Pescatarian Diet – Benefits, Risks, and Diet Plan

Pescatarian Diet - Benefits, Risks, and Diet Plan

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The name pescatarian might sound like a fancy new diet in a long line of food habits that people have adapted to suit their lifestyles. However, you would be surprised to learn that the pescatarian diet has existed for centuries. The idea is not new – vegetarians eat fish and other seafood to get the nutrients they do not get from their vegetarian food sources. Many consider the Pescatarian diet an alternative that combines the best of both worlds and has the least environmental impact. If you plan a pescatarian diet, continue reading to discover all you need to know about it and how to start.

What Is Pescatarian Diet?

The word “pesce” in Italian means fish, and the pescatarian diet is fundamentally a vegetarian diet that includes fish and other seafood or aquatic animals. Vegetarians who include fish in their otherwise plant-based diets have come to be known as pescatarians or pesco-vegetarians. The pescatarian diet doesn’t have any strict regulations other than avoiding all meat sources except fish and other seafood. There are no limits on how much or how often one can consume fish. You can be a pescatarian and eat fish once a week or every day.

Pescatarians have a broader range of protein sources than vegetarians, including dairy products and eggs in their diet. You can adjust the pescatarian diet to provide all the essential nutrients, making it one of the best ways to modify a vegetarian diet to add lean protein sources and the much-needed omega-3 fatty acids.

A well-balanced pescatarian diet provides the health benefits of a vegetarian diet and the nutrition of eating lean meats. The pescatarian diet is often compared to a Mediterranean diet since fish is a significant source of protein in both. Both emphasize obtaining other nutrients from healthy sources, such as vegetables, fruits, and grains.

Many vegetarians tend to adopt a pescatarian diet looking to supplement non-vegetarian sources of protein into their diet. However, some take it up as a way to acclimatize themselves before transitioning into an entirely plant-based diet.

Is It Healthy?

The USDA’s current guidelines for a healthy and balanced diet suggest adding multiple protein sources, including meat, fish, dairy, and plant-based sources. A pescatarian diet meets the requirements for what can be considered a healthy diet as per these guidelines. When it comes to the calorie count in a diet, there is no upper or lower limit for how much can be consumed during the day – a person can adjust their calorie intake based on their needs. Since the health benefits of pescatarian diet trends far outweigh any drawbacks, the diet is healthy for anyone thinking of taking it up.

Benefits of Becoming a Pescatarian

As for all diets, pros and cons of the pescatarian diet need to be considered. Here are some of the benefits of the diet:

1. Increased Protein Intake

The recommended daily intake of protein is about 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight. This means that a 150lb man needs about 54 grams of protein a day. To get that amount of protein from plant-based sources, they need to eat increased portions of legumes and high-protein foods. On the other hand, lean meat has a higher protein concentration and is a denser source of high-quality protein. Since fish are lean meats, the possibility of going on a high protein pescatarian diet is high.

2. Omega-3s

Fish is the best natural source of omega-3 fatty acids, which is essential for the development and maintenance of the brain. Although some plant sources, such as flaxseeds and walnuts, contain a type of omega-3 acid called alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), it is not easily converted into beneficial Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA) and Eicosapentaenoic Acid (EPA) in the body. Oily fish, such as sardine sand salmon, etc., contain abundant amounts of EPA and DHA.

3. Seafood Is Nutrient-rich

While seafood is an abundant source of omega-3s and proteins, it is also a rich source of other essential nutrients that act as excellent supplements to a vegetarian diet. Oysters, for example, are high in zinc, vitamin B12, and selenium. Mussels are also rich sources of selenium, B12, and manganese.

4. Heart Health

According to studies, vegetarians have a lower risk of coronary heart disease. Since the pescatarian diet is primarily plant-based except for fish, it is highly beneficial for heart health. On the other hand, eating fish gives them the omega-3 fatty acids the plant-based diets mostly lack.

5. Cancer

A 2015 study hints at the advantage of a pescatarian diet to be beneficial in preventing colorectal cancers. The mostly-vegetarian sources of nutrition in pescatarians, like vegetarians, mean that pescatarians enjoy the same benefits as vegetarians when it comes to health.

6. Diabetes and Inflammation

Vegetarian diets are rich in flavonoids which are antioxidant agents that have anti-inflammatory effects. These compounds are also known to have anti-diabetic effects on the body. Plant-based diets also reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome. Going on a low-carb pescatarian diet can help people lose weight and avoid type 2 diabetes.

Drawbacks of a Pescatarian Diet

Here are some of the drawbacks of the pescatarian diet:

1. Increased Mercury in the Diet

One of the most detrimental disadvantages of this diet is that some varieties of fish have high levels of mercury, which is toxic to people. It has a range of health effects, including impaired fine motor skills, loss of peripheral vision, and muscle weakness. The larger the fish, the more mercury it tends to accumulate. Types of fish, such as the king mackerel, bluefish, marlin, grouper, swordfish, and shark, are high in mercury. There is also a misconception that farmed fish are free from mercury; these fish can absorb mercury that has settled in the water.

2. It Can Still Be Unhealthy

Unless the individual chooses to include as many colorful fruits and vegetables in the diet as possible, the pescatarian can still be unhealthy if processed food consumption is high. Also, since the diet has no restrictions on the quantity and types of foods, consuming excessive white rice, pasta, fruit juice, processed bread, and soda can have negative health consequences.

3. It Is Not Entirely Ethical

The main reason many become vegetarian or vegan is that they are concerned for animals. Pescatarians still eat fish and other seafood. Although these are not factory-farmed, there is still some amount of animal suffering involved. Also, many fish farms are not ethically run, and meat consumption supports such an industry.

4. Seafood Is Pricey

The seafood prices vary on availability and season, and it is not always an affordable source of protein. Those who eat seafood every day will have to deal with the ever-changing prices of the market, especially if seafood is their primary source of protein.

Foods to Eat on a Pescatarian Diet

Foods to Eat on a Pescatarian Diet

These are typically the food items on a pescatarian diet list:

  • Grain products and whole grains
  • Plant protein sources such as legumes, including lentils, beans, tofu, and hummus
  • Nuts, seeds, peanuts, different kinds of nut butter
  • Seeds such as flaxseeds, hemp, and chia
  • Dairy products such as milk, cheese, and yogurt
  • Fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Fish and shellfish
  • Seafood
  • Eggs

Foods to Avoid on a Pescatarian Diet

Pescatarians avoid meat sources such as:

  • chicken
  • beef
  • pork
  • lamb
  • turkey
  • wild game

Pescatarian Diet Meal Plan With Recipes

Here is what a pescatarian diet plan for a week looks like:

1. Monday

Breakfast (290 Calories) 

  • 1 serving clementine
  • 1 serving strawberry pineapple smoothie

Morning Snack (97 Calories) 

  • Nonfat plain Greek yogurt – ½ cup
  • Blackberries – ½ cup

Lunch (366 Calories)

  • Vegetarian nicoise salad – 1 serving

Evening Snack (64 Calories) 

  • Raspberries – 1 cup

Dinner (395 Calories) 

  • Basic quinoa – 1 serving
  • Roasted salmon caprese – 1 serving

Total Calories  

  • Total calories for the day: 1213 Calories

For Making it 1500 Calories 

For Making it 2000 Calories  

  • Along with dry roasted almonds to the evening snack, include one large pear for lunch and one whole English muffin with two tablespoons of peanut butter.

2. Tuesday

Breakfast (278 Calories)

  • Maple granola – 1 serving
  • Nonfat plain Greek yogurt – 1 serving

Morning Snack (62 Calories)

  • 1 medium orange

Lunch (365 Calories) 

  • Arugula and shrimp with green goddess quinoa bowls – 1 serving
  • 1 large pear

Evening Snack (37 Calories)  

  • 1 medium bell pepper – sliced

Dinner (468 Calories)  

  • Cheesy spinach and artichoke stuffed spaghetti squash – 1 serving
  • Mixed greens – 2 cups
  • Sliced avocados – 1/2
  • Citrus lime vinaigrette – 2 tablespoons

Total Calories 

  • Total calories for the day – 1209 Calories

For Making It 1500 Calories  

  • To increase calorie count, include 1/3 cup dry-roasted unsalted almonds in your morning snack

For Making It 2000 Calories  

  • Along with the morning almond snack, add 1 slice of whole-wheat toast with 1 tablespoon of peanut butter for breakfast. Eat 2 bell peppers and 1/3 cup hummus with your evening snack.

3. Wednesday

Breakfast (247 Calories) 

  • Parmesan and vegetable muffin tin omelets – 1 serving
  • Raspberries – 1/2 cup

Morning Snack (62 Calories) 

  • 1 medium orange

Lunch 365 Calories  

  • Arugula and shrimp with green goddess quinoa bowls – 1 serving
  • 1 large pear

Evening Snack  

  • 1 large apple

Dinner (421 Calories) 

  • Spicy shrimp tacos – 1 serving

Total Calories  

  • Total calories for the day: 1210 Calories

For Making It 1500 Calories  

  • Eat 22 walnut halves with the morning snack

For Making It 2000 Calories  

  • Along with the walnut snack, add 1/3 cup dry roasted unsalted almonds to your evening snack and 1 serving of guacamole chopped salad for dinner.

4. Thursday

Breakfast (278 Calories)  

  • Maple granola – 1 serving
  • Nonfat plain Greek yogurt – 1 cup

Morning Snack (77 Calories)  

  • 1 small apple

Lunch (365 Calories)  

  • Arugula and shrimp with green goddess quinoa bowls – 1 serving
  • 1 large pear

Evening Snack (62 Calories) 

  • 1 medium orange

Dinner (429 Calories) 

  • Curried sweet potato and peanut soup – 1 serving
  • Mixed greens – 2 cups
  • Citrus lime vinaigrette – 2 tablespoons

Total Calories  

  • Total calories for the day: 1211 Calories

For Making It 1500 Calories  

  • Include 1 medium peach for breakfast and have the morning snack with 2 tablespoons peanut butter

For Making It 2000 Calories  

  • Along with the 1500 calorie additions, add 15 walnut halves to the evening snack and one whole avocado for dinner.

5. Friday

Breakfast (247 Calories) 

  • Parmesan and vegetable muffin tin omelets – 1 serving
  • Raspberries – ½ cup

Morning Snack (66 Calories)  

  • Nonfat plain Greek yogurt – ½ cup

Lunch (365 Calories)  

  • Arugula and shrimp with green goddess quinoa bowls – 1 serving
  • 1 large pear

Evening Snack (62 Calories)  

  • 1 medium orange

Dinner (478 Calories)  

  • Vegetarian enchilada casserole – 1 serving
  • Jason Mraz’s guacamole – 1 serving

Total Calories 

  • Total calories for the day – 1218 Calories

For Making It 1500 Calories  

  • Have 1/3 cup roasted unsalted almonds for the evening snack

For Making It 2000 Calories  

  • Along with the roasted unsalted almonds, include one whole English muffin with 2 tablespoons of peanut butter to the breakfast. Include one maple granola in your morning snack.

6. Saturday

Breakfast (255 Calories)  

  • Strawberry pineapple smoothie – 1 serving

Morning Snack (101 Calories) 

  • 1 medium pear

Lunch (357 Calories)  

  • Vegetarian enchilada casserole – 1 serving

Evening Snack (78 Calories)  

  • One hardboiled egg with a pinch of salt and pepper

Dinner (406 Calories)

  • Baked halibut with Brussels sprouts and quinoa – 1 serving

Total Calories 

  • Total calories for the day: 1198 Calories

For Making It 1500 Calories  

  • Eat one medium orange more for the evening snack and include guacamole chopped salad of 1 serving to dinner.

For Making It 2000 Calories 

  • Along with the food for making it 1500 calories, add one whole English muffin with 2 tablespoons of peanut butter to the breakfast and 18 dry roasted unsalted almonds to the morning snack.

7. Sunday

Breakfast (247 Calories) 

  • Parmesan and vegetable muffin tin omelets – 1 serving
  • Raspberries – 1/2 cup

Morning Snack (131 Calories)

  • One large pear

Lunch (357 Calories) 

  • Vegetarian enchilada casserole – 1 serving

Evening Snack (16 Calories) 

  • Sliced cucumber – 1 cup with a pinch of salt and pepper

Dinner (466 Calories) 

  • Coconut curry cod stew with sweet potatoes and rice – 1 serving
  • Mixed greens – 2 cups
  • Citrus lime vinaigrette

Total Calories 

  • Total calories for the day: 1218 Calories

For Making It 1500 Calories 

  • Whole bread 1 slice with 1 tablespoon peanut butter and ¼ cup hummus for the evening snack

For Making It 2000 Calories  

  • Along with the 1500 calorie additions, add 22 dry roasted unsalted almonds to the morning snack and one whole avocado for dinner.

Does the Pescatarian Diet Increase Risk of Mercury Poisoning?

Contaminant poisoning is a concern with many non-vegetarian food sources these days. Sea fish, especially the larger species such as sharks, king mackerel, and swordfish, tend to have a higher mercury concentration in them. Other seafood, such as shrimp, salmon, canned light tuna, and catfish, have low-mercury risk. Pescatarians who consume heavy portions of fish to make up for the protein that doesn’t come from other meat sources have higher chances of mercury exposure. It is advised that pregnant women stay away from the high-mercury fish species.

Pescatarian diet is a vegetarian diet that includes sources of proteins such as fish and seafood. The diet is a good choice for those transitioning from eating meat to a completely vegetarian diet or those who wish to include protein and nutrient-rich sources in their already existing vegetarian diets. Pescatarian diet weight loss is also a practical approach as a plant-based diet is combined with lean proteins.

Also Read:

Mediterranean Diet – Benefits, Menu Plan & Recipes
Candida Diet – Foods to Eat and Avoid
1500 Calorie Diet Plan – What You Can Eat & Avoid

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