Pescetarian Diet

9 Reasons to Go Pescetarian – Is It Right For You?

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Pescetarian DietWhat do two of the healthiest dietary patterns have in common? For one, seafood serves as the staple protein source for both of them.[1] Both the traditional Mediterranean diet and the traditional Asian eating pattern feature fish and shellfish as their go-to animal based protein. While neither of these two diets is exclusively pescetarian, the research surrounding them suggests seafood may be behind many of the health benefits associated with them.

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In its truest form, a pescetarian diet includes fruit, vegetables, legumes, grains, nuts, seeds, dairy, and eggs, in addition to seafood in all its forms. [2] Of course, some pescetarians may choose to omit dairy, eggs, or any of the other food groups.

It's important to remember all the health protecting and promoting benefits of a pescetarian diet aren't solely the result of fish and shellfish. Many of the health perks can also be attributed to its plethora of fruit, vegetables, and other plant-based foods. [3]

The unique set of nutrients found in seafood provide a host of health-enhancing properties. Seafood is a great source of a number of nutrients, including, but certainly not limited to:

  • unsaturated fatty acids
  • vitamin D
  • protein
  • B vitamins
  • minerals
  • astaxanthin[4]

While the plant-based components, like whole grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, fruit, and vegetables, provide:

  • beta-carotene
  • vitamin c
  • minerals
  • vitamin E
  • B vitamins
  • unsaturated fatty acids
  • fiber
  • water
  • phytonutrients[5,6,7,8]

These lists are by no means exhaustive, but they do give you a peek into a few of the nutrients a pescetarian diet provides. And each of those nutrients positively impacts your health and wellbeing.

Is the Pescetarian Diet the Best Diet for You?


If any of the health benefits below pique your interest, the pescetarian diet might be the right choice for you.

1. Helps Maintain Healthy Skin


We tend to think of the health of our skin as only having an affect on our appearance. But your skin has a very important non-aesthetic job to do. It protects your internal organs from damage, keeps your body temperature steady, and helps you maintain proper fluid balance. [9] Taking care of your skin is about more than just looking your best. Taking care of your skin is taking care of your overall health. Fortunately, a pescetarian diet can help you maintain healthy skin.

Astaxanthin, the pigment responsible for the red tinge of salmon, shrimp, and salmon eggs, is an incredibly powerful antioxidant. It, along with other carotenoids, have been shown to protect skin cells from UV damage.[10] For this reason, it's commonly included in cosmeceutical formulas intended to improve the skin's elasticity. Eating red and pink colored seafood is a way to take in astaxanthin without taking astaxanthin supplements.

Though powerful, astaxanthin is not the only nutrient in the pescetarian diet known to protect skin from UV damage. The fruits, vegetables, legumes, grains, nuts, and seeds that serve as the base of the pescetarian diet also contribute polyphenols, carotenoids, and vitamins found in which lend UV protection to skin cells.[11]

Some of those same nutrients are responsible for the beautiful array of colors fruits and vegetables are known for. When eaten, those pigments color your skin cells, giving your skin a healthy glow.[12] In a small study, subjects increased the amount fruit and vegetables they ate daily by about three servings. In just six weeks that moderate increase gave the study participants' skin more yellow and red undertones. Those red and yellow undertones increase attractiveness. You really are what you eat. Eating beautiful and healthful food can lead to more beautiful and healthy skin.

2. Supports Proper Brain Development


The human brain requires plenty of fat for proper development and function. Fish, shellfish, nuts, seeds, olives, and avocados (plus their respective oils) provide the healthy fats which serve as building blocks for brain cells. They also reduce inflammation, possibly promoting mental acuity and protecting against the onset of some degenerative brain diseases. Their benefits stretch throughout the lifecycle.[13]

Because the fetus's brain is developing, sources of omega 3s are a vital part of a pregnant woman's diet. Fatty fish, like salmon and sardines, and nuts and seeds, like flaxseed and walnuts, are great sources of omega 3s. A pregnant woman's intake of omega 3s positively affects her growing fetus's brain development. The benefits can be seen even after the baby is born.[14] Those same omega 3s needed during pregnancy, are needed throughout life.

Folate, found in grains, citrus, beans, and green leafy vegetables, is another nutrient needed for fetal nervous system development. Without enough folate, an infant is more likely to be born with neural tube defects, a group of congenital birth defects which negatively impact the brain and spinal cord.[15] Eating a well-balanced pescetarian diet can provide a pregnant woman with much of the folate she needs to prevent her child from developing neural tube defects.

3. Provides Antioxidants for Cellular Integrity and Defense


Shellfish, nuts, seeds, and fish are all excellent sources of selenium. Selenium is a mineral antioxidant touted for its ability to protect cells from oxidative damage and enhance immune function.[16] A pescetarian diet, with a variety of foods, can deliver the needed quantities of selenium.

In addition to selenium, the pescetarian diet also provides vitamin C, vitamin A, vitamin E, and other nutrients which promote healthy cells and protect them from free radicals.[17]

4. Promotes Heart Health


All those fruit and vegetables in the pescetarian diet are loaded with potassium. A diet high in potassium, without excess sodium, can help keep blood pressure within a healthy range. In addition to the potassium, fruits and vegetables are also packing loads of fiber. That fiber can support healthy cholesterol levels. By supporting healthy cholesterol levels, it protects arteries from damage and hardening.[18]

The omega 3 rich seafood, nuts, and seeds also protect your arteries and veins from damage. Omega 3s keep the veins and arteries in your cardiovascular system flexible and supple.[13] These heart-healthy fats also have a positive affect on cholesterol. They have been shown to lower triglycerides and increase HDL cholesterol.[13]

5. Improves Gastrointestinal Health


Probiotics have been receiving a lot of attention from the media, healthcare providers, and researchers for quite some time now. And for good reason. Strangely, not nearly as much or has been given to prebiotics. Prebiotics are essentially probiotics' food. They're found in plant-based foods, like the ones in the pescetarian diet. By supporting probiotics and their function, prebiotics keep your gastrointestinal microflora balanced and healthy.[19]

Vitamin and mineral rich fruits and vegetables also contain another important nutrient: water. Many vegetables and fruit are more than 85% water.[20] Water helps keep everything moving smoothly through your gastrointestinal tract.

Partnering with water, fiber promotes regular bowel movements as well.[21] You can get plenty of fiber from vegetables, fruit, nuts, seeds, legumes, and whole grains. All of which are an important part of the pescetarian diet.

6. Supports a Healthy Immune System


This time of year many people are looking for ways to support their immune system. Eating a nutrient dense diet is one way to ensure your immune system has what it needs to keep you healthy. A pescetarian diet certainly qualifies as a nutrient dense diet.

B vitamins are well known for their role in helping our bodies release energy from food to fuel our cells. But did you also know vitamin B6 is a key nutrient for optimal immune function? B6 deficiency has been implicated in a subpar immune response.[22] Since the staple protein choices of the pescetarian diet are great sources of vitamin B6, following this eating pattern is one way to meet your B6 needs and keep your immune system in tip-top shape.

Magnesium is another important nutrient for immune function.[23] The best sources are grains, nuts, and seeds, which are a key component of the pescetarian diet.

7. Builds Strong Bones


While calcium tends to get all the attention in the nutrition and bone strength discussion, many other nutrients play a role in building and maintaining healthy bones. All of which can be found in the pescetarian diet.

Vitamin D, a fat-soluble vitamin, is one of the most important vitamins for building healthy bones. It works in conjunction with calcium and other vitamins and minerals to keep bones strong.[24] It's also notoriously difficult to get enough of. Some of the best sources, other than the sun and supplements, are fish like salmon, halibut, and carp.[25] If you eat canned fish, try to find the kind with the skin and bones. Both the skin and bones contain calcium, vitamin D, and other nutrients.

Vitamin C is another overlooked nutrient in the quest for strong yet flexible bones. It's needed to build collagen. Collagen is the pliable foundation for bones. Without healthy collagen, bones can become brittle.[24] Fruit and vegetables in the pescetarian diet are an excellent source of vitamin C.

8. Bolsters Healthy Vision


Good eyesight isn't just the result of genetics, age, and good luck. There are some things you can do to protect your eyes and eyesight. One of those things being eating a diet that supplies nutrients like omega 3s and vitamin A.

Omega 3s, found in fatty fish, nuts, and seeds, protect the delicate blood vessels in the eye.[13] They, along with other fatty acids in your diet, also help your body absorb vitamin A from the foods you eat.

Vitamin A is necessary for vision. A deficiency of vitamin A can result in dry eyes, night blindness, and even blindness.[26] The pescetarian diet, filled with seafood and colorful fruits and vegetables, provides a wide range of retinoids to promote eye health.

9. Helps Maintain Blood Sugar Balance


I consider blood sugar balance to be the cornerstone of good health. Keeping your blood sugar steady supports weight maintenance, balances hormones, and reduces inflammation.

The easiest way to balance your blood sugar is to make sure your meals have the right ratio of fiber, fat, carbohydrates, and protein. Because the pescetarian diet does not demonize and restrict any macronutrients, it's easy to put together meals with the right combination.

Simply choose one of the many grains or starchy vegetables and make that twenty-five percent of your plate. Then, choose a seafood protein choice and make that twenty-five percent of your plate. Lastly, fill the rest of your plate with a non-starchy vegetable. By combining foods in this manner, you can prevent large spikes and dips in your blood sugar.

Tips To Transition to a Pescetarian Diet

  • Add sardines, shrimp, or oysters to pasta dishes in place of ground meat or sausage
  • Order a tuna fish sandwich at your favorite sandwich shop instead of getting cold cuts
  • Go meatless for a meal, opting for whole grains, vegetables, and legumes instead
  • Prepare a salmon burger instead of a turkey or beef burger
  • Aim to fill half of your plate with vegetables, choosing a smaller portion of seafood rather than a large portion of meat or poultry
  • Grill shrimp skewers at a barbecue
  • Try a new seafood entree the next time you go out to eat

Give the above suggestions a try. Incorporating seafood and more plant-based foods into your diet can go a long way in improving your health.

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References


1. MediterrAsian Way. (n.d.). Scientific Research. Retrieved December 12, 2016. http://www.mediterrasian.com/scientific_research.htm
2. Thalheimer, J.C. (2015, April). The Pescetarian Diet. Today's Dietitian, 17 (4), 32. Retrieved December 12, 2016, from http://www.todaysdietitian.com/newsarchives/040715p32.shtml
3. Duyn, M. A., & Pivonka, E. (2000). Overview of the Health Benefits of Fruit and Vegetable Consumption for the Dietetics Professional. Journal of the American Dietetic Association, 100 (12), 1511-1521. doi:10.1016/s0002-8223(00)00420-x. Retrieved December 12, 2016 from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11138444
4. Seafood Health Facts: Making Smart Choices. (n.d.). Retrieved December 12, 2016 from http://www.seafoodhealthfacts.org/seafood-nutrition/healthcare-professionals/seafoo-nutrition-overview
5. Nutrients and Health Benefits. (2016). Retrieved December 12, 2016, from https://choosemyplate.gov/vegetables-nutrients-health
6.Nutrients and Health Benefits. (2016). Retrieved December 12, 2016, from https://choosemyplate.gov/grains-nutrients-health
7. Nutrients and Health Benefits. (2016). Retrieved December 12, 2016, from https://choosemyplate.gov/fruits-nutrients-health
8. Nutrients and Health Benefits. (2016). Retrieved December 12, 2016, from https://choosemyplate.gov/protein-foods-nutrients-health
9. Bensouilah, J., & Buck, P. (2006). Aromadermatology: Aromatherapy in the treatment and care of common skin conditions. Oxford: Radcliffe Pub.
10.Kidd, P. (2011, December). Astaxanthin, Cell Membrane Nutrient with Diverse Clinical Benefits and Anti-Aging Potential. Alternative Medicine Review, 16(4), 355-364. Retrieved from http://www.altmedrev.com/publications/16/4/355.pdf
11. Fernández-García, E. (2014). Skin protection against UV light by dietary antioxidants. Food & Function, 5(9), 1994. doi:10.1039/c4fo00280f
12. Whitehead, R. D., Re, D., Xiao, D., Ozakinci, G., & Perrett, D. I. (2012). You Are What You Eat: Within-Subject Increases in Fruit and Vegetable Consumption Confer Beneficial Skin-Color Changes. PLoS ONE, 7(3). doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0032988
13. University of Maryland Medical Center. (n.d.). Omega-3 fatty acids. Retrieved December 12, 2016, from http://umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/supplement/omega3-fatty-acids
14. Kannass, K. N., Colombo, J., & Carlson, S. E. (2009). Maternal DHA Levels and Toddler Free-Play Attention. Developmental Neuropsychology, 34(2), 159-174. doi:10.1080/87565640802646734
15. National Institutes of Health. (n.d.). Office of Dietary Supplements – Dietary Supplement Fact Sheet: Folate. Retrieved December 12, 2016, from https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Folate-HealthProfessional/
16. National Institutes of Health. (n.d.). Office of Dietary Supplements – Dietary Supplement Fact Sheet: Selenium. Retrieved December 12, 2016, from https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Selenium-HealthProfessional/
17. Lobo, V., Patil, A., Phatak, A., & Chandra, N. (2010). Free radicals, antioxidants and functional foods: Impact on human health. Pharmacognosy Reviews, 4(8), 118. doi:10.4103/0973-7847.70902
18. Hartley, L., May, M. D., & Rees, K. (2016, January). Dietary fibre for the primary prevention of cardiovascular disease. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. doi:10.1002/14651858.cd011472
19. Slavin, J. (2013). Fiber and Prebiotics: Mechanisms and Health Benefits. Nutrients, 5(4), 1417-1435. doi:10.3390/nu5041417
20. The Physicians Committee. (2014). Hydrating Through Fruits and Veggies. Retrieved December 12, 2016, from http://www.pcrm.org/health/diets/ffl/newsletter/hydrating-through-fruits-and-veggies
21. Yang, J. (2012, December). Effect of dietary fiber on constipation: A meta-analysis. World Journal of Gastroenterology, 18(48), 7378-7383. doi:10.3748/wjg.v18.i48.7378
22. Linus Pauling Institute. (2014, January). Vitamin B6. Retrieved December 12, 2016, from http://lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic/vitamins/vitamin-B6
23. Tam, M., Gómez, S., González-Gross, M., & Marcos, A. (2003). Possible roles of magnesium on the immune system. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 57, 1193-1197. doi:10.1038/sj.ejcn.1601689
24. Linus Pauling Institute. (2012). Bone Health. Retrieved December 12, 2016, from http://lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic/health-disease/bone-health
25. USDA-ARS. (n.d.). Welcome to the USDA Food Composition Databases. Retrieved December 12, 2016, from https://ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb
26. National Institutes of Health. (n.d.). Office of Dietary Supplements – Vitamin A. Retrieved December 12, 2016, from https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminA-HealthProfessional/


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About the Author Amanda Roberts

Amanda is a gym instructor and a diet and nutrition fanatic that has reviewed 100s of supplements for the benefit of consumers. She struggled with obesity 7 years ago and after losing more than 30lbs, dedicates most of her time in helping others achieve similar results and transform their lives. You can contact her via the "About Us" page.

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