The main source of animal protein for a person in the pescatarian diet comes from fish and other seafood, such as shrimp.
Eating a diet consisting primarily of plant-based foods has a number of health benefits which can be improved by including fish and fish products.
Many fish types may therefore consume mercury from their habitat, so some people may need to restrict their consumption.
In this article, we look at a pescatarian diet’s possible health benefits and what people should consume on that type of diet.
Health benefits of the pescatarian diet
The pescatarian diet has many health benefits. Below, we cover some of them:
Eating fish, particularly fatty fish, gives increased intake of long-chain omega-3 fatty acids. An omega-3 fatty acid is unsaturated fat that can benefit humans, and some omega-3s are integral to a healthy life.
People who eat fish have lower blood pressure, lower risk of abnormal heart rhythms, and fewer fatal heart attacks compared to those who do not include fish in their diet.
Besides fish, the pescatarian diet mostly consists of plant foods. Individuals with a diet rich in vegetables and other plant foods have a decreased risk of coronary heart disease according to one 2017 study.
The authors of the study claim the heart health benefits of a plant-based diet include increased blood lipids and decreased blood pressure.
Similar work suggests that when combined with exercise and stress reduction, a vegetarian diet could reverse atherosclerotic plaques.
Atherosclerosis happens as plaque in the arteries is building up. This makes the arteries harden, narrow, and curb blood flow.
A pescatarian diet can also protect people from colorectal cancers or colon and rectum cancers.
Colorectal cancers are the second-largest cause of cancer deaths in the United States, according to a 2015 study.
The study used data from a population of more than 77,650 people and found a significant protective effect of the pescatarian diet against colorectal cancers.
Diabetes and inflammation
The risk of type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome can be reduced with a plant-based diet.
The metabolic syndrome includes conditions like resistance to insulin, high blood pressure and obesity.
There is also evidence that omega-3s in fatty fish may decrease inflammation although this evidence comes from supplement trials
Plant-based diets, such as flavonoids, are high in anti-inflammatory and antioxidant agents. These are naturally occurring compounds in plants. There is a variety of anti-inflammatory and antidiabetic properties of flavonoids.
A 2016 study, again looking at different dietary habits among more than 77,000 people in the U.S., found the highest intake of flavonoids in people adopting a pescatarian diet
Environmental and animal welfare benefits
Some people choose vegetarian diets because they disagree with factory farming practices or killing animals for food.
For people concerned about animal welfare, the pescatarian diet may be a little more suitable. This is because some scientists argue that fish cannot feel pain. A 2015 study concluded that although fish can experience psychological stress, they lack the neural network necessary to experience pain.
The pescatarian diet may also appeal to those who want to eat foods from what they perceive to be sustainable farming practices.
Is a pescatarian diet sustainable?
The pescatarian diet is more sustainable than factory farming of mammals or birds, but it does have some environmental issues.
Some people believe that the farming of pigs and ruminants, such as cattle, sheep, and goats, can harm the environment. Both groups emit greenhouse gases, with ruminants producing methane gas and pigs producing ammonia.
On a global scale, these gases contribute to global warming. Also, large-scale deforestation for grazing and agriculture makes the greenhouse gas issue worse.
Although fish do not produce greenhouse gases, fishing and fisheries represent a challenge to water ecosystems.
For example, eating wild line-caught fish is not necessarily better for the environment than eating farmed fish, and the trawlers used to catch trawler-caught fish can affect ocean ecosystems in many ways.
Some people see farming fish as a solution to over-fishing and depleted fish stocks, and the practice has grown rapidly over the past few years.
However, in certain circumstances, fish farming can:
- damage water ecosystems
- introduce invasive species
- use wild fish for feed
- cause overcrowding
- cause disease
The pescatarian diet may also be expensive or difficult to maintain when people live some distance from coastlines or fresh waterways. Some people may also find it hard to access sustainably sourced tinned fish.
Wanna read about more diets? You can check out our article on detox diets and their benefits.