Should Athletes Follow a Pescetarian Diet?

STACK Expert Kait Fortunato reviews the pros and cons of a pescetarian diet for athletes.

As a sports nutritionist, I get lots of questions regarding the best type of diet to follow for boosting performance: paleo, vegetarian, gluten-free—the list goes on.

My general answer is that no one "diet" is best for everyone. It's important to find how out your body works and what foods fuel you most effectively. I believe there is room for all types of foods in your everyday diet. It's all about the timing of meals, balancing nutrients, getting variety and watching your portions.

That said, an athlete may choose to follow a more structured diet, perhaps for health reasons, food sensitivity, or even environmental concerns.

Recently, a reader asked me about the benefits and risks of going pescetarian. I'd like to share some pros and cons.

A pescetarian diet is one that is vegetarian-based but still allows fish and seafood. It is definitely doable, but there are some things to watch out for to make sure you get everything your body needs.

Pros of Going Pescetarian

When you cut red meat out of your diet, you consume less saturated fat. You also cut down on toxins and chemicals found in certain red meat cuts, such as hormones from commercially-farmed meat.

You can get all of the protein and vitamins you need from a combination of seafood, grains, dairy and vegetables. For example, tuna is high in iron and vitamin B12, which are hard to get from a vegetarian diet.

If you consume fish regularly, you are likely to increase your intake of omega 3 fatty acids, which help combat inflammation.

A pescetarian diet is a good way to transition to a full-on vegetarian diet if that is something you are interested in. It is also better for the environment.

Cons of Going Pescetarian

Certain kinds of fish are high in toxins like mercury. Shrimp, canned light tuna, salmon, pollock and catfish are low in mercury, so make those a part of your diet.

Raw or undercooked fish such as sushi or sashimi can contain potentially dangerous bacteria and other organisms.

Many plant-based proteins, such as quinoa, beans and peas, are also considered starches. When choosing protein sources, be mindful of your carbohydrate intake.

Certain types of seafood, shellfish in particular, are high in cholesterol.

If you are following a pescetarian diet for ethical reasons, recognize not all fish are humanely raised and killed.

Fish Recipes

If you are looking to add more seafood to your diet, here are some dishes to try:

Olive Oil Baked Shrimp
Filled with heart-healthy fats, this quick weeknight meal is flavorful and simple to prepare.

Almond Crusted Tilapia
With great texture, this dish is favored even by those who don't particularly like fish.

Salmon Corn Chowder
Salmon is my favorite fish, and this delicious chowder is fulll of vegetables too!

Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock