A Fish Is Not a Vegetable!

Late­ly, lots of peo­ple have been claim­ing that seafood is an impor­tant part of a health-pro­mot­ing diet for human beings. Some of the hype comes from the seafood indus­try, and some of it comes from peo­ple who sim­ply want an excuse to eat seafood. In real­i­ty, the health ben­e­fits of the so-called pesc­etar­i­an diets (a veg­e­tar­i­an diet plus seafood) result from the fact that they include a lot more starch and veg­eta­bles than is cus­tom­ary in the stan­dard Amer­i­can diet, while exclud­ing some of the most dan­ger­ous ani­mal-based foods. The starch and veg­eta­bles are good for you. Avoid­ing meat and milk from mam­mals and meat and eggs from birds is good for you. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, the wine and seafood and olive oil in the “Mediter­ranean” diet do more harm than good.

It has always struck me as illog­i­cal for peo­ple to call them­selves veg­e­tar­i­an if they eat seafood, which is the gen­er­al term used to include edi­ble fish and shell­fish. (Yes, there are some edi­ble plants that grow in sea­wa­ter, but they’re gen­er­al­ly called sea veg­eta­bles rather than seafood.) Fish are not veg­eta­bles. They are ani­mals. So are shell­fish, a cat­e­go­ry that includes mol­lusks such as oys­ters and crus­taceans such as shrimp and lob­ster. If you are eat­ing ani­mals, you’re not veg­e­tar­i­an.

Many peo­ple eat fish because they are afraid that a pure­ly plant-based diet wouldn’t pro­vide enough pro­tein to main­tain their health. That’s non­sense. Pro­tein defi­cien­cy is sim­ply not a real con­cern. As long as you get enough calo­ries from any prac­ti­cal diet based on unre­fined plant foods, you will auto­mat­i­cal­ly get enough protein—unless you have some bizarre diges­tive or meta­bol­ic dis­ease.

Rather than wor­ry­ing about not get­ting enough pro­tein, most peo­ple should be wor­ried about the effects of eat­ing too much pro­tein. When you eat more pro­tein than you need, your body turns the excess amino acids to sug­ar, releas­ing tox­ic waste prod­ucts such as ammo­nia and sul­fu­ric acid. In con­trast, burn­ing car­bo­hy­drates and fats for ener­gy pro­duces just car­bon diox­ide and water. The tox­ic byprod­ucts of a high-pro­tein diet can harm the liv­er and kid­neys, as well as pro­mot­ing osteo­poro­sis. One study showed that peo­ple from the North Slope of Alas­ka had high rates of bone loss as a result of their high-pro­tein diet, even though their cal­ci­um intake was high because they were eat­ing fish bones.

Seafood is ani­mal tis­sue, and it has the same faults as any oth­er ani­mal tis­sue. It con­tains cho­les­terol, too much pro­tein and fat, and no starch or fiber. Fish and oth­er sea crea­tures don’t pro­vide any essen­tial nutri­ents that you can’t eas­i­ly get from oth­er sources. Plants con­tain all of the nutri­ents that are essen­tial in human nutri­tion except for vit­a­min D (which you get from sun­shine) and vit­a­min B12 (which comes from bac­te­ria). Even the omega 3 fat­ty acids in fish oil came from the plants that were at the bot­tom of the fish’s food chain.

Anoth­er prob­lem with ani­mal tis­sue, includ­ing seafood, is the buildup of tox­ic sub­stances, includ­ing heavy met­als and fat-sol­u­ble chem­i­cals such as diox­in. This prob­lem is called bioac­cu­mu­la­tion. The high­er up in the food chain an ani­mal is, the worse this prob­lem tends to be. You can avoid this prob­lem by eat­ing plants instead of ani­mals.

In short, the hype about a “pesc­etar­i­an” diet is just hype. Peo­ple are bet­ter off just eat­ing plants.

Pho­to by Pardee Ave.

One thought on “A Fish Is Not a Vegetable!”

  1. I agree. We also need to be clear that the build up of tox­ic sub­stances in any of our foods, includ­ing veg­eta­bles and fruit, is bad. We can­not assume just because we are vegans/vegetarians that we are auto­mat­i­cal­ly free from tox­ins. Organ­ic farm­ing and strict reg­u­la­tion of those farms is required.

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