Vegan, Vegetarian or Pescatarian, which is best?
As human beings, we are lucky to be able to select the foods we consume. With plant-based diets on the rise, there has been an ever-growing development of titles that cater for certain diets. Vegan, vegetarian, and pescatarian are three diet patterns focused on reducing your intake of meat. People choose to adopt these diets for a multitude of reasons. One of these reasons is all three eating patterns have been associated with a variety of health and environmental benefits. This may have you wondering how these diets compare and if one is healthier than the others.
What exactly are these diets?
Vegan- A vegan, or a “strict vegetarian”, does not consume meat, eggs, dairy products, honey, or any product derived from an animal. A vegan diet can be full of a wide variety of nutritious foods including vegetables, nuts, grains, seeds, legumes and fruits. Many refuse to use products that are made with animal ingredients, products that are filtered using animal parts and products that have been tested on animals.
Vegetarian- A vegetarian diet, similar to vegan, is one that does not include eating any meat or seafood. However, some people following this diet may eat eggs and dairy foods.
Pescatarian- Pescatarian is a diet described as those who abstain from eating all meat with the exception of fish. Pescatarians maintain a vegetarian diet with the addition of fish and other seafood such as shrimp, clams, crabs and lobster.
What are the health benefits?
Vegan diets offer a range of health benefits. For people looking to lose weight, a vegan diet can help. Eating vegan may also help you maintain your heart health. This diet may offer some protection against type 2 diabetes and certain cancers. Switching to a vegan diet means you’ll be eliminating meat and animal products. This will lead you to rely more on other foods, such as: fruits, whole grains, peas, vegetables, beans, nuts and seeds. Since these foods make up a large portion of a vegan diet, they can lead to a higher daily intake of beneficial nutrients. Veganism tends to provide more fiber, antioxidants and plant compounds. They also appear to be richer in potassium, magnesium, folate and vitamins A, C and E. Beware though, poorly planned vegan diets may not provide sufficient amounts of vitamin B12, niacin, vitamin D, vitamin B2, iodine, calcium, zinc or selenium. That’s why it’s essential to choose whole plant foods and fortified foods. You may need to consider supplements for certain nutrients since these may be lacking in a vegan diet.
When individuals follow a vegetarian diet that provides them with the proper nutrients they need, this type of diet can result in a number of health benefits. A vegetarian diet has been shown to help boost your heart health such as lowering blood pressure, reducing risk of heart disease and lowering cholesterol. This is due to the foods that are higher in fiber and unsaturated fats. Eating a vegetarian diet can also benefit the environment. Animals emit greenhouse gases, resulting in a larger carbon footprint than vegetables or grains. Plant based foods can also help keep your brain healthy. Studies have shown that consuming more plant-based foods could be linked to lower rates of dementia, Alzheimer’s and cognitive impairments.
The pescatarian diet consists of plant-based foods with fish and seafood as the main sources of protein. This makes the pescatarian diet high in phytochemical and omega-3’s, which provides many health benefits. Omega-3 fatty acids, found in fatty fish like salmon, sardine, and mackerel, help reduce plaque build up that can occur in the arteries leading to heart disease and strokes. This diet can also help with the risk of becoming obese. Studies found that people who practiced a pescatarian diet gained 3 pounds less each year compared to people who ate meat. A diet that incorporates fruits and vegetables has been associated with lowering the risk of getting colorectal cancer, as well.
Easy recipes for beginner vegans, vegetarians and pescatarians
Root vegetable vegan bowl with creamy peanut sauce
What you need:
- - 1 large sweet potato, peeled and cut into ½ inch cubes
- - 1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
- - 3 cups broccoli florets
- - 2 tablespoons avocado oil
- - ½ teaspoon salt
- - 4 cups cooked rice
- - 3 spring onions, sliced
- - 1/3 cup fresh cilantro
- - ¼ cup chopped peanuts
For the peanut sauce:
- - 2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
- - 1/3 cup peanut butter
- - 1 tablespoon sriracha
- - 1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
- - 2 tablespoons maple syrup
- - 2 tablespoons tamari
- - 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
- - cooked rice
- Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Lightly grease two large baking sheets. Add sweet potato and chickpeas to one large baking sheet and broccoli florets to the other. Drizzle both pans with avocado oil, sprinkle salt over top, toss, and spread vegetables and chickpeas out evenly.
- Place baking sheets in an oven and bake for 15 minutes. Remove from oven and stir vegetables around, flipping over sweet potatoes. Return pans to oven and roast for 5 to 10 minutes, until sweet potatoes and broccoli are tender. Remove from oven and set aside.
- For the peanut sauce, into a medium bowl, whisk together toasted sesame oil, peanut butter, sriracha, ginger, maple syrup, soy sauce and vinegar. Poor peanut sauce over top of roasted vegetables and chickpeas and mix everything together. Top with spring onions, cilantro, and peanuts; serve over rice. Air fried
What you need:
- - ½ head cauliflower, broken into bite sized pieces
- - Olive oil
- - Garlic powder
- - ½ teaspoon salt
- In a large bowl, break up pieces of cauliflower. Drizzle your olive oil over the cauliflower to help the seasoning stick.
- Mix the garlic powder and salt with the cauliflower.
- Cook in an air fryer at 375 degrees for 12-15 minutes or until pieces are tender and slightly browned.
- Optional: Serve with buffalo sauce or your choice of dip.
Which one should you choose?
Vegan, vegetarian and pescatarian diets all involve eating less meat. They all offer similar health and environmental benefits. Which diet you should follow depends on several factors, including your health goals, needs and preferences. Some research shows that vegan diets may be more effective for weight loss and are the most environmentally friendly option. However, they can also be restrictive and require careful planning to avoid nutritional deficiencies. On the other hand, vegetarian and pescatarian diets are more flexible and include nutrient-dense foods such as dairy and eggs. Alternatively, you can choose to follow a flexitarian diet. This is a more flexible eating pattern focused on reducing your meat intake and enjoying more plant-based foods without completely eliminating any ingredients. Be sure to consider your health goals, needs and preferences to decide which diet is right for you!