There are several reasons why some people turn to plant-based or pescatarian diets to avoid eating any animals. Many people also avoid eating products derived from animals, including eggs, milk, gelatine, etc. Many enthusiastic beginners on a vegan or vegetarian ritual may not be aware of the danger of getting a B12 deficiency and its serious consequences.
One way of counter-acting this deficiency is to eat at least 3.5 ounces of fish servings into the diet weekly and include some dairy and eggs. This is known as a pescatarian diet and can help meet all the body’s vitamin requirements.
The word pescatarian comes from the Italian word for fish, “pesce.” On a pescatarian diet, someone can enjoy all forms of seafood, including the other varied foods enjoyed by vegans or vegetarians.
Vitamin B 12 – An Essential Vitamin for the Nervous System
The proper development and function of the nervous system rely on a good supply of vitamin B12. Deficiencies in this essential vitamin may lead to severe symptoms like depression, memory loss, and dementia. Other symptoms of a vitamin B12 deficiency include numbness or tingling in the hands and feet, muscle weakness, constipation, and weight loss.
Since vitamin B12 is found in animal foods only, vegans and vegetarians are prone to deficiencies. A good source of vitamin B12 for vegetarians is eggs and cheese, but many kinds of cereal, fruit juices, and tofu are fortified to ensure vegans are also getting some vitamin B12 intake.
However, pescatarians eating some fish and shellfish together with whole grains, vegetables, eggs, and dairy can ensure that the nutrients their bodies require, including vitamin B12, are replenished sufficiently.
Meeting Vitamin B12 levels
The most recent USDA food labeling standards recommend a daily value of 2.4mg of B12 daily, reduced from the previous 6mg. The body stores vitamin B12 in the liver, and it is well-regulated by the body since it only absorbs as much as it needs.
Vegans or vegetarians need to determine the supplementation they need with a health care provider. This is important because they have higher levels of folate, which typically may mask a vitamin B12 deficiency.
Vegans mostly require 100% B12 supplements to meet the recommended daily allowance and eat fortified foods. On the other hand, vegetarians can add eggs and cheese to their diets, plus they can include other fortified foods to ensure the ideal levels of the vitamin. Therefore, Pescatarian diets are easier when it comes to meeting daily vitamin B12 requirements.
Sources of Vitamin B12 and Other Nutrients
Some fish like salmon, sardines, mackerel, and pollock are high in omega-3 fatty acids, helping to protect against heart disease. Shrimp, cod, and canned tuna are known for their high levels of iodine. One of the best sources of vitamin D, iodine, zinc, and vitamin B12 is salmon. One 3.5-ounce serving of cooked salmon provides 100% of an adult’s daily vitamin B12 requirement, nearly all the vitamin D requirement, and is an excellent source of zinc.
One of the other nutrients frequently missing in people on a pescatarian diet is iron because it is mainly found in red meats. Besides including fortified cereals and taking supplements, plant-based iron sources include spinach and broccoli.
Benefits of a Pescatarian Diet
A pescatarian diet lowers someone’s risk of getting some of the more common chronic medical conditions, including heart disease. This is because seafood is lower in saturated fats and cholesterol compared to other meats. Thus, one of the significant benefits of including fatty fish in the diet is a healthier cardiovascular system.
A pescatarian diet has many health benefits, but consumers should always prefer low-mercury seafood since mercury is a highly toxic pollutant that affects the neurological system, especially in unborn babies. Canned light tuna, cod, clams, salmon, and catfish are preferable to long-living deep water fish like king mackerel, swordfish, tilefish, and shark. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Association, pregnant women on a pescatarian diet should limit their diet to 12 ounces of low-mercury fish per week and avoid high mercury fish altogether.