Does a seafood-based diet make sense for you?

Will trading in your carnivorous eating habits for a pescatarian lifestyle automatically place you on track for improving your health?

Dr. Senora Nelson, a family medicine physician at Advocate Trinity Hospital, in Chicago, says not necessarily. It all depends on the type and the amount of seafood you eat.

“Many people believe the pescatarian diet is one of the healthiest ways to eat,” Dr. Nelson says, adding that fish and shellfish contain nutrients that are good for heart health, brain function and cancer prevention. Yet, “despite the many health benefits to eating seafood, I recommend consuming it no more than three times a week.”

Eating fish and shellfish two-to-three times a day, every day, can outweigh seafood’s health benefits by increasing your exposure to toxic mercury. When presented in high levels, mercury can cause neurological health risks, including vision problems, impaired hearing, speech and coordination in adults, and developmental delays in children. On the other hand, researchers saymoderate consumption of seafood is not linked to brain neuropathology.

“When it comes to food choices, moderation is usually the standard. Sticking to a plant-based diet supplemented by sustainable seafood – like a Mediterranean diet – is the healthiest way to adopt and maintain a pescatarian lifestyle,” Dr. Nelson says.

In addition to eating a maximum of three servings of baked, poached or lightly grilled seafood a week, Dr. Nelson suggests choosing smaller, wild-caught fish species and shellfish that typically have lower mercury levels and higher omega-3 levels, including:

If you are a pescatarian who eats fish or shellfish several times a day, every day, Dr. Nelson suggests substituting one or more daily seafood servings with tofu, nuts, mushrooms, beans or legumes, which are also good sources of protein.