Diet drama was taken to a whole new level recently, as vegan influencer Yovana Mendoza was filmed eating fish, in an incident subsequently coined ‘Fishgate’. However, since then more people have shared how they’ve also started to incorporate fish into their ‘vegan’ diet to address health issues like poor digestion and hormonal imbalance, that eating vegan seemed to either cause or exacerbate. This has birthed yet a new eating trend referred to as Pesce-Vegan – a plant-based diet with the addition of fish.
Whilst it’s important to remember there is no ‘one size fits all’ approach to eating that works for everyone, research suggests that incorporating fish into a vegan diet could potentially be the nutritional ‘best of both worlds’.
For example, in several of the Blue Zone diets – a study of the diet and lifestyle of communities worldwide where there’s a greater number of people living to be 100 years old, researchers found that fish was a regular feature of their diets.
Also, the Adventist Health Study 2 – one of the most important nutritional studies to date which has been following 96,000 Americans since 2002, confirms the Blue Zone findings and has demonstrated that ‘pesce-vegetarians’ live longer than vegans and meat-eaters! This study has also directly linked plant-based eating with the addition of fish, with a significantly reduced risk of cancers, heart disease and diabetes, when compared to the average American.
Interestingly, the most common complaints from people who have switched to vegan eating, particularly if their diet is also high in raw food, are digestive issues, like bloating, gas and stomach discomfort.
Hormonal imbalance, along with compromised immune function are also very common. This can be for a variety of reasons and isn’t to suggest that eating vegan is ‘bad’ for everyone, however, eating vegan clearly isn’t ‘right’ for everyone either. This is when it becomes paramount that you listen to your body and eat foods based on your biofeedback rather than sticking rigidly to a dietary label.
However, a factor that every vegan should be conscious of is Vitamin B12, which is not consumed in sufficient amounts through a vegan diet without supplementation. Essential for energy metabolism, cognitive function, mood regulation, stress management, heart health, digestion, cell reproduction and healthy pregnancy, a B12 deficiency can certainly be the trigger for serious hormonal and immune system imbalances if this is not addressed.
With this in mind, a pesce-vegan diet could be the solution that works for your body whilst providing the necessary B12, and is certainly worth experimenting with if you’ve experienced challenges with vegan eating.
Many people have found their body responds much better when fish is incorporated and a strict vegan diet relaxed, supported by research that clearly highlights the general health benefits of eating a plant-based diet with the addition of fish.
Wild, line caught and sustainably sourced fish is important. In every case where plant-based, fish-eating diets were proving to be the healthiest choice, fish was consumed on average 2-3 times weekly and was exclusive to fish caught locally, including cod, sardines and anchovies. Typical ‘Mediterranean’ fish, that also happens to be at a lower risk of mercury toxicity and other chemicals, as these fish are middle-of-the-food-chain species.
Of course, incorporating fish into your diet has to be done mindfully since it does carry mercury toxicity. Government advice suggests a limit of two servings of oily fish per week for any female as “pollutants found in oily fish may build up in the body and affect the future development of a baby in the womb.”
If you feel inspired to experiment with ‘pesce-vegan’ eating, do so mindfully – aware of how your body responds. And don’t supplement your vegan diet with farmed fish, quality is key – for the fish’s wellbeing and yours!
words by Laura Holland
Nutritionist, holistic wellbeing expert & author of Your BeUtiful Body