“I am one more animal cruelty post on Facebook away from becoming a vegetarian!” Words that have come out of my mouth several times over the past year. The first few mentions were sort of in jest, but there was a truth beneath the surface of that comment.
I used to be of the mindset that I would never kill an animal for food myself, but since the meat is wrapped up in the supermarket and the damage has been done, I might as well just eat it, right? I think a lot of people feel this way. I started deviating from that way of thinking in 2015, which is when I started to pay very close attention to where my food was coming from; my meat had to be Certified Humane. My eggs? Cage-free. But after becoming more and more familiar with the abominable and traumatic things that go on in factory farms and slaughterhouses, I found myself enjoying meat less and less. Yep, including bacon. (Insert obligatory gasp from the audience.)
As a result, I’ve decided to step into the world of pescetarianism and I’m really, really excited about it.
What is pescetarianism? It’s not to be confused with presbyterianism, for one – hyuck hyuck. A pescetarian diet is very plant-based, but also includes fish/crustaceans/mollusks and the like. Considering the aforementioned relating to animal rights, I do want to stress that I am not trying to depreciate the life value of fish in any way. For me, pescetarianism is just a comfortable place where I can feel like I’m making a difference all while leading a healthier and more controlled lifestyle – because face it: chicken wings make me lose my mind – up in here, up in here.
How will this affect Killing Thyme? It pretty much won’t, so calm your butts! I am basically promising you, right now, that I will never turn into someone who tries to push their lifestyle or eating habits on others nor will I criticize those who eat beef, pork, and poultry (hello, my husband). Naturally I’ll be blogging about fish and vegetables more often than beef, pork, and poultry because I’ll be making so much of it, but my husband is still a meat-eater and I will still be catering to an omnivorous audience.
What I can’t promise is that you won’t develop an uncontrollable longing for delicious fish recipes…
Becoming a pescetarian isn’t as easy as saying, “OH HAI I’M NO LONGER EATING LAND ANIMALS, K?” I’ve been doing loads of homework! And when I say loads, I mean…it’s taking me weeks to write this. I keep reading, writing, editing, learning, erasing, rewording, getting hungry and leaving my computer…
Going “pesce” is tough. I have to really keep tabs on myself and make sure that I’m on top of my nutrients game and get enough iron, protein, and definitely B12 since I have a deficiency. However, based on what I’ve learned, it shouldn’t be a struggle – especially since I’m one of those gross people who takes great pleasure in consuming canned fish-like things – take, for instance, smoked oysters.
My poor husband. I’m going to reek.
With iron, an important thing to keep in mind is not only how much you are consuming, but how much your body is actually absorbing. There are two types of dietary iron: heme and non-heme. Our bodies very easily absorb heme iron, which is derived from hemoglobin and comes from red meats, fish, and poultry – which of course all originally contained hemoglobin. What creates an issue for people on a plant-based diet is that non-heme iron, which is derived from plant-based sources such as vegetables and legumes, isn’t as easily absorbed by our bodies. There is, however, a fix for this: pair your non-heme iron sources with Vitamin C. This is imperative. Vitamin C can increase iron absorption up to five times. FIVE TIMES! The best part is that it isn’t rocket science. (Like okay, it’s food and body science, but I’m sure rocket science is way more complex.) We’re already pairing a lot of these foods without even realizing it – like beans and salsa, or lemon-y greens and beans! Therefor it is not necessary to get all creative and become a food pairing genius to figure this stuff out. Additionally, though some believe it a myth, using a cast iron skillet will absolutely increase iron absorption – especially when cooking a Vitamin C rich food. It looks like I’ll be sautéing my tomatoes in my cast iron from now on.
Many people hold beef and chicken above fish for a good source of iron, but check out these comparisons.
Sources of heme iron with 3.5 milligrams or more per serving:
- 3 ounces of beef or chicken liver
- 3 ounces of clams, mollusks, or mussels
- 3 ounces of oysters
Sources of heme iron with 2.1 milligrams or more per serving:
- 3 ounces of cooked beef
- 3 ounces of canned sardines, canned in oil
- 3 ounces of cooked turkey
Sources of heme iron with 0.7 milligrams or more per serving:
- 3 ounces of chicken
- 3 ounces of halibut, haddock, perch, salmon, or tuna
- 3 ounces of ham
- 3 ounces of veal
Let’s not forget iron rich vegetables. This is how people on a plant-based diet do it: tomatoes, broccoli, peas, brussels sprouts, spinach, and kale – all lovely things.
So, as far as getting a sufficient supply of iron goes, I think pescetarianism’s got me covered.
Protein doesn’t have to be an issue either. People on strict plant-based diets get the majority of their protein from the following:
- Black beans
- Nuts/nut butters
- + other legumes and various grains
Add to that the protein you can get from the following pescetarian-friendly eats:
- Greek yogurt
- various cheeses
- sockeye salmon
Now, what I need to pay the closest attention to is my B12 intake. Even a slight deficiency can result in anemia, fatigue, mania, and depression, whereas a longterm deficiency is extreme serious bizz and can cause permanent damage to the brain and central nervous system – no bueno. Though Vitamin B12 can really only be constructed by bacteria and can only be found in animal products naturally, synthetic forms are easily available and added to many foods like these delicious and nutritious cereals.
As a pescetarian, I can also take advantage of these sources:
- Cooked clams, oysters, and mussels
- Smoked salmon
- Canned Sardines
- Crab, Crayfish, Shrimp, Lobster
- Fortified soy products
- Fortified cereals
In addition to it seeming pretty easy to get a proper amount of nutrients, fish is just healthier than red meat. There is a strong connection between fish consumption and a decreased risk of several forms of cancer and cardiovascular diseases. Furthermore, it can reduce the risk of stroke, diabetes, osteoporosis, arthritis, and high blood pressure.
Planning for pescetarianism has been a lot of fun and has really amped me up for my new journey. Despite starting this in the new year, it’s not a tacky “resolution” – I just think it’s a convenient time to press the reset button because the holidays are full of indulgent foods and high calorie beverages. By the time it’s over, I’m ready to stop being a glutton and start anew. I also thought it would be wise to give myself some time to say goodbye to some of my favorites – chicken wings, medium rare steaks, pepperoni on pizza, etc.
Goodbye to you, goodbye to everything that I knew…