarianism - a diet centered on vegetables and seafood. Learn about becoming a pescatarian, and the health benefits of relying on seafood for your primary protein.
What is a pescatarian? The word derives from the Italian word for fish: pesce. That is, pescatarians do not eat animals other than seafood and base their diets on plant consumption. (Lacto-ovo pescatarians do eat dairy and eggs to supplement their protein intake.) Although it includes seafood, the pescatarian diet is actually considered to be a type of vegetarianism, since it is largely plant-based. As a result, pescatarians are able to enjoy the best of both worlds: the flavor and variety of seafood with the nutrition of vegetarianism.
Pescatarianism is an effective way for people who prefer a mostly-plant-based diet to obtain vital nutrients difficult to obtain from plants -- especially protein, zinc, B12, and vitamin D. Seafood is also high in Omega-3 fatty acids, which have demonstrated heart health benefits.
Experts Weigh In: The Pescatarian Diet is Healthy
Nutrition experts agree that adopting a plant-based diet is good for health, whether or not the diet is "pure" vegetarian. That is, since pescatarians replace meat with plants and seafood, they are likely to consume more fruits and vegetables than a meat-based consumer. Moreover, by eliminating meats, pescatarians also eliminate the higher levels of saturated fat and cholesterol present in many animal products. As a result, pescatarians enjoy the benefits of a vegetarian diet -- lowered blood pressure, risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and obesity -- without sacrificing vital nutrients or their favorite seafoods.
"People who have health problems or want to lose weight may try pescatarianism," said Janis Jibrin, MS, RD, in an article in Today's Dietitian. "They've read about the detrimental health effects of red meat and the benefits of plant-based diets and omega-3 fatty acids in fish, and are looking for a convenient and doable way to make healthful choices." Jibrin is the author of The Pescatarian Plan, believes people who choose pescatarianism are making attempts to control their health through their food choices.