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The Shortcomings of a Pescatarian Diet

By Sara Butler

Many people avoid meat for health reasons -- with the exception of fish. This is what is often referred to as a pescatarian diet -- a diet that consists of fish, grains, vegetables, and fruits. But is it possible to get too much of a good thing? Here are a few of the things you may want to consider before you jump into a pescatarian diet.


The American Heart Association recommends two servings of fish per week. Having more than that exposes you to pollutants that can build up in your body over time. Fatty fish such as mackerel and salmon and white fish such as halibut and sea bass, have low levels of some pollutants. Excessive exposure to pollutants in fish can increase your risk of certain health conditions such as thyroid disease, cancer, and diabetes.

If you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, exposure to the pollutants in fish can cause problems for your child, too. Developmental delays, as well as low birth weight, have both been linked to pollutants found in some types of fish. If you’re pregnant or may become pregnant, you shouldn’t have more than two five-ounce servings of fish per week. All other groups, including men, women not of childbearing age, and children, shouldn’t have more than four servings.


Fish also happens to contain mercury, a natural element that fish ingest in their environments and then convert into a toxic substance called methylmercury. A pescatarian diet can increase exposure to methylmercury. High exposure can impact the function of your nervous system and can cause developmental delays in infants.

How much fish you should eat to control your exposure to methylmercury depends on the type of fish you’re eating. Some fish have relatively low amounts of this toxin, while others have high levels. Low levels are found in these fish, which you can eat without much concern:

  • Herring
  • Tilapia
  • Sardines

Fish that you need to watch your intake of include:

  • Chilean sea bass
  • Bluefin
  • Yellowfin tuna

These fish shouldn’t be eaten more than three times per month.


Being a pescatarian can also be quite expensive. Fish, when compared to other sources of protein, is more expensive. Plant sources of protein such as tofu or beans are far less expensive. You may want to consider adding more of these proteins to your diet in place of fish just to ensure you don’t break your bank account!

Whatever your reason for avoiding all meat but fish, just understand the considerations you should take into account when moving forward with this lifestyle choice. 

To learn more about your health, wellness, and fitness, see your local chiropractor at The Joint Chiropractic in Sterling, Va.

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