A pescatarian, or a pesco-vegetarian, is a vegetarian who also consumes fish and seafood. This is a type of semi-vegetarian diet. Adding seafood to an otherwise vegetarian diet can make it easier to meet your nutrient needs while still maintaining a mainly plant-based diet.
Semi-vegetarian diets like the pesco-vegetarian diet can be healthy if you eat a variety of different foods in the proper proportions. Divide your plate into four sections and fill two sections with non-starchy vegetables, one section with grains or starchy vegetables and the final section with fish or a vegetarian protein source, advises the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Nutrients of Concern
Nutrients of concern in a vegetarian diet include protein, omega-3 fats, zinc, iron, vitamin B-12, calcium, vitamin D and iodine. Adding fish and seafood to a vegetarian diet helps you meet the recommendations for all of these nutrients, making them less of an issue in your diet. Small fish with bones, including sardines, are a very good source of non-dairy calcium.
The omega-3 fats found in fish may lower your risk for heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, cognitive decline and cancer. While pesco-vegetarians have higher body mass indexes than vegans, they still have lower BMIs than meat eaters, so this type of diet may lower your risk for obesity, notes an article published in the “American Journal of Clinical Nutrition” in March 2010. Vegetarians, including pesco-vegetarians, have a lower risk for diabetes than non-vegetarians, according to a study published in May 2009 in “Diabetes Care.” This may be due at least in part to the lower BMIs of vegetarians.
If you follow a pesco-vegetarian diet, vary your the types of seafood you eat and stick with those lowest in mercury and other contaminants. Good options include shrimp, salmon, clams, tilapia, sardines, oysters, pollock and hake. Don’t rely on seafood alone for protein; consume no more than 12 ounces per week of seafood and include vegetarian protein sources like beans and nuts in your diet as well to limit the amount of mercury and other contaminants you consume.
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