Many people may wonder what the difference is between a vegetarian and pescetarian diet.
A few common questions we get are:
- Do vegetarians eat fish?
- What do pescetarians eat that vegetarians CAN’T eat?
- Which is better for my health: being a vegetarian or pescetarian?
- Do pescetarians eat eggs or dairy?
All those questions, however basic they may seem, are completely valid.
Let get right to it shall we, let’s break it down…
A Simple Comparison of Vegetarians and Pescetarians
Because the pescetarian diet is still fairly new, it’s hard to generalize what “most” pescetarians tend to eat. For the purpose of this article, we will use ourselves (pescetarians since December 2014) as examples of what pescetarians eat.
What Do Vegetarians and Pescetarians Eat?
The majority of vegetarians do not include red meat, poultry, fish, and seafood in their diet.
Pescetarians eat a healthy array of fish and seafood that provide ample amounts of protein, and iron despite what skeptics may say. Fish such as salmon and tuna provide heart and brain healthy Omega 3’s and Omega 6’s.
Do Pescetarians and Vegetarians Eat Eggs or Dairy?
It becomes a personal choice where dairy and eggs are concerned. Depending on what you choose you would fall into one of the main types of vegetarians or pescetarians:
Lacto includes dairy products, ovo includes eggs, while lacto-ovo includes dairy and eggs.
We for example do not eat dairy products (cows milk, cheese) but we do eat eggs.
Therefore, we are considered ovo-pescetarians.
Both vegetarians and pescetarians include a variety of fresh vegetables and fruits along with whole grains and nuts.
The majority of vegetarians and pescetarians tend to follow a healthy lifestyle, however, just like any other diet choice (like Paleo, or Vegan) – it is just as easy to fall into the trap of making bad food choices.
Because of this, we encourage you to think of your choice as a lifestyle change vs simply a diet choice.
Why Choose Vegetarianism Over Pescetarianism (and vice versa)?
People choose a vegetarian diet for a multitude of reasons, one of the most common being for health.
The production of meat these days is simply not what it was back when our ancestors were eating it. Meat today is over consumed and therefore very hard to keep ethical.
Some people choose to go pescetarian as a means to transition into being vegetarian, or even vegan, and that’s okay too!
Another very common reason you might choose to become a vegetarian or pescetarian is because of moral or environmental reasons…Did you know that meat agriculture accounts for HALF of global emissions?Click To Tweet
It’s been well documented that the meat and agricultural industry is a major contributor to global climate change among a host of other rather terrifying facts.
Just watch this:
Like vegetarianism, the reason for choosing a pescetarian lifestyle differs from person to person.
Three major factors that contributed to our choosing the pescetarian lifestyle over being vegetarians were:
- the impact the meat industry has on the environment
- making better choices for our health
- certain nutrients can’t be found in plant foods
You will see in the above video that over-fishing is a huge problem as well. As a pescetarian it is up to you to choose sustainable, wild, and pole caught fish where possible. By doing that, you are not going to be contributing to the problem of over-fishing.
Our brand of choice when it comes to wild, sustainably caught, canned fish (like tuna) is Wild Planet Foods.
Health Benefits of Vegetarian and Pescetarian Diets
It’s pretty hard to argue science backed evidence that reducing your meat consumption (or eliminating it) will greatly impact your health positively.
There is a case to be made however that pescetarians may have the edge over vegetarians when it comes to cancer prevention, specifically; colorectal cancer. According to the 7 year study published in JAMA Internal Medicine, a Journal of the American Medical Association, people who eat a diet rich in plant based foods with the addition of fish are 43% less likely to get colorectal cancer.
Furthermore, within the sample group of 78,000 people, the cases of contracting colorectal cancer dropped a pretty impressive 27% when switching from vegetarian to pescetarian. Omega-3 fatty acids were the study’s authors reasoning for this drop since pescetarians do include fish in their diet.
The lists below are far from complete since the health benefits of both vegetarian and pescetarian diets are immense, however we’ve tried to round up a few of the top benefits for each diet.
Top health benefits of a vegetarian diet:
- lower blood pressure
- better moods
- lower risk of cancer
- supports healthy weight
- lower risk of heart disease
- lowers risk of diabetes
Top health benefits of a pescetarian diet:
- supports healthy joints
- prevents depression
- boosts brain power
- glowing skin and strong hair
- promotes healthy heart
- aids in prevents inflammatory disease
- helps boost fertility
Groups of pescetarians and vegetarians haven’t been studied against each other very much, so it is still quite difficult to determine the exact outcomes. It should be said however that anyone who chooses either diet would likely tend to be more health conscious, active, not smoke, and consume little alcohol. If you are like this, you are already setting yourself up for long-term success on either diet!
Cons Myths Of Vegetarian and Pescetarian Diets
While some people might see the below as “cons” of a vegetarian or pescetarian diet, the way I see it is… they’re simply myths! Most people tend to think that whenever you cut a certain food group (like meat) out of your diet, your body is going to lack certain vital nutrients. While at first it may seem challenging, as a vegetarian and pescetarian you actually have access to all the essential vitamins and minerals you will need through plant foods. Let’s take a look at the more common myths:
Getting enough protein
You might be under the impression that protein can be harder to obtain through a vegetarian or pescetarian diet, as we’ve all been taught that the main sources of protein are found in meat and poultry. This is simply not true and in fact, there are studies that have been published stating that most people eat more protein that they actually need.
Why your Body Needs Protein
Protein is absolutely essential for a healthy functioning body. Protein is needed for building and repairing muscle tissue, as well as for producing hormones, antibodies, enzymes and blood cells. A protein deficiency can result in slower wound healing, muscle pain, poor sleep, and even surprising symptoms such as food cravings.
Plant and Fish Sources
While all fish provides a decent serving of protein per portion, these fish are top of the list, providing more than 22g of protein per 100g:
- Raw Tuna
A few excellent sources of plant based proteins which will more than make up your needed daily amount of protein include:
- Leafy greens
- Whole grains
Vitamin and mineral deficiencies
Cutting out dairy, meat and poultry as well as fish, if you are a vegetarian, reduces your intake of vitamin B12, Calcium, zinc and iron, to name a few. However, there are many plant sources to obtain these important vitamins and minerals:
- Nutritional yeast and non-dairy milks are great sources of vitamin B12
- Load up on foods such as lentils and spinach to up your iron intake
It’s a myth that you have to drink milk to be sure you are getting enough calcium. Blackstrap molasses, cooked collard greens and fortified dairy free milks are excellent sources of calcium.
Seafood is an excellent source of zinc, however if you are a vegetarian, be sure to include plant-based sources of zinc to your diet, such as legumes, grains, nuts and seeds.
Lifestyle and cost
Depending on where you live and the ease of access you have to fresh fruit, veggies, and fish… the cost can be quite significant. It’s not only the change of season that can contribute to the cost. If certain ingredients can’t or aren’t grown in your local area, then they’re most likely shipped in from out of province/state/country and all this travel increases the cost you pay at the register.
Try to buy local as much as you can and remember that frozen vegetables are great sources of nutrients!
When it comes to buying your fish if don’t happen to live on a coast, check the sticker on the package and if you’re not certain, there’s no harm in asking where the fish came from.
As a new pescetarian in a family of meat-eaters, it may be hard if you’re making the transition yourself. Try to find a family member to try going pescetarian with you, even just part of the week.
Well Known Pescetarians and Vegetarians
We thought it’d be fun to include a few well-known famous celebrities and influential people who adopt(ed) vegetarian or pescetarian diets! You might be surprised to find a favourite of yours in the list!
Vegetarians: Natalie Portman, Chris Martin, Ozzy Osbourne, Albert Einstein, Bill Clinton, Prince, Mike Tyson, Rosa Parks, Carl Lewis
Pescetarians: Olivia Wilde, David Duchovny, Common, Tracy Chapman, Mary Tyler Moore, Johnny Galecki, Andy Serkis (aka Gollum from Lord of The Rings)