Human Health Benefits
Some people may have a hard time switching to a vegetarian (or mostly vegetarian) diet. One of the most common arguments for eating meat is to ensure that the human body has enough protein. But what some people don’t want to believe is that there are other ways to get a sufficient amount of protein in your diet. Alternative proteins include tofu, eggs, lentils, beans, and you guessed it… fish. Instead of having red meat that’s high in saturated fat on the menu, the pescetarian diet includes fish that’s high in healthy omega-3 fatty acid, shellfish and seaweed that’s rich with vitamins and minerals.
There have been many scientific studies that show the positive health benefits of including fish in our diets. According to a 2007 article published in the American Heart Association journal, healthy adults who eat fish once or twice a week can have a 42-50 percent reduction in the risk of sudden cardiac death. Two other studies compared people who regularly ate meat and people who ate vegetarian or pescetarian diets. During the 6-year study period, scientists found that pescetarians and vegetarians had a significantly lower risk of type-2 diabetes and a lower body mass index than regular meat-eaters. The author of The Pescetarian Plan, Janis Jibrin, M.S., R.D., also said that “Following a pescetarian diet could potentially lower your risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, dementia, erectile dysfunction and depression.”
The livestock industry has been on a constant boom to fill the demand for animal-based protein. But what most people don’t know is how unsustainable the industry really is. According to the David Suzuki Foundation, “It is estimated that livestock production accounts for 70 per cent of all agricultural land use and occupies 30 per cent of the land surface of the planet.” Meat production also produces a high volume of greenhouse gases such as methane and nitrous oxide. The David Suzuki Foundation says that “it takes approximately five to seven kilograms of grain to produce one kilogram of beef” (which is considered very inefficient). And let’s not forget how much energy and water is takes to grow grain, and how much energy and fuel is used to process and transport meat. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimates that the production of meat accounts for 18% of the world’s greenhouse gases which contribute to climate change.
A More Sustainable Pescetarian Diet
The livestock industry has its issues, but so does the seafood industry. Eating a pescetarian diet has the capacity to be more environmentally friendly than eating livestock if consumers know what to avoid. The Earth is faced with many problems, such as overfishing, the degradation of marine ecosystems and contentious seafood cultivation and farming practices. Leading a pescetarian lifestyle where you eat endangered species and support fish farms with poor practices, wouldn’t exactly be doing the environment any favors.
However, there are initiatives out there that help consumers make more sustainable choices when buying seafood. Seafoodwatch.org is a Monterey Bay Aquarium initiative that provides seafood eaters a rating of which are the “best choices”, “good alternatives” and what to “avoid.” Their website has an online database, printable consumer guides that are easy to carry around in your wallet and a list of partners that sell sustainable seafood. They also offer an app called Seafood Watch. You can also visit seachoice.org, a Canadian initiative that promotes better seafood-eating practices. Like Seafood Watch, they have printable, and easy to carry, sustainable seafood and sushi guides.
Committing to a Pescetarian Diet
For some, making the switch to a vegetarian or pescetarian diet is easy because of the motivating factors/benefits listed above. Others may find it more difficult cutting meat out of their lives entirely. For those who are having this struggle, don’t be discouraged. If you’ve been habituated to eat meat regularly, it might take longer to get used to a mostly plant- and fish-based diet. Reduce your meat and poultry consumption incrementally. If you usually eat meat every day, put yourself on a 7-week challenge where each week you go one more day without eating meat. For each day that you go without animal meat, replace it with an alternative source of protein, such as fish. If you’re unsure how to cook seafood, invest in some good cookbooks or comb through the internet to find resources and exciting recipes.