Healthy Living

Pescetarian Diet Pros And Cons: Is Seafood Diet The One For You?

What would Natalie Portman, Anne Hathaway and Carrie Underwood have in common other than talent, awards and money? Well, it is not a secret sauce that made them famous and fabulous. Rather, it’s a diet they turn to for deriving strength and stamina to help them thrive while leading hectic lifestyles, enabling them to succeed in the entertainment industry and balance motherhood perfectly.

By adhering to the pescetarian diet that is vegetarian for the most part including fish and dairy products, the actresses were able to stay energized during their respective pregnancies. For Hathaway in particular, while shooting “Interstellar,” she radically switched to a diet containing omega-3 fatty acids by including fish and poultry to her daily diet, saying goodbye to veganism for good. 

The consumption of plant foods alone does not provide the body with all the vitamins and minerals it needs, unless a lot of detailing goes into planning each and every meal.  

Pescetarianism, popularly known by many names like seaganism, pesco-vegetarian, and partial vegetarianism, does not allow consumption of red meat rich in saturated fats to keep heart trouble at bay. However, there are preferences and choices in the variations of pescetarian diets, sometimes consisting of meals with fish and vegetables without diary and vice versa. The fundamental premise of being vegetarian has plenty of health benefits:

Cancer Prevention 

By consuming fish, a high dose of omega-3 fatty acids gets absorbed and this reduces inflammation in the body, which acts as a cancer-preventing measure. Data from the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC-Oxford) has proven that pescetarian diets are more helpful in preventing certain types of cancer than vegan or vegetarian diets.  

The diet rich in omega-3 also reduces tumor growth in those already diagnosed and suffering from cancer. Those who are undergoing chemotherapy are at a huge advantage as muscle mass and low inflammation that are usually depleted during the process manage to stay intact, giving them an advantage in immunity.

Heart Health

Data on 65,000 participants from European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC-Oxford) revealed that vegetarians had a 19 percent lower risk of heart disease compared to vegetarians. Diets rich in fruits and vegetables are not sufficient enough to provide the needed omega-3 fatty acids which provide many health benefits. The only exception being walnuts which can be consumed by vegetarians. 

Though there are some studies to show that omega-3 derived from walnuts and fish work equally to reduce heart risk. Fish increases good cholesterol while walnuts reduce bad cholesterol.

Nutrient Deficiencies

Plant-based diets are very healthy, but they lack certain amino acids and vitamin B12 found in meat. Fish being a safer option can be substituted in place of red meats to supplement an iron deficiency. It fixes the imbalanced ratio of fatty acids (omega-6 to omega-3) derived from consuming vegetable oils and salad dressings.

Bone Health

Strict vegetarians are at risk of deficiencies in vitamin D and K needed for the absorption of calcium. While taking supplements could fill the void, it is not enough. Similarly, as found by the EPIC-Oxford Study, vegans consuming 525 milligrams of calcium per day were less susceptible to fractures as 75 percent of vegans did not get the required daily intake of calcium.

Mental Health

Studies have found that lack of omega-3 fatty acids is linked to cognitive decline at the onset of old age, leading to Alzheimer’s and dementia. Having a steady intake of omega-3 can stop the deterioration of the mind. It can even boost moods by being a natural remedy for depression, anxiety and ADHD.

Pescatarian Ocean to Table: Several Varieties of Fresh Whole Fish on Ice For-Sale in a Fish Market in the Chinatown section of Manhattan in New York City Keith Getter / Contributor/ Getty Images

What are the drawbacks?

While the benefits are there, it is important to be careful of the amount of fish consumed due to toxic levels of mercury rising in sea waters. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends pregnant women to not consume more than 8 ounces of fish per week while regular folks can eat fish meals up to three times per week or 12 ounces.

A recent study published in the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences traced the geographic origin of mercury in seafood. They found that 31 percent of America’s seafood came from the North Pacific coast and 25 percent from the Equatorial and South Pacific coast. The latter is the largest source of tuna, a fish that is high in mercury.

Studies have shown that blood mercury levels increase with the consumption of shark and swordfish. Similar results were found when tuna and salmon were eaten frequently, except that mercury levels rose less rapidly with smaller fish. The FDA advises against eating the king mackerel species, too.

The amount of mercury transferred to the body depends on the levels of mercury found in the fish, which cannot be predicted. Though all species have traces of methylmercury, the larger fish which have had time to accumulate chemicals pose the greatest risk, especially in unborn children and pregnant women.