Before I dive into this article, I want you to know that this isn’t about convincing you to follow a pescetarian diet. Rather, it’s meant to show you my thought process behind my own dietary decisions.
As I mentioned in my article about the best diet to get lean, there are hundreds of different diets out there, and all of them work for some people.
Finding out which one is best for you takes some experimenting. Here’s how I made my decision to eat a fish- and plant-based diet.
Experimenting With Different Diets
Up to this point in my life, I’ve experimented with a variety of dietary approaches. I grew up an omnivore, eating whatever my family put on the table. But once I got to college, I started playing around with my nutrition. I’ve been vegan, vegetarian, and paleo. I’ve followed a bodybuilding diet, and tried intermittent fasting.
Through all of these nutritional experiments, I’ve learned that my body prefers a plant-based diet. But I’ve also learned that being a strict vegan wasn’t meeting all of my nutrient-needs (without supplementation).
So I asked myself – how can I be as plant-based as possible while still getting all of the vitamins and minerals my body requires to function properly?
What is a dietary approach that is relatively good for the environment, while also being optimal for my health? How can I eat to look good, feel good, and fuel my active lifestyle?
My Answer: A Pescetarian Diet
A pescetarian is someone who avoids red meat and poultry, but eats fish, seafood, eggs, dairy, and ample plant foods. Personally, I don’t eat eggs or dairy because my body doesn’t tolerate them. But I do eat a variety of fish and some seafood.
I eat a mostly whole foods diet filled with vegetables, fruits, healthy fats & carbs, and fish. I opt for fresh, wild fish most of the time, but will also buy frozen or farm-raised fish sometimes too. It depends on what looks the freshest, and fits my budget at that time.
How did I decide that pescetarianism was right for me?
Top 5 Reasons That I Eat A Pescetarian Diet
By experimenting with different diets, getting regular blood work done, having my allergies tested, and finding out about my genetics with 23andMe, I’ve been able to hone in on what my body prefers nutrition-wise.
Pescetarianism Makes It Easy To Avoid My Food Allergens
For about 3 years in college, I was vegan and I loved it. I felt good, energized, and light. But the summer before my senior year, I decided to try vegetarianism based on the recommendation of a school nutritionist. Within a year, I learned that vegetarianism doesn’t work for my body. But it took longer than that for me to realize that eggs and dairy were the culprits.
After about 6 months of adding eggs and dairy to my diet, I gained a lot of weight and didn’t look like myself anymore. At the same time, I started having strange health issues that doctors couldn’t diagnose. Despite my highly active lifestyle, I couldn’t lose weight. I felt extremely tired and lethargic, especially mid-afternoon. And things just didn’t feel right in my body.
It took me awhile to put two-and-two together, but I eventually equated all of these weird health and weight issues with adding dairy and eggs back into my diet. Even after removing those foods, it took a few years for my body and weight to renormalize.
When I finally got allergy tested while living in NYC, my suspicions were confirmed – I’m allergic to casein (a protein in dairy). And while I haven’t been tested for an egg allergy, my body doesn’t react to eggs well.
If you’re experiencing weird health issues, indigestion, or trouble with your weight, I recommend having your allergies tested. Opt for a prick test, as opposed to a blood test.
Eating Fish Meets My Nutrient Needs
During that time in college that my body drastically changed from eating eggs and dairy again, I started having strange health issues. To determine what was going on with my body, I started getting regular blood work done.
In college, I had tested my blood levels while I was a vegan, and at that time everything in my blood was in the normal, healthy range. But after becoming vegetarian (and later paleo), my blood values changed – a lot.
I got a full blood panel and tested my blood sugar, blood cell count (CBC), cholesterol, vitamins & minerals, c-reactive protein (CRP), and thyroid function.
My blood sugar was in the pre-diabetic range, I was severely deficient in Vitamin-D3, my B12 was low, I had low iodine, and my cholesterol was high. I was also in the subclinical hypothyroid range.
Why did my blood values go from healthy to completely out of whack? I believe that eating foods that I’m allergic to damaged my gut, made me inflamed, and affected my nutrient absorption. I also think that I wasn’t getting all of the nutrients my body needed as a vegan.
My solution was to eat fish. Fish is rich in vitamin d3, iodine, selenium, protein, and anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids. In case you didn’t notice – these are a lot of the nutrients that I was deficient in.
Better yet, iodine and selenium are incredibly important for healthy thyroid function.
Since eating a plant-based pescetarian diet, my blood levels have returned back to the normal, very healthy range.
If you’re having weird health issues, consider getting a full blood panel, including CRP which is a marker of systemic inflammation. When testing your thyroid, be sure to test TSH, Free T4, Free T3, Reverse T3, Thyroid Peroxidase Antibodies, and Thyroglobulin Antibodies. This will give you and your doctor all the information needed to determine if your thyroid is functioning properly.
My Body Doesn’t Like A High-Saturated Fat Diet
As I mentioned, I’ve gone through phases of experimenting with paleo. In case you don’t know, a paleo diet is based on meats, fish, veggies, fruits, and healthy fats. It excludes grains, beans, legumes, and usually dairy as well.
While eating a paleo-style diet, I found that I weighed more regardless of how much I exercised. Additionally, my cholesterol was higher despite eating an exclusively whole foods diet.
When I cut out meat and poultry, my cholesterol levels fell back into a normal range. And, I naturally lost weight.
From my 23andMe reports, I learned that my genetics predispose me to weigh more on a high saturated fat diet (22+ grams of saturated fat per day). Eliminating meat and poultry makes it easy to limit my saturated fat intake.
And by eating fish, I get more omega-3 fatty acids, which helps to decrease bad cholesterol and increase good cholesterol.
Some people tolerate a high saturated fat diet, and others don’t. Finding out which camp you fall into could help you determine what foods are ideal for your body.
Fish Is A Great Source of Protein
As an active woman who runs, hikes, bikes, climbs, and practices yoga – my body needs protein for muscle recovery and repair. Proteins are also important for healthy hormone production.
While plants do contain protein, I’ve found that eating some fish most days of the week helps keep my energy high and my body performing well. Fish is a fantastic source of lean protein that’s also rich in vitamins, minerals, and healthy fats.
That’s a pretty winning combination.
Regardless of whether you’re pescetarian, paleo, or an omnivore – eating fish at least 3x per week offers numerous health benefits.
It’s Better For The Environment
While most of my decisions to eat a fish-based diet are health-related, I’m also mindful of the fact that fish production has a much lower carbon footprint than animal production.
In choosing fresh, wild fish most of the time, I feel good about what I’m putting into my body and where I’m spending my money.
What you spend your money on is up to you. But I try to support industries and foods that are better for my body and have a smaller impact on the environment.
Should You Try A Pescetarian Diet?
If you want to find the dietary approach that works best for you, I recommend playing around with what you eat. That could include trying a pescetarian diet for awhile.
Pay attention to how different foods make you feel. If you want to dive deeper into your own biohacking – maybe get blood work done before and after you make a major dietary change. Potentially see what a genetic test like 23andMe has to say about your genes, health, and predispositions. And get allergy tested to make sure you’re not eating foods that make you inflamed.
Be your own researcher and make your own unique diet based on what makes you feel good, look good, and optimize your health.