Removing most meat from your diet comes with a load of extra health benefits. But what about omega-3 rich fish? We're comparing pescatarianism benefits to those in a vegetarian diet so that you can make the best decision.
For anyone considering switching to vegetarianism and making significant dietary changes, the options these days can feel a little overwhelming. But don't let that stop you; the health benefits of cutting meat out of your diet are pretty significant.
Vegan, vegetarian, pescatarian, flexitarian, lacto-vegetarian, or lacto-ovo vegetarian? The options are seemingly endless, and the right choice can feel unclear.
From a health perspective, cutting down on your consumption of animal-based products is always beneficial. But today, we're going to compare two popular options, vegetarians and vegetarians that eat fish, pescatarians.
We'll take you through a vegetarian and pescatarian definition and the benefits of both types of diets so you can follow the diet that suits you best from every perspective.
What is a Vegetarian Diet?
A vegetarian diet excludes certain animal products, like meat, fish, and any products that have been created by the flesh or body part of any living creature.
It can vary from vegetarian to vegetarian, but the vegetarian food list tends to include dairy products, eggs, honey, and other products created by animals.
Types of Vegetarians
We can break down vegetarianism a little further into several sub-categories.
- Lacto-vegetarians eat dairy products like butter, eggs, milk, and cheese.
- Ovo-vegetarians eat eggs but no dairy products.
- Lacto-ovo-vegetarians eat both eggs and dairy products.
- Vegans do not eat any animal flesh, products, or by-products in any form or use any products made through animal exploitation.
Health Benefits of Vegetarianism
The benefits of switching to a whole-food vegetarian diet speak for themselves. One of the biggest vegetarianism myths is that you'll lose weight. While some lose weight by adopting a vegetarian diet, your most crucial weight loss factor is the quality of the foods you eat.
You must be eating a balanced vegetarian diet of whole, nutrient-dense foods instead of nutritionally void, overly-processed plant foods.
Here are a few physical changes you may notice by switching to a plant-based diet:
Lower Heart Disease and Diabetes Risks
Whole, plant-based foods are very high in soluble fiber, preventing blood sugar imbalances. People with regularly balanced blood sugars can have a lower chance of developing heart disease and diabetes.
Lower Blood Pressure
Vegetarians tend to have lower blood pressure than omnivores, according to research studies. Plant-based diets tend to be lower sodium, cholesterol, and fat, contributing to increased blood pressure.
For example, Potassium, a commonly found mineral in plant foods, can reduce blood pressure.
Promotes Good Bone Health
Although many tout dairy and other animal products as excellent calcium sources, meat-eaters tend to lose more bone minerals over time than plant-based dieters.
There are plenty of plant-based calcium sources, including some veggies, like broccoli.
The high fiber levels in a plant-based diet can promote weight loss in the right circumstances. It takes time for our guts to digest dietary fiber, so it travels through our digestive system at a slower rate than other nutrients.
Eating a high fiber food will keep you feeling full longer, helping you reduce your caloric intake by eating less often.
What is a Pescatarian Diet?
A pescatarian diet is a variation of vegetarianism, with the addition of fish. Some pescatarians choose eating fish and vegetables only, and other plant foods, while others include dairy and eggs in their diet.
Why go pescatarian?
Some choose a vegetarian fish diet if vegetarianism feels too mentally restrictive, and as a bonus, it makes finding food options at restaurants a little easier.
Others choose to eat fish to reap the many benefits of pescatarian meals.
Health Benefits of Pescatarian Diets
Many people struggle with how to be a healthy pescatarian. Much like a healthy vegetarian diet, a pescatarian diet must be full of whole, nutrient-dense foods.
Improved Heart Health and Diabetes
Some of the healthiest nutrients in fish are omega-3 fatty acids, which can help lower blood pressure and risk of abnormal heart rhythms, and the mostly plant-based foods pescatarians consume.
Fish can also improve blood lipids, and its high vitamin D levels reduce the risk of metabolic syndrome and diabetes.
Many vegetarians cease to eat meat for ethical reasons, as factory farming practices can be pretty gruesome and problematic for the environment. Although some fishing practices cause concern, many researchers argue that fish can't feel pain, causing many to find the diet suitable for them to follow.
Healthy Joint Support
For anyone suffering from inflammation or joint pain, the omega-3s in fish oil can be exceptionally helpful. A pescatarian diet full of this unsaturated fatty acid will improve blood flow to the joints during exercise as natural chemicals lubricate them and reduce joint pain, stiffness, and swelling.
Supports Mental Health and Brain Function
One of the most significant pescatarian benefits is vastly improved brain function and development. Fish oil can help improve memory, especially in those with very mild cases of cognitive decline.
In some cases, people taking fish oil saw an improvement in symptoms related to depression, which could relate to the effects of fish oil on serotonin levels and receptors in the brain, our bodies' natural antidepressant chemicals.
Strengthens Hair and Skin
Unsaturated fats, like those in fish oil, help with healthy cell development. These essential fatty acids can make your skin glow from the inside out and keep hair and other cells in the body healthy.
Pescatarianism Vs. Vegetarianism: A Comparison
Let's take a closer look to compare these two healthy diets, so you can determine which is the right option for you.
Both a vegetarian and pescatarian diets are unquestionably healthy for you when you follow the basic principles of healthy eating and include whole, nutrient-dense foods.
Pescatarianism should offer all of the benefits of a plant-based diet, plus the added benefits of eating fish.
Fish is a crucial source of heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids. Although vegetarians can eat plant-based omega-3s, introducing fish into your diet makes the process easier.
The only potential disadvantage for your health is mercury exposure, a substance that can build up in our bodies and cause harmful toxicity, even in small amounts. To reduce overexposure to mercury, choose fish that are naturally lower in mercury, and eat fish in moderation while enjoying more plant-based food. Limit fish consumption to two meals per week as much as possible.
The ethical choice presented for eating fish is very individual and cannot be decided for you by anyone else.
While some researchers argue that fish can feel no pain, killing a living being for consumption may still feel uncomfortable for you.
The best way to decide whether you feel morally comfortable consuming fish is to do your research on fishing and fish-farming practices to see if they align with your values.
Final Verdict: Which Vegetarian Diet is Best?
Both pescatarianism and vegetarianism offer a slew of undeniable health benefits. They're both low in saturated fats and high in healthy unsaturated fats, fiber, vitamins, and minerals.
Pescatarians reap the added benefits of extra lean protein and high omega-3 fatty acids in fish and seafood.
While not every vegetarian will feel comfortable eating fish, if you're ethically okay with the idea of eating fish, include low-mercury fish sources in your diet in moderation.