A pescatarian diet is one in which the main source of animal protein comes from fish and other seafood, such as shrimp, oysters or other shellfish. People who follow this diet are sometimes referred to as pesco-vegetarians.
For most people who enjoy the pescatarian approach, the fish or aquatic proteins supplement a largely plant-based diet. Plant-based diets offer a variety of health benefits on their own - and those benefits are enhanced even further by the addition of fish and fish products.
As with any diet or style of eating, moderation and quality are both key. In this blog, we’ll discuss how to thrive on a pescatarian diet and the importance of sourcing your seafood from a quality source.
What Are the Health Benefits of Eating a Pescatarian Diet?
The benefits of incorporating high-quality fish protein into your diet, especially to replace other animal protein, are numerous, for both you and the environment. We’ve often discussed the healthy benefits of salmon, but overall, all types of seafood offer nutritious benefits to your well-being.
Compared to omnivores, the average pescatarian consumes less saturated fat, cholesterol and sodium. Vegans or vegetarians who are not getting enough calcium or protein can consider incorporating wild fish into their diet in order to get the bone-building benefits of high calcium and energy-boosting protein. The Omega-3 and polyunsaturated fatty acids present in most seafoods support both great heart-health and, as more and more studies show, brain health.
Benefits Omega-3 Fatty Acids from Fish
Omega-3 fatty acids, found particularly in fattier fish like salmon and mackerel, do more than just support heart and brain health. They also lower the risk of some chronic conditions. These fatty acids reduce the plaque that build up in arteries and lower your odds of arrhythmia (an irregular heartbeat). They also help lower blood pressure, as explained here, which can help you avoid chronic illnesses or issues such as heart disease.
This study from the American Heart Association suggests that “1 to 2 seafood meals per week be included [in your diet] to reduce the risk of congestive heart failure, coronary heart disease, ischemic stroke, and sudden cardiac death, especially when seafood replaces the intake of less healthy foods.”
Finally, and perhaps most significantly, a pescatarian diet may also protect people against colorectal cancers, or cancers that affect the colon and/or rectum. This study, with a large data set of 77,650 people, found that the pescatarian diet had a strong protective effect against colorectal cancers. It is important to note that the benefits of a pescatarian diet are strongest when the fish protein is paired with healthy fruits and vegetables. (Many of our recipes include veggie or whole-grain side-dish suggestions.
How To Start a Pescatarian Diet
If you’re interested in adopting a Pescatarian diet to support your health or simply to try something new, we can help get you started on the right track. Below is a quick guide to the foods you will include in your diet as a Pescatarian, as well as which foods to leave out.
Start with Fish
The first staple to incorporate in your diet? Quality seafood. A pescatarian diet can include freshwater fish, saltwater fish and/or shellfish. These products can be canned, frozen or even fresh - although we recommend understanding exactly what “fresh” means in most grocers. To fill your cart with high-quality and nutritious protein, start here.
Add Vegetables, Whole Grains and Fruits
Just like the bears who thrive off berries and salmon in the Bristol Bay watershed, you’ll also want to add delicious and fibrous sides to your fish protein. A typical pescatarian meal includes vegetables and whole grains, as well as seafood or shellfish. In order to take the most advantage of the health benefits of this eating style, add dark leafy greens like kale, chard, and spinach as well as bright red, yellow, and orange peppers. To be truly like the bears, take advantage of the antioxidant benefits of wild blueberries (also known as bilberries). Of course, there are no limits on the types of fruits and vegetables that can be included - try something local to you!
In this way of eating, it’s not suggested to rid your meals of grains or carbohydrates. Both make great additions to meals made with fish, and they provide fiber and other important nutrients. As you likely know, whole grains provide more nutrients, fewer sugars, and usually fewer additives, than refined grains (like white rice and white flour).
Dairy and Eggs
What about dairy and eggs, you ask? Most pescatarians eat eggs and dairy, although some do not.
Technically, a pescatarian who eats eggs and dairy would be called a lacto-ovo-pescatarian.
What You Won’t Eat as a Pescatarian
Regardless of whether or not you eat certain animal products like yogurt or cheese, a pescatarian diet means you won't eat meat or meat products. You would not only avoid red meat (like beef or bison) but you'll also avoid poultry, lamb, pork, and game (such as venison).
The Environmental Benefits
If you are considering a pescatarian diet, chances are you have also been thinking about the effects on our environment and the impact your diet is making. Some people have decided to nourish themselves with a pescatarian diet because of the positive impact this action has for the environment.
A pescatarian diet can be an ideal solution for those who feel that raising and processing meat takes up land and contributes to dangerous emissions. On a global scale, greenhouse gases contribute to damaging effects of climate change, such as global warming. By reducing our dependence on meat and making sustainable fish choices, we may be able to create a healthier planet.
Remember that eating wild-caught salmon is always better than eating farmed, which can damage water ecosystems and overcrowd the fish, leading to disease. We understand that changing your diet can be challenging for some folks; we want to support you in this effort if you choose to take it, by providing ideas for making each seafood-rich meal absolutely delicious. You can get inspired on our recipes page.
Keeping our Fish Wild and Our Customers Healthy
Our main focus is and has always been to provide high-quality and sustainable wild seafood. We are excited to help you source your main protein in your new pescatarian diet if you so choose to take this route. This diet is a good choice for those who have access to good seafood (all of you! Start here!) and want to take good care of their own health and that of the planet.
We are proud to offer healthy, protein-packed products. However, we understand that it is all Mother Nature’s doing and honor that by giving back through 1% for the Planet. Consider protecting the world with a diet choice and start with quality seafood from fishermen you can trust.