It is hard to believe that I am coming up on my 35-year anniversary of being plant-based. During the course of that 35 years, I did try being a Vegan but the majority of the time I was a Ovolactovegetarian. In the last two years, I've become a pescatarian. It is estimated that there are 9 million Americans who are vegan, which is considered to be an overall healthy choice worldwide. While there are several drawbacks to be in a strict vegetarian, as I have learned in the past, I truly found that being a pescatarian today is the healthiest I've been in my entire life.
So, what is a pescatarian? Pescatarian means that you do not consume meat but are primarily plant-based with Fish. My research over the years has shown me that EFA (essential fatty acids) which include omega-3 and DHA are essential not only for brain function, cognition, cardiovascular health, joint mobility and hormone levels, but also can reduce inflammation that may be on joints, ligaments and nervous system at the same time.
Most people that I have met or talked to over the years became a vegetarian for health reasons (Including myself) and a few for some ethical considerations for animals but primarily they just want to be and feel healthier. Many of the teenagers that I see in my Chiropractic practice today try to be a vegetarian but mostly consume carbohydrates and dairy products which I truly feel creates quite a bit of digestion problems, sugar imbalances (complex Carbs) and hormone irregularities based upon all of the dairy and starchy carbohydrates they consume. I grew up in a German/Italian Catholic family where most our family style food was focused on pasta, milk, cheeses, meats and breads with vegetables. I began my vegetarian the summer of 1989. This was quite a shock to my family with that German Italian heritage and my father thought I should just move to California. My parents and grandparents that I would be not be able to eat anything on the table, I learned to adapt and change without upsetting them and just eat everything besides the meat and tried to find healthier ways to get that essential protein in my diet. Which back then, it was quite unheard of to get a hold of veggie burgers. Lentil beans and eggs with a little dairy became a main part of my protein lifestyle.
My personal research, regular blood testing and extensive reading showed that vegetarians need to be a vegetarian marine based in order to be healthy. Contrary to popular belief, you simply cannot obtain all the DHA you need from plant sources. Plant-based omega-3 (alpha-linolenic acid or ALA) has 18 carbons whereas marine-based omega-3s (DHA and eicosapentaenoic acid or EPA) have 22 and 20 respectively. EPA and DHA are very structural elements and more than 90% of the omega-3 found in the brain tissue is DHA which suggest how important a healthy neurological function is. Although the body can convert some of the ALA found in plants to DHA, it is rare and more than only 5%. So, learn from my Vegan mistakes from the past and forgo the thinking you get the DHA from of flaxseed and Chia seeds and some leafy greens and walnuts.
My current diet consists of salmon, tuna, sardines, and herring once a week. These types of fish have some of the highest amount of EFA/DHA fat and with the consumption of each once a week has optimized my mental clarity, reduced my inflammation, improve joint mobility/range of motion, and decreased a lot of the chronic pain levels that I had from many injuries I had over the years. So, if you or a family member is considering being a vegan or an ovolactovegetarian learn from my 35 plus years of experience in the plant base world and just consume several servings of fish a week, along with some pure fish oil supplements and your body will be optimized for joint mobility, cardiovascular function and mental clarity for your entire future. Thanks for reading Dr. Joe.