I grew up a very picky eater. My dietary staples included any combination of bread, cheese, and chicken you could concoct. As I grew older I attempted to refine my eating habits and resist the natural weight my body was gaining. This resistance led me to some incredibly unhealthy, disordered eating habits.
As an active adult, I didn’t feel I could sacrifice the protein and energy that I’d been convinced meat gave me. My brother, six years into a pescetarian diet, dared me to try to source my protein from fish. It was this dare that changed both my diet and my life.
What all pescetarians want you to know
We know that the label sounds like a newfound religion. The definition of “pescetarian” is simple: a diet that consists of no other meat but fish. This means no poultry, red meat, or byproducts of the two.
Many people argue that you won’t get enough nutrition from a pescetarian diet, but this is far from true. Similar to vegetarians, pescetarians must pay more attention to where they get their protein from. Vegetables, fish, legumes, and fruit all have more than enough nutrients to satisfy your daily intake requirements if you prepare them in a healthy way.
Let’s take a quick look at six key things I learned about this diet, starting with my weight.
1. I lost weight
I noticed I was losing weight a few weeks into my switch. Seafood is a low-calorie, concentrated protein source which is exactly what your body needs to lose weight.
However, I soon realized it wasn’t just the fact that I’d replaced meat with fish, but what I chose to pair the fish with. I found that salmon and tuna tasted best on salads, wraps, and alongside vegetables. This was a sharp departure from the french fries and pasta I’d paired my hamburgers and chicken with in the past.
Next: Good for the body and mind
2. It improved my mental health
Being able to understand how to healthily fuel my body actually helped my mindset. I felt the natural assistance that omega-3 acids were giving me and acquired a greater peace of mind.
Next: It gave me a boost!
3. I suddenly had more energy
In the beginning, I had to map out how I would source my protein and what would come from fish versus other food. Dairy, legumes, and vegetables served as additional protein sources. I noticed a spike in energy and found I had more stamina during workouts.
This energy came from eating plant-based proteins rather than falling victim to processed chicken and red meat, lunch meats, and various tuna and chicken salads.
Next: Two side effects I didn’t expect
4. It did wonders for my skin and hair
Low-fat diets severely deprive your body of the nutrients it needs to grow healthy skin, hair, and nails. I noticed within weeks that my hair felt stronger and fuller and my skin shinier.
Omega-3s and fish oils are to thank for these improvements. The omega-3s in fish are the perfect type of healthy fat that nourishes your skin and hair without ruining your diet.
Next: It made me take notice.
5. I learned more about what I was feeding my body
My largest concern with eating meat was how little I knew about how it was raised. Pescetarianism requires its own abundance of research, but I’ve found that I have an easier time finding options that are free of industrial pollutants (like mercury) and come from less pressured habitats.
Inquiring about what came in my meals at restaurants (chicken broth is a key ingredient to watch out for) also helped teach me about the different ingredients I put into my body. I needed to avoid any poultry and meat products. As a result, I ended up with a ton of information about what was in my food at restaurants and the grocery store.
Next: Who else is trying this diet?
6. Who follows a pescetarian diet?
I soon became intrigued with countries and cultures that could be considered “pescetarian.” The Mediterranean diet is a nutritional recommendation that’s based on the dietary patterns of 1940s-1950s Greece and Southern Italy. This diet encourages moderate intakes of seafood and very low intakes of red meat and poultry.
The Japanese are known for their longevity of life — on average, nobody in the world lives longer than Japanese women. This is partially a result of the traditional Japanese diet, which consists of plants, fish, and vegetables. A study by the BMJ proved their diet plays a crucial role in life expectancy.
Next: How you can get started
Want to give it a try? Here’s how to get started
When I first adopted a pescetarian diet I noticed all of the ways that sourcing my protein from fish was helping my mind and body. However, I had little scientific research to back up my claims. I also trusted very few resources to help me stick to the lifestyle while keeping my meals updated and interesting.
Janis Jibrin’s book The Pescetarian Plan proved a great tool for my dietary switch. Jibrin is a contributing editor at Self magazine as well as the lead dietitian for TheBestLife.com, a diet and fitness site created by Oprah’s trainer Bob Greene. While her credentials are incredibly impressive, her realistic approach was what helped me to wholeheartedly adopt pescetarianism.
Wade Migan’s Pescetarian Diet is another great book for those considering pescetarianism. Consult your doctor or nutritionist before making any significant dietary changes to ensure they’re appropriate for your health concerns.