Vegetarian vs. Pescetarian.

22 06 2009

When you cut out meat altogether, you need a very keen understanding of protein and how to get not only get the quantity you need but also the quality you need. That’s not a simple task if you’re eating strictly vegetarian. It’s possible to do, I give you that, but there is at least one thing that’s completely missing from a strict vegetarian diet that can lead to several health problems in the future.

What I’m talking about are omega 3 fatty acids and more specifically the longer chained omega 3 fatty acids found only in oily fish.

A vegetarian that also eats fish is called a “pescetarian.” The term pescetarian may be new to you but it’s used to describe a non-vegan just like “lacto” describes dairy eating vegetarians, “ovo” describes egg-eating vegetarians and “pollo” describes chicken eating vegetarians. I suppose there are even lactoovopollopescetarians too.

Anyway, many vegetarians rely on flaxseed oil for their omega 3 needs and even though flaxseed oil is an omega 3 oil, it’s not complete – it only contains ALA – and actually lacks the other seven family members.

Companies who sell flaxseed oil will tell you that ALA is an essential fatty acid that may convert to the other omega 3s. This is true, but studies show that your body can’t convert enough ALA to keep up with the demand for omega 3s like EPA and DHA. What your body needs and wants are “pre-formed” omega 3s and you won’t get this from flaxseed oil alone.

The omega 3 oils in fish provide all the healthy benefits associated with omega 3 fatty acids without a lengthy conversion process and it’s the only way they can get what their body really needs to lower cholesterol, prevent inflammation and elevate their moods.

And finally, on a side note, there are a lot of vegetarians who justify taking fish oil capsules over eating more fish. It’s a great alternative as long as they take a safe, balanced and complete omega 3 fish oil product and take it regularly.