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4 Reasons You Should Consider Turning Pescatarian

If a vegetarian diet seems to limit your protein choices, but you want to avoid the fat content of red meat and poultry, you might consider turning pescatarian. A pescatarian diet eliminates all meats except fish, allowing you to enjoy the nutritional and culinary rewards of seafood. Although mercury, PCB and dioxin contamination have been a concern with fish-based diets, the American Heart Association states that the benefits of eating fish outweigh the risks of toxins. Becoming a pescatarian may help you achieve a variety of health-promoting goals.

1. Avoid Saturated Fats

Red meats and some forms of poultry contain saturated fats. These fats, which are usually solid at room temperature, contribute to the accumulation of fat in the arteries and the development of fatty plaques on the arterial walls--conditions that lead to heart disease and stroke. Avoiding meat for the sake of cardiac health can be a powerful motivation for turning vegetarian. Becoming a pescatarian allows you to retain the nutrients, flavors and textures of seafood in your diet while cutting down on the health risks caused by land animal fats.

2. Reduce Cholesterol Levels

Species of fish like salmon, tuna, mackerel and herring are rich in omega-3 fats, a form of fat that lowers triglycerides. Triglycerides are a form of cholesterol produced by the body and found in high-fat foods. The liver synthesizes triglycerides as a source of energy. When produced or eaten in excess, triglycerides circulate in the bloodstream and are deposited as fat, mostly around the abdominal organs. Clinical studies have shown that the omega-3 fats in fish oil markedly reduce triglyceride levels, which can lower your risk of heart disease, stroke and metabolic disorders. Omega-3 fatty acids may also lower blood pressure, improve brain and nerve function, and enhance short-term memory.

3. Increase Intake of Essential Vitamins and Minerals

Whole fish contains B complex vitamins, including B6, B12, riboflavin and niacin, while fish liver oils are a good source of vitamins A and D. Fish are rich in essential minerals like calcium, potassium, iron, zinc, phosphorous and selenium. To reap the full array of minerals that are available in seafood, include a variety of saltwater and freshwater fish, mollusks and crustaceans in your diet.

4. Enjoy a Versatile Source of Lean Protein

Fish is high in protein but low in fat and calories, making it an attractive option for dieters and for people who want to build lean muscle mass without increasing body fat. Although you can fulfill your daily protein requirements with a vegetarian or vegan diet, a pescatarian diet offers a broader range of options for meeting your protein needs.

If the thought of giving up the flaky texture of halibut or the rich flavor of salmon has discouraged you from turning vegetarian, becoming a pescatarian might be an appealing dietary alternative. Fish comes in a wide array of tastes and textures and can be prepared in a variety of healthy ways, from baking and grilling to steaming or poaching.

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