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Nov 21

What Is the Pesco Mediterranean Diet? We Asked a Nutritionist – Yahoo Lifestyle

When you hear the word diet, calorie-counting and food restrictions may come to mind. But thats not the case with the Mediterranean diet, a meal plan that focuses on whole grains, fresh produce, lean meats and healthy fats. Now, its time youve met its second iteration, the pesco Mediterranean diet, which is essentially the same as the O.G., only it prioritizes fish as a main source of protein. We asked Dr. Felicia Stoler, DCN, a registered dietician, nutritionist and exercise physiologist, for all the deets on the flexible diet plan. (Spoiler: Its easier to stick to than you may think.)

RELATED: 26 Healthy Mediterranean Diet Snacks to Keep You Full All Day

As the name suggests, the pesco Mediterranean diet focuses on proteins from fishin addition to nuts, seeds, legumes and other plants, explains Stoler. Those on the pesco Mediterranean diet plan can also eat dairy (read: mostly low-fat dairy, rather than hard cheeses and butter, which are high in saturated fat and sodium) and eggs, just like those on the standard Mediterranean diet. Like its predecessor, healthy fats, fresh fruits and veggies, whole grains and protein-rich plant-based foods are the bulk of what youll eat on the pesco Mediterranean diet.

To pull it off without getting bored, diversifying the seafood you eat is crucial. We always think salmon, salmon, salmon, sometimes tuna; but theres plenty in between, and different types of water creatures have varying nutrient levels, explains Stoler. In Europe, the diets around the Mediterranean include seafood and fish like sardines, anchovies, canned fish, salted fish.

In other words, if youre going to get sick of eating salmon and shrimp on the daily and you have no interest in casting a wider net (pun intended), the pesco Mediterranean diet may get old fast, and you likely wont stick to it.

The pesco Mediterranean diet stars fish as the main source of protein, versus chicken, beef and pork. Its great for people who already like fish, shellfish and seafood in general. If you dont, cutting yourself off from other animal proteins would likely make sticking to the diet more difficult (and you might have a hard time staying full if you arent diligent about consuming other protein-rich, plant-based foods).

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If fish isnt your thing, the regular Mediterranean diet is likely a better choice for you (although theyre essentially identical, minus the pesco iteration having a specific source of animal protein). It focuses on foods that are found in the Mediterranean (as you might have guessed), so youll be able to eat a lot of produce, grains, nuts and other ingredients that are popular in Greece, Italy, Israel and the Middle East. Were talking Greek yogurt, chickpeas, quinoa, walnuts, feta cheese, a whole lot of olive oilyou get the picture. Red meat isnt totally off the table, but its meant to be eaten sparingly; the same goes for refined sugars, saturated fats and processed foods. You should also be mindful of the carbs youre consuming, taking care to choose complex carbohydrates (like barley, quinoa and brown rice) instead of pasta, white bread, baked goods and the like, says David Becker, a board-certified cardiologist at Chestnut Hill Temple Cardiology.

In the end, one diet isnt necessarily better than the other. There are many people, myself included, who feel that encouraging high consumption of fish [and] seafoodwhile great for your healthis not sustainable, especially knowing that weve been overfishing the oceans and seas, explains Stoler. There are pollutants and contaminants in these waters, and the delicate balance of the aquaculture is at risk, [as well as] the overall health of the planet. (On that note, keep in mind that buying farm-raised fish is a more sustainable choice than wild-caught.)

So, before you pigeonhole yourself into eating seven salmon fillets a week, consider the environment and additional sources of plant-based protein, like nuts, beans and tofu.

Hellooo, omega-3 fatty acids, aka essential fats that can reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke, lower your blood pressure and triglycerides and assist in reducing inflammation. Omega-3s are also rich in vitamin D and selenium, protect the heart from erratic cardiac issues, improve blood vessel function and can even aid in prenatal and postnatal neurological development.

Since our bodies dont produce omega-3s autonomously, its imperative that we consume them through food or supplementsand fish are packed with them. One to two three-ounce servings of fatty fish a week can reduce your risk of fatal heart disease by 36 percent, says the American Heart Association (AHA). Then again, fish are far from the only source of omega-3s out there. Omega-3 fatty acids can be found in chia, walnuts, hemp, algae oil and more, says Stoler.

Fish has also been scientifically proven to work wonders for your brain. Research shows that eating baked or broiled fish at least once a week can significantly lower your risk of Alzheimers disease, according to the Fisher Center for Alzheimers Research Foundation. Fish is also known to reduce the risk of many chronic illnesses, lower triglycerides, reduce blood clotting, lower your stroke risk and aid with irregular heartbeats, says the Mayo Clinic. Due to all these perks, its recommended by the AHA that we have two servings of fatty fish a week (either 3 ounces cooked or a cup of flaked fish). On the pesco Mediterranean diet, youre likely going to consume even more per week.

If you still need convincing, the Mediterranean diet can even possibly boost your mood, meaning its fish-filled cousin can, too. In a 2017 study by BMC Medicine, researchers monitored a group of people with depression for 12 weeks as they tried the meal plan. By the end of the study, most participants reported a major improvement in their symptoms. Scientists have also noted a connection between fish and anxiety reduction. While a definite explanation hasnt been discovered, researchers believe omega-3s can travel to the brain easily and positively communicate with mood-regulating molecules and neurotransmitters, says JAMA Network.

Fish and other popular Mediterranean diet foods have also been found to improve headaches and migraines. If you suffer from chronic headaches, they may be triggered by nutritional deficiencies, says Maria Marlow, integrative nutrition health coach and author of The Real Food Grocery Guide. More magnesium (which is found in leafy greens, beans, nuts and seeds), riboflavin (which is found in broccoli, eggs and almonds) and omega-3s can counteract those deficiencies.

And of course, a major benefit of this diet plan is that theres no calorie counting required and no food groups are totally off limits (although refined sugars are largely avoided, which is inherently good for your health). The pesco Mediterranean or regular Mediterranean diets could be easy ways for you to eat more nutritiously (or even possibly lose weight) without feeling like youre depriving yourself.

There are no risks, Stoler says, but the underlying assumption is that an individual likes fish and seafood. I also look at sustainability, availability, price and budgetthe [pesco Mediterranean diet] can be more expensive and out of reach for people.

The TL;DR? If youre all about fish and seafood and can afford buying the proper groceries, the pesco Mediterranean diet could be a solid fit for you. In the end, its all about finding a meal plan that works for your lifestylethats crucial for actually committing to this new way of eating for the long haul and changing your habits for the better.

I still hold firm in suggesting that people develop eating behaviors that they can stick to with a priority on eating more plant-based [foods] and less processed [foods], concludes Stoler. She also recommends minding your portion sizes, eating foods closer to the way theyre found in nature and trying to reduce food waste, no matter what diet youre on.

RELATED: 14 Mediterranean Diet Fish Recipes That Are Ready in No Time

What Is the Pesco Mediterranean Diet? We Asked a Nutritionist - Yahoo Lifestyle

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