With the clean eating movement taking off, many people are beginning to take interest in plant-based, vegan and vegetarian diets. Even if you are keen on adopting this lifestyle, the change can be hard for some—really hard; especially when you feel like you can’t live without meat. What if I told you there was a middle ground—a transition stage between being an omnivore, to becoming a vegetarian?
While technically a branch of vegetarianism (also referred to as pesco-vegetarianism), the diet is completely devoid of red meat like pork and beef, as well as white meat like chicken. However, anything under the sea is fair game, from fish like salmon, tuna and snapper, to other animals like shrimp, scallops and crab.
I was a pescetarian for three years out of personal choice, and one thing I remember vividly was how easy it was. Because I was still able to eat fish and seafood, I didn’t feel like I was restricting myself, and the transition was seamless. While I personally chose to remain pescatarian, the diet can also be used to slowly ease into a vegetarian or vegan diet. Immediately switching from an omnivore diet to a vegetarian one may be too drastic to make it a sustainable option.
Health & environmental benefits
Undoubtedly, the selling point of the pescetarian diet is the health benefits associated with it. Eating fish has been proven to reduce the risk of cardiovascular and heart disease due to the abundance of omega-3 fatty acids (which also reduces the risk of mental diseases!), as well as reduce the risk of developing certain forms of cancer, particularly those of the oral cavity, pharynx, and digestion. It’s also known to reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes, dementia, erectile dysfunction. Fish itself is also a major source of key vitamins and minerals such as vitamin D, B12, iron, zinc, potassium, and magnesium.
Pescetarianism isn’t just good for your health, but it also has positive environmental impacts. Fish eaters produce 46% less greenhouse gas emissions as compared to people who eat at least one serving of meat per day.
Concerns & solutions
A concern associated with the diet would be the levels of mercury found in certain fish. Due to bio-amplification, larger deep-sea fish tend to have more mercury in their system, leading to the fear that overconsumption of these fishes may lead to mercury poisoning. However, this can easily be avoided by consuming fish low in mercury such as shrimp, salmon, and canned tuna. For pregnant women, nursing mothers, and women expecting to get pregnant, the recommended amount of fish consumption would be no more than 12oz a week.
A danger of switching to a pescetarian diet would be unintentionally consuming a high carbohydrate diet to compensate for the meat cut out. With fish being expensive, it’s easier on your wallet if you adopt a predominantly vegetarian approach to meals, with around 2 or 3 servings of fish per week. This way, you’ll end up relying more on vegetarian sources of protein such as tofu and lentils. You can find a 1-week meal balanced pescetarian meal plan here.
All in all, the pescetarian diet is one of the healthiest and most balanced diets you can find. With obvious health and environmental benefits, it’s the ideal diet for those not quite ready to jump into vegetarianism quite yet, but are keen on reducing their meat intake.
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