"Better Fish Than Botox": How Healthy Is a Pescetarian Diet?

Vegetarians avoid meat and fish, vegans completely avoid animal products.

"Better Fish Than Botox": How Healthy Is a Pescetarian Diet?

Vegetarians avoid meat and fish, vegans completely avoid animal products. Pescetarians, on the other hand, do not eat meat, but eat fish. And it's very healthy. But the breading is better left out, so no fish fingers. And preserves and smoked fish should only be eaten once in a while.

Fish fingers every day - that's not what pescetarian nutrition means. Pescetarianism means not eating meat at all, but eating fish about twice a week. The menu is supplemented by vegetarian food - dairy products, eggs, whole grain products, nuts and mushrooms. And of course: lots of fresh vegetables and fruit.

This is how Werner Mang, specialist in ENT and plastic surgery and medical director of the Bodenseeklinik in Lindau, feeds himself. He is convinced: "Rather fish than Botox. Because fish supplies us with the nutrients that work against wrinkles and other skin aging symptoms from the inside."

In fact, there are many substances in fish that our body can use well. For example, trace elements such as zinc and iodine, but also vitamin B12 and vitamin D. Fish also contains easily digestible omega-3 fatty acids and proteins. "In recent years, the plant-based vegetarian diet, which is combined with omega-3 fatty acids, has emerged as the most favorable form of nutrition for humans," agrees Matthias Riedl, nutritionist and medical director of Medicum Hamburg.

Eating a purely plant-based diet has great advantages for the environment, says the nutritionist. But: In order to be well supplied with all the important nutrients, people also need animal products. It doesn't necessarily have to be fish or meat, says Riedl. Eggs, dairy products, nuts and mushrooms also provide valuable ingredients such as vitamin B12.

What should one look for in a pescetarian diet, for example when it comes to the choice of fish? Werner Mang has dealt with this question for a book ("Eat yourself!"). He recommends fish that comes from the North Sea, from local aquaculture or local inland waters. Freshwater fish include perch, trout, catfish and zander. Their tender fish meat is easy to digest and is suitable for diets as well as for a low-salt diet. Good to know: 200 grams of trout fillet covers the daily requirement of omega-3 fatty acids for an adult.

From Mang's point of view, recommended sea fish are cod or cod, plaice or sea bass. In view of the overfishing of the seas and the pollution by heavy metals, it is particularly important to pay attention to the origin of the fish. So you can buy the fish from your trusted retailer or grab frozen goods with a seal. According to the Stiftung Warentest, there is the blue MSC seal for wild fish and the turquoise ASC seal for farmed fish. Products from organic aquaculture can be recognized by the Naturland seal or the green EU organic seal.

However, fans of fish fingers or fried fish have to be brave on one point: If you are on a pescetarian diet, it is best to avoid the breading. Because it brings unnecessary extra calories, Mang warns. And there is hardly any fiber, which is good for digestion. Instead, he advises searing the fish in olive oil with some parsley and flaked almonds.

Canned fish and smoked fish, on the other hand, are fine from the point of view of Mang and Riedl. However, they should only be consumed in moderation. Because smoked fish contains a lot of salt and canned fish are often preserved in oil. Tip: Soak both before eating. By the way: In addition to fish, seafood and algae can also be part of a pescetarian diet. They also contain valuable minerals, vitamins, proteins and fatty acids. If you like, you can also add seafood such as shrimp, mussels, lobster or crabs to the menu.

Good to know: "If you don't like algae or fish, but don't want to do without the valuable ingredients, you can take fish or algae oil in tablet form," says nutritionist Riedl. They did not provide the valuable dietary fiber and proteins from the fish. However, the body can process the omega-3 fatty acids from algae or fish oil better than those from linseed or rapeseed oil.

What applies to all dietary supplements also applies here: you should not overdose. You should therefore clarify in advance with your family doctor whether there is a deficiency at all.

The experts emphasize that the pescetarian diet can also help to counteract factory farming. Eating high-quality fish from a sustainable source is only possible for a fraction of the world's population. But if you can afford it and want to, the pescetarian diet is recommended.

(This article was first published on Saturday, July 02, 2022.)

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