From Atkins to veganism, diet trends come and go, but the pescatarian diet remains one of the oldest diets in the world. The pescatarian diet is similar to a basic vegetarian diet except that it includes meat, namely fish and seafood. The diet has been around for centuries and is unsurprisingly most common in Asia, the Mediterranean and other areas that are close to oceans and reliant on seafood as their primary source of protein. The diet still relies mainly on plant-based foods, including fruits, vegetables, legumes, grains, seeds and nuts. Pescatarians, or pesco-vegetarians, still stay away from meat that comes from birds and land animals, including beef, pork, chicken and turkey. Depending on personal preference, pescatarians will also eat eggs and dairy products.
Why Eat a Pescatarian Diet?
Many people who start vegetarian or vegan diets often have trouble getting all the vitamins, minerals and nutrients necessary to maintain their health from just plant-based foods alone. Vegetarians may be particularly deficient in:
- Omega-3 fatty acids
- Vitamin B-12
- Vitamin D
Coincidentally, fish and seafood are some of the richest sources of all of these nutrients, especially lean protein and fatty acids. For instance, salmon is packed with protein, omega-3 fatty acids and vitamins A and D. Sardines and other small fish with bones offer a dense source of non-dairy calcium. Other fish provide a rich source of minerals including magnesium, phosphorous, potassium, and selenium.
Along with its nutritional benefits, pescatarian diets offer greater flexibility and variation in meal planning, allowing you to eat more of what you like and feel more satisfied in the process.
Protein and the Pescatarian Diet
Protein is one of the three main macronutrients necessary to sustaining your life. Where carbohydrates are your main source of fuel and fats contribute to a wide range of normal bodily functions, protein primarily acts as the main component for building essentially every part of your body, from cells and organs to tissue and muscle.
Protein molecules are comprised of smaller components called amino acids, which are divided into nonessential and essential categories. Nonessential amino acids can be synthesized in the body. Essential amino acids cannot be produced naturally in the body, meaning that you have to get them from dietary sources. There are 9 known essential amino acids. Complete proteins offer the complete set of these essential amino acids. Most plant-based sources of protein are not complete, making it easy for vegans and vegetarians to suffer from symptoms of protein deficiency.
While vegetarians and vegans may eat plenty of legumes, nuts, seeds and beans for protein, it would require a large and diverse range of these plant-based sources of protein to get all the essential amino acids. Even still, some of the amino acids available have low bioavailability, essentially meaning your body can’t fully digest them. Many of these plant-based proteins contain gluten and other components that are generally difficult for you to properly break down, causing blockage of nutrients and potential damage to your gut.
That’s where seafood comes in. Fish offer a rich source of complete protein that prevents immune responses and eliminates the potential for toxicity. Fish do not block nutrients and their amino acids are easier for your body to digest.
Benefits of a Pescatarian Diet
The pescatarian diet offers a variety of benefits aside from packing lean, healthy protein and all your essential amino acids. Many of these benefits revolve around the diet’s high amount of omega-3 fatty acids.
Omega-3 fatty acids are a type of essential fatty acid, meaning that they are necessary to your health but they cannot be created naturally within your body. The most important omega-3s are eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), both of which are found in seafood and certain animals products like beef and eggs. Certain plant-based foods, like walnuts and flaxseed, contain an omega-3 known as alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). While the body can convert some of this into EPA and DHA, the process is inefficient. You are better suited to getting DHA and EPA direct from the source.
The high omega-3 content of the diet offers a variety of benefits, including:
- Reduced inflammation – Omega-3 fatty acids help to balance the omega-6 fats that are usually high in the average person’s diet. Omega-6 fatty acids are present in processed and packaged foods. Omega-3 fatty acids can combat inflammatory responses, allowing for greater overall comfort while reducing the risk of many health issues.
- Improved cardiovascular health – Coronary heart problems often come as a result of inflammation caused by fatty materials creating plaque deposits in your arteries. DHA and EPA can help to break down fats and prevent the buildup of plaque. The nutrients in seafood also offer a rich combination that can reduce blood pressure, manage cholesterol levels and prevent potential heart attacks and strokes.
- Improved recovery – Intense workouts can leave your muscles feeling sore and weak. That pain is a result of inflammation in your joints and muscles. Studies show that omega-3 fatty acids can help to relieve muscle soreness and inflammation, allowing you to potentially recover faster.
Pescatarian diets can also help you regulate your weight and potentially shed pounds. Most pescatarians generally consume fewer fatty, processed foods, which means less cholesterol and less saturated fat. When considering your calories and your macronutrients, a pescatarian diet can help you lose weight and build lean muscle.
The pescatarian diet can be even more effective when combined with supplements. Thyrovate™ from MYOKEM™ offers a unique formula to reduce your appetite and increase your resistance to stress while accelerating fat loss around your midsection. While pescatarian diets aren’t for everyone, they could be the solution you need for improving your health without giving up all animal-based protein.