Both the Dietary Guidelines for Americans and the American College of Cardiology/American Heart Association guidelines endorse the Mediterranean diet as a heart-healthy eating plan. Furthermore, this way of eating is ranked highly for being rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins.
According to the 2020 U.S. News & World Report, this diet is associated with a lower risk of heart disease, diabetes, and other health problems (17). With this in mind, there’s no doubt that the traditional Mediterranean diet is beneficial.
But the traditional Mediterranean diet includes limited amounts of red meat and poultry; foods some people prefer to avoid. So, the Pesco-Mediterranean diet is known as an alternative. It emphasizes fish and seafood as primary protein sources, while minimizing red meat and poultry (11).
Here’s everything you need to know about the pesco-mediterranean diet meal plan, a lifestyle choice that combines the best of land and sea for optimal health.
What Is The Difference Between The Pesco Mediterranean Diet and Mediterranean Diet?
The difference between the pesco-mediterranean diet vs mediterranean diet is which types of animal protein are emphasized.
Here’s the thing; humans can benefit from animal protein. Sure, multiple studies have shown that a vegetarian or vegan diet can be very healthy. But there’s also a risk of nutrient deficiencies (especially vitamin B12) when eating exclusively a plant-based diet. Plus, not everyone wants to be so restricted.
So, instead of completely ditching animal protein, the Pesco-Mediterranean diet emphasizes fish and seafood as primary sources.
Why? Because some animal protein sources may be more beneficial to human health and have fewer risks than others.
Fish and seafood are excellent sources of omega-3 fatty acids, which have been linked to numerous health benefits such as reducing inflammation and improving heart health (14).
In addition, when cooked with EVOO (extra-virgin olive oil), seafood provides an extra source of heart-healthy monounsaturated fats (2).
On the other hand, red meat has been linked to various health issues such as increased risk of heart disease and certain cancers. This is especially true for processed red meat, which is often high in saturated fat and sodium (12).
By limiting red meat and replacing it with fish and seafood, the Pesco-Mediterranean diet may help to lower these health risks.
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What’s In a Pesco-Mediterranean Meal Plan?
A Pesco-Mediterranean meal plan is a hearty, healthy selection of delightful fare from both land and sea. Here’s a closer look at the key ingredients:
Fish and Seafood
These are prime protein sources in this diet, lauded for their rich Omega-3 fatty acid content. These fats are believed to reduce inflammation and improve heart health (10). Regular consumption of fish and seafood is associated with a lower risk of heart disease, improved mental health, and better sleep quality (14).
You can find plenty of pescatarian meal ideas in our post here.
EVOO (Extra Virgin Olive Oil)
EVOO is the primary source of added fat in the Pesco-Mediterranean diet. It’s high in monounsaturated fats, which are known to reduce bad cholesterol levels when they replace saturated fats in the diet, and provide vitamin E and antioxidant benefits (2).
Nuts like almonds, walnuts, and hazelnuts pack a punch of heart-healthy fats, fiber, and protein. They can aid in weight loss, help lower cholesterol and reduce inflammation when consumed in moderation (9).
Foods like beans, lentils, chickpeas, and peas are high in fiber and plant-based protein. Eating more of them may help lower blood pressure, reduce LDL cholesterol, and decrease blood sugar levels, contributing to heart health (7).
Fermented, Low-Fat Dairy Products
Yogurt and cheese offer probiotics that promote gut health and calcium for bone strength (3). They also provide essential vitamins and minerals, such as B12, a nutrient often lacking in plant-based diets.
While fermented, and low fat varieties are encouraged because of their health benefits, the Pesco-Mediterranean diet cookbook allows for moderate consumption of full-fat dairy products as well.
High in protein and nutrient-dense, eggs are an essential part of the diet. Studies suggest that moderate egg consumption does not increase heart disease risk in healthy individuals and can be part of a heart-healthy diet (15).
Foods like brown rice, oatmeal, and whole grain bread are high in fiber, aiding in digestion and satiety.
They also help manage weight and may reduce the risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes (18). Pesco-Mediterranean diet recipes may include whole grains as a side dish, or as part of a main course.
If you’re on a gluten-free Mediterranean diet you can still enjoy gluten-free whole grains like brown rice, quinoa, and buckwheat.
Fruits and Vegetables
A Pesco-Mediterranean diet is rich in fruits and vegetables, which provide essential vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fiber.
These nutrient-dense foods are also low in calories, making them a perfect addition to any meal or snack. Eating a variety of fruits and vegetables can reduce the risk of chronic diseases like heart disease, stroke, and certain types of cancer (4).
Herbs and Spices
The Pesco-Mediterranean diet encourages the use of herbs and spices in cooking, instead of salt or high-fat sauces.
These flavorful ingredients not only add bold tastes to meals but may also offer health benefits. Herbs and spices like basil, rosemary, turmeric, and ginger have anti-inflammatory properties and may support the immune system (5).
Beverages (Water, Coffee, Tea, Red Wine)
Water, unsweetened tea and coffee are recommended for hydration purposes. Both tea and coffee have the added benefits of antioxidants, which can protect against cell damage and promote heart health (6).
A moderate consumption of red wine is allowed for its potential heart-healthy benefits, thanks to its antioxidant properties and flavonoids (1). The recommended amount of red wine is no more than one glass per day for women and two glasses for men.
Is The Mediterranean Diet a Pescatarian Diet?
While the Mediterranean diet and the Pescatarian diet have similarities, they are not the same.
The Pescatarian diet is primarily vegetarian but includes fish and seafood as the main sources of protein.
Whereas the traditional Mediterranean diet is broad, and allows you to eat lean proteins like poultry, eggs, and dairy, along with occasional servings of red meat.
However, when we talk about the Pesco-Mediterranean diet, it is more like the Pescatarian diet, emphasizing fish and seafood as the primary protein sources and limiting red meat.
Is Pescatarian Healthier Than Mediterranean Diet?
It’s hard to say whether the Pescatarian diet is healthier than the Mediterranean diet, as both have their own unique benefits.
The Pescatarian diet, with its emphasis on plant-based foods and fish, may be linked to a lower risk of heart disease and other health issues.
On the other hand, the traditional Mediterranean diet allows for more variety in protein sources but also includes red meat, albeit in small amounts, which has been linked to health problems.
There are other factors to consider as well, such as overall dietary quality. For example, if you’re on a Pescatarian diet but mainly consume processed fish and seafood, it may not be as healthy as a whole-foods Mediterranean diet with moderate servings of lean proteins.
What makes a diet healthy is not just the types of food you eat but also the quality and variety.
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Can I Do Mediterranean Diet With Intermittent Fasting?
Yes, you can practice intermittent fasting while following the Mediterranean diet.
Intermittent fasting is an eating pattern that involves restricting food for specific periods, usually between 12-18 hours per day.
The Mediterranean diet can easily be incorporated into this eating pattern by focusing on nutrient-dense whole foods during your feeding window and limiting ultra processed and high-calorie foods.
You can also combine pesco-mediterranean diet with intermittent fasting.
The benefits of combining these two eating patterns may include:
Improved Heart Health: The Mediterranean diet is known for its heart-healthy food choices, and intermittent fasting might boost this benefit by reducing inflammation and improving insulin sensitivity (11).
Losing Weight and Keeping it Off: When you mix intermittent fasting with the Mediterranean diet, it theoretically means you eat less (because you’re fasting) and the food you do eat is healthy and low in calories. So, the pounds can start coming off and staying off (8).
Enhanced Cognitive Function: Both intermittent fasting and the Mediterranean diet have been suggested to support brain health, potentially reducing the risk of neurodegenerative diseases (16).
Increased Longevity: Some preliminary research suggests that the combination of intermittent fasting and a Mediterranean diet may contribute to a longer lifespan, potentially due to the antioxidant-rich foods and caloric restriction (13) (8).
Supercharge Your Metabolism: Intermittent fasting is thought to help to regulate metabolic health, and when combined with the balanced nutrition of the Mediterranean diet, may enhance overall metabolic functioning (13).
Healthy Eating Made Easy: Both the Mediterranean diet and fasting can help you eat mindfully and avoid unhealthy, ultra processed foods. You’ll not only feel better, but you’ll also develop a healthier relationship with your food .
That said, there are some potential concerns with combining these two eating patterns:
Getting Hungry: Intermittent fasting means you’ll be skipping meals. Some people might find this hard and end up feeling super hungry (and a little grumpy). Starting with short fasts, say Mediterranean diet 12:12 may help you overcome this challenge
Nutrient Deficiency: There’s a chance you might not get all the nutrients your body needs, especially if your feeding window is super short. Having a meal plan with a Mediterranean diet food list at hand can help you get all the nutrients you need.
Social Life Impact: With intermittent fasting, your social life might take a hit. Imagine having to pass on a late-night dinner with friends because it doesn’t fit with your eating schedule. Talk about FOMO.
Overeating Risk: If you’re starving by the time your feeding window comes around, there’s a chance you might overeat. It’s hard to keep it under control when you’re ravenous.
Not Suitable for Everyone: Some people, like pregnant or lactating women or those with certain medical conditions, shouldn’t fast without talking to a doctor first, or at all.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is Coffee or Tea Allowed on the Pesco Mediterranean Diet?
Absolutely, both coffee and tea are permitted on the Pesco Mediterranean diet. They are rich in antioxidants and may have numerous health benefits when consumed in moderation. Just remember to keep any added sugars or high-fat dairy products to a minimum to maintain the integrity of the diet.
What Is the Fastest Way to Lose Weight on the Pesco Mediterranean Diet?
The most effective way to lose weight on the Pesco Mediterranean diet is to combine it with regular exercise and portion control. This diet is rich in nutrient-dense and fiber-rich foods that can help you feel fuller longer, thus preventing overeating. Also, try incorporating more lean protein from fish and seafood, which has been associated with weight loss.
Why Is the Pesco Mediterranean Diet Not for Everyone?
While the Pesco Mediterranean diet has numerous potential health benefits, it might not suit everyone’s lifestyle or dietary preferences. For instance, individuals allergic to seafood or those who do not like fish might struggle with this diet. Additionally, vegetarians and vegans might not find this suitable due to the emphasis on fish as the primary protein source.
Are the 2 Most Recognized Ingredients in the Pesco Mediterranean Diet?
The two most recognized ingredients in the Pesco Mediterranean diet are fish and olive oil. Fish is the primary source of protein, promoting heart health due to its high omega-3 fatty acids content. Olive oil, used generously in Mediterranean cooking, is rich in monounsaturated fats and antioxidants, contributing to overall health and longevity.
The Bottom Line
In conclusion, the Pesco-Mediterranean diet is a heart-healthy eating plan that combines the best of land and sea. It emphasizes fish and seafood as primary protein sources and limits red meat, making it a variation on the traditional Mediterranean diet. While both the Pescatarian and Mediterranean diets have their own benefits, what makes a diet truly healthy is the overall dietary quality and variety of foods consumed.
This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!
- Contribution of Red Wine Consumption to Human Health Protection (2018,nih.gov)
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil: Lesson from Nutrigenomics (2019,nih.gov)
- Fermented Dairy Foods: Impact on Intestinal Microbiota and Health-Linked Biomarkers (2019,nih.gov)
- Fruit and vegetables (n,d,nidirect.gov.uk)
- Herbs (2021,betterhealth.vic.gov.au)
- Healthy Beverage Guidelines (n,d,harvard.edu)
- Healthy food trends – beans and legumes (2022,medlineplus.gov)
- Health Benefits of Mediterranean Diet (2019,nih.gov)
- Nuts and seeds (2023,betterhealth.vic.gov.au)
- Omega-3 fats – Good for your heart (2022,medlineplus.gov)
- Pesco-Mediterranean Diet, Intermittent Fasting May Lower Heart Disease Risk (2020,acc.org)
- Risk in Red Meat? (2012,nih.gov)
- Research on intermittent fasting shows health benefits (2020,nih.gov)
- Seafood and health: What you need to know? (2021,nih.gov)
- The Health Benefits of Egg Protein (2022,nih.gov)
- The Effects of Intermittent Fasting on Brain and Cognitive Function (2021,nih.gov)
- What Is the Mediterranean Diet, and How Can It Help You? (2023,usnews.com)
- Whole Grains Deliver on Health Benefits (2018,agresearchmag.ars.usda.gov)