Catch of the Day

I’m on a pescetarian diet. Yes, you heard that right.

For those of you who have never heard of it, pescetarianism is what it says on the tin: a diet that revolves around fish. Etymologically, the word is the bastard child of the Italian “pesce” meaning fish, and the more commonly used “vegetarian” (or anything-ian to be perfectly honest). It means that, whilst I cannot cut out the flesh of all beasts from my diet, I can just about narrow it down to sea-dwelling beasties (watch out, whales and seals).

I’ve not gone down this route for ethical reasons (I’m not sure how that’s possible, anyway – killing is killing), but for health reasons. I’m sure it hasn’t passed your notice by now that I am some extreme glutton, and one of my first loves is red meat. But red meat is fatty, gloopy stuff – cut out the meat in your diet and notice a massive drop in calories, fat and all sorts of nastiness. Also, see a massive relief for your wallet, as I discovered today whilst doing my weekly grocery shop.

But fish is a different beast – all that swimming around must keep them in awfully good shape, because they are a very lean source of protein. Plus (extra bonus!) they are a fantastic source of a massive variety of vitamins and minerals. Oh, and those omega 3 thingies that you’ve been hearing (herring?) so much about. Well, some more than others, but we’ll get to that later.

I don’t eat enough fish usually anyway. It doesn’t help that Ben hates the stuff (so I never bother to buy or cook it), but incorporating fish into your diet is a tricky business. At this point, you might be shouting “no it isn’t – buy fish, eat fish!!”. You might think I’m a bit simple. But no – reading some articles online have made the whole business n-times more complicated.

Firstly – which fish? We’ve each got our favourites (and breaded&deep fried is off limits for the purpose of this exercise. It’s a diet, after all). Personally, I love salmon, but unfortunately, that’s one of the more expensive supermarket options. But there is a massive selection of different fishes widely available, and each is good for different reasons.

Broadly, fish can be separated into two main categories: oily, and white. Oily fish are those that contain the large amounts of omega-3 that everyone keeps telling us we need more of: this includes salmon, mackerel, herring (including kippers!), sardines, anchovies, trout and fresh tuna. You’ll notice that I’ve specified FRESH tuna, and that’s because (according to the Food Standards Agency), the process of canning tuna reduces its naturally occurring oil levels down to that of white fish.So, as well as tinned tuna, the white fishes include: haddock, cod, plaice, coley, pollock and Dover sole. Obviously, neither of these list is anywhere near complete, but those are just some of the more well known fish right there.

So far so good. White fish is lower in calories, but oily fish has essential fats. BUT WAIT. You can’t just toddle off and eat whatever fish you fancy every day of the week. Oh no. Oily fish contains low levels of pollutants (including dioxins and PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls)) – they have no immediate effect on health (don’t panic) but they can build up in the body over time. For that reason, it’s recommended you limit your intake of oily fish. But to how much? It depends on who you are. Most women should limit their weekly intake to two portions of oily fish, whilst men (and women who don’t plan on having kids) can have up to four portions a week.

And it gets worse! Crab, sea bream, sea bass, turbot, halibut and rock salmon have also been found to have similar levels of pollutants to oily fish, so you better keep an eye on them too.

And keep an eye on swordfish and shark (who really eats shark?) too – they have unusually high levels of mercury in them. Limit your intake of these bad boys to just once a week.

But it’s not all doom and gloom – don’t be frightened away from seafood altogether, as the benefits well outweigh the costs. You just need to be careful, and mix it up a bit – a wider variety of fish (and seafood! prawns, crab, etc. all good for you too) is good for you AND lessens the environmental impact, too (if that’s your bag).

So, the long and short of it is: fish is good. Fin. (ahha)

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3 thoughts on “Catch of the Day

  1. Good on you for eating a wide variety of fish – HOWEVER: I hope you’ve been watching Hugh’s Fish Fight on Channel 4? We already source our meat and veg from quite sustainable sources, (i.e. only line caught mackerel, cod, and tuna) however it’s only just come to light in his programmes that the majority of mass-caught fish is still sourced very irresponsibly. One programme showed a fishing setup in Ghana that supplied Tuna (skipjack) to Tesco, who then tinned it and labelled it stating that it was sourced responsibly and that it was “dolphin friendly”. The Ghanian fishermen admitted on camera that they caught sea turtles, dolphins, and sharks on a regular basis, and they just threw them back in the sea, dead. Also, watch out for prawns, scampi, and king prawns – about 60% of the worlds supply of these critters are farmed in Bangladesh, in salt-lake farms where the water is polluted with raw sewage, and the original land-owners have been forcefully removed and threatened with death if they return.

    It’s a grim old world out there!

    When we go to Scotland in September I wouldn’t mind going to the coast to see if we can find some locally sourced fishies and game if possible!

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    • When did my big bro suddenly become eco warrior?! I remember you and Alec making fun of me when I wore a Greenpeace t-shirt age ten (fair enough, it was a hand-me-down from you).

      Well aware of ethical issues – you should watch the Blue Planet series. Beautiful, but also quite tragic in places.

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  2. Eco Warrior!?!? I think you misunderstand – I’m all for animal welfare, that should be a given! Cluck cluck! Hint hint! But I’m not about to stop driving my car or wear clothes made of hemp, I’m basically not one for waste, whether it be “of life” (in the case of the ex battery hens) or “of resources” (in the case of the “discarded” fish that fishermen throw back), and I’d like to know that the food that I eat wasn’t sourced in a way that needlessly killed other animals or made people homeless in the process – that’s just sick!

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