Pescatarian Diet: Benefits & What to Eat

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What to eat on a pescatarian diet

Health benefits associated with being a pescatarian

Downsides of a pescatarian diet

Did you know that about 3% of the global population is made up of pescatarians? [1] People who follow a pescatarian diet do not eat meat, but consume other animal products, such as dairy and all forms of seafood. [2]

But how does the pescatarian diet affect your health? What foods are excluded from this diet? Does it provide you with enough protein? How is it different from vegetarian or vegan diets?

This article will guide you through the answers to these commonly asked questions.

Let’s get started!

What to eat on a pescatarian diet

Fish and seafood are the primary animal protein sources for pescatarians. The diet also includes dairy foods and other animal-based products (with the exception of meat and poultry). The foods listed below are typically included in the pescatarian diet [3] [4] :

Freshwater and saltwater fish and seafood (examples):

  • Carp
  • Trout
  • Whitefish
  • Pike
  • Pike perch
  • Catfish
  • Salmon
  • Cod
  • Tuna
  • Mackerel
  • Anchovies
  • Sardines
  • Herring
  • Seabass
  • Halibut
  • Bluefish
  • Eel
  • Shrimp
  • Prawns
  • Octopus
  • Squid
  • Lobster
  • Crab
  • Mussels

fresh seafood in ice

All fruits (examples):

  • Apples
  • Pears
  • Apricots
  • Plums
  • Peach
  • Citrus fruits
  • Pineapple
  • Bananas
  • Berries
  • Watermelon
  • Kiwi
  • Mangoes
  • Grapes

All vegetables (examples):

  • Broccoli
  • Spinach
  • Beets
  • Tomatoes
  • Cucumber
  • Peppers
  • Leeks
  • Radish
  • Zucchini
  • Cauliflower
  • Cabbage
  • Carrot
  • Onions
  • Garlic
  • Potatoes (including sweet)
  • Lettuce

Related: Are Sweet Potatoes Healthier Than Potatoes? [ Dietitian Approved ]

salmon and vegetables dish

All legumes (examples):

  • Beans
  • Peas
  • Chickpeas
  • Lentils
  • Soy products (e.g., edamame beans, tofu, tempeh, milk)

Grains and whole grains (examples):

  • Oats
  • Barley
  • Miller
  • Wheat
  • Baked goods
  • Pasta
  • Rice
  • Corn
  • Cereals

Don’t miss out: White Rice vs Brown Rice: Which Is Healthier? [According to a Dietitian]

Nuts and seeds (examples):

  • Almonds
  • Cashews
  • Hazelnuts
  • Walnuts
  • Peanuts
  • Chia seeds
  • Sesame seeds
  • Pistachios
  • Macadamia

Animal products:

  • Dairy foods (yogurt, milk, cheese, cream)
  • Eggs
  • Honey

nut milk

The pescatarian diet excludes all meat and poultry:

  • Beef
  • Lamb
  • Pork
  • Turkey
  • Chicken
  • Duck
  • Deli and processed meat (salami, ham, sausage)

Find out more: The BEST Meat Substitutes [ Dietitian Approved ]

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Health benefits associated with being a pescatarian

Limiting the consumption of red meat may help decrease saturated fat consumption; thus, improving heart health and cholesterol profiles. [5]

When following a strictly vegetarian or vegan diet, a person’s diet has the potential to lack sufficient amounts of protein and essential nutrients including iron, zinc, calcium and vitamin B12. [6]

When consuming a balanced diet, the pescatarian diet ensures sufficient intake of B and D vitamins, iron, zinc, magnesium, potassium, calcium, phosphorus, and Omega-3 fatty acids. The consumption of these nutrients and healthy fatty acids could be associated with various health benefits, including [5] [7] :

  • Improved heart health
  • Reduced risk of Alzheimer’s disease
  • Prevention of nutrient deficiencies
  • Lower risk of diabetes development
  • Weight management

Furthermore, pescatarians likely have lower levels of total cholesterol and blood pressure, as well as a lower risk of developing metabolic syndrome and cancer. [8] [9]

Important thing to note is that a 2019 study found that vegans and vegetarians may bear a higher risk of stroke compared to meat-eaters. The study suggests that this risk may be due to low levels of total cholesterol and various nutrient deficiencies. [10] That being said, no increased stroke risk was observed in pescatarians. [7]

According to a 2019 paper, the pescatarian diet is safe for children and adolescents, as it provides enough Omega-3 fatty acids. [11]

woman cooking pescatarian dish

Downsides of a pescatarian diet

Even though the benefits of following a pescatarian diet are considerable, there are some downsides as well.

A 2020 study conducted in Norway found that vegans, vegetarians, and pescatarians don’t consume adequate amounts of iodine through food sources. This way, these population groups are likely dependent on iodine supplements. The research showed that even though pescatarians consumed more iodine than vegans and vegetarians, they still couldn’t meet the average intake requirement. [12] Considering this, the source suggested the need for dietary guidance for adequate iodine intake to prevent deficiency and toxicity of the nutrient.

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