In recent years, the meat-free movement has seen a rise in the number of people going pescatarian. In the UK currently, 5% of the entire population are classed as pescatarian. So what is pescatarianism, and why is it so popular?
Pescatarianism typically consists of consuming plant-based foods alongside fish and seafood, while avoiding other types of meat. This approach offers a range of benefits, making it an appealing option for those seeking a balanced and sustainable way of eating. Read on to explore the pros and cons of choosing a pescatarian lifestyle.
One of the most obvious reasons for choosing a pescatarian diet is the high nutrition that it provides. Seafood is a fantastic source of essential nutrients such as Omega-3 fatty acids, proteins and Vitamin D – (all which the body can’t generate on it’s own) – and minerals like zinc, iron and selenium. Omega-3 fatty acids have a host of health benefits from improving brain health to reducing inflammation and supporting heart health. A pescatarian will easily achieve a well-rounded diet with the nutrition seafood provides.
There have been many studies to prove that a pescatarian diet has positive effects on cardiovascular health. Omega-3 fatty acids found in oily fish like salmon, mackerel and trout are known to reduce risk of heart disease by lowering blood pressure and improving cholesterol. By choosing seafood as a main source of protein, pescatarians will actively improve their heart health.
Good for Weight Management
For those looking to lose or maintain their weight, a pescatarian diet will be beneficial. Fish and shellfish are lean protein sources that are equally as satiating as higher calorie meats. In addition. the plant-based foods that form a large part of a pescatarian diet are nutrient-dense but also lower in calories and fats.
Variety is the Spice of Life
One of the biggest advantages of pescatarianism is it’s versatility. There are many varieties of fish and shellfish that fall into the seafood category. From flakey white fish to meaty langoustine tails, pescatarians can explore a variety of textures and flavours to suit their palette. The diversity of seafood makes for an enjoyable eating experience.
The Power of Flex
There is an increasing number of people now going plant-based in an effort to reduce their consumption of meat. This has also been responsible for the rise of the Flexitarian. Flexitarians typically increase their intake of plant-based meals without completely eliminating meat. Flexitarianism requires exploring food groups, as opposed to cutting them out, which can be extremely beneficial for health. As a result, many flexitarians may cut out red meat but continue to enjoy seafood due to the nutrition it provides – as well as the next reason:
Nowadays, the environment is a huge issue. As a result, many choose to follow a particular diet for ethical reasons. Pescatarism is a sustainable and eco-friendly alternative to veganism and vegetarianism – and the inclusion of fish meat makes it arguably easier to follow. When proper care is taken in how seafood is sourced, a pescatarian diet has a lower carbon footprint than a regular carnivorous diet. By choosing to eat sustainable, responsibly sourced seafood, the associated environmental impact is considerably less.
Like most diets, a pescatarian diet needs to be balanced and varied in order to be healthy. The lack of red meat means it is important to supplement seafood with plant-based sources of iron; spinach and broccoli are good choices. Cereals low in sugar are also advisable as these can contain additional vitamins and minerals.
Pescatarians avoiding eggs and dairy also need to be mindful of getting enough calcium. The NHS recommends consuming 2 portions of seafood per week – one of which should be oily – to absorb the amazing health benefits seafood provides. But for certain types of fish – there are maximum recommendations in place too:
NHS advises consuming no more than 4 oily fish per week
Women conceiving, pregnant or breastfeeding are advised no more than 2 portions oily fish per week to reduce the amount of mercury consumed (shark, swordfish and marlin should be avoided entirely due to mercury content)
Pescatarians will consume more than the typical NHS recommendation of seafood so these guidelines will be more applicable to them than most.
One of the main benefits of pescatarianism is how accessible it is as a lifestyle choice. Pescatarians can explore and enjoy a wide range of flavours and textures while receiving excellent nutrition through the seafood they eat. It has all the benefits of a plant-based diet with the added health benefits from consuming fish. Pescatarianism is also a sustainable food choice, having a lower impact on the environment in comparison with other meat industries.
However, as with any diet or lifestyle change, it is important you seek further advice from a healthcare professional if you are unsure.
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