Do vegetarians eat fish sauce? (5 vegetable substitutes)

In this article, we will answer the following question: Do vegetarians eat fish sauce? We will talk about 5 vegetable subtitles for fish and fish products. If you are a vegetarian and want to still get all the benefits from fish meat, keep reading. 

Do vegetarians eat fish sauce?

Vegetarians do not eat fish sauce or other fish and meat products, whose proteins are replaced by other proteins of vegetable origin, which can be found in tofu and soybeans, for example (1).

If you are a vegetarian and have an interest in Thai cuisine, you should find an alternative to fish sauce. It is an essential ingredient, widely used in such cuisine, essential since it offers the peculiar salty aspect; one of the four essential flavours of Thai cuisine: salty, sweet, sour/sour and bitter.

Also, the fish sauce not only gives a salty taste but also the umami flavour and depth of seasoning are difficult to recreate with plant ingredients. The recommended substitute for the fish sauce is soy sauce, although while it gives us the salty aspect and umami, it does not offer us the deep, earthy character of the original fish sauce.

Fish sauce is a clear brown liquid produced by spontaneous fermentation of diverse fish such as anchovies, sardines, and menhaden. During fermentation, protein hydrolysis is caused by endogenous proteinases in the fish muscle and digestive tract as well as proteases produced by halophilic bacteria. The species most commonly used for fish sauce production is Indian anchovy (Stolephorus spp.) (2). 

The number of people buying meat substitutes (such as soya-based products) and vegetable spreads has grown globally between 2012 and 2016. According to global statistics in 2016, a vegetarian diet was followed by 19% of respondents in the Asia Pacific region, 16% in Africa/Middle East, 8% in Latin America, 6% in North America, and 5% in Europe (1).

Vegetable substitutes for fish and fish products

Fish undoubtedly has an interesting supply of vitamins, proteins, minerals and fats that are very appropriate for the body. But all of them can be substituted with plant foods. Let’s see it:

  1. Proteins of plant origin – Fish provides protein. Protein is essential for the formation, repair and maintenance of body tissues, for the proper functioning of hormones, the transport of oxygen and nutrients in the blood to the cells, etc. They serve as the major structural component of muscle and other tissues in the body. In addition, they are used to produce hormones, enzymes and hemoglobin (3).

In the plant world, we find proteins in almost all foods contain protein and generally all proteins have some of the 20 amino acids present, in different amounts. 

Vegetable examples that are full protein foods are quinoa, amaranth, sunflower, hemp seeds, soybeans, and spirulina. You might think that to allow amino acids to work together in the body they have to be consumed in the same meal but this is not true. And, all plant foods contain protein, to a greater or lesser extent (4).

  1. Vitamin A, Vitamin B and Vitamin D – Vitamin A is important to prevent cancer (it is an antioxidant), to improve our skin, hair and eyes, and strengthen the immune system. Some plant-based sources are Paprika, Red Pepper, Cayenne Pepper, Chili Powder, Sweet Potato (Sweet Potato), Carrots, and Leafy Green Vegetables (5).

Vitamin B is essential for transporting energy to cells and nervous tissue, for cardiovascular health and the nervous system. Plant-based sources are legumes, tree nuts, peanuts or peanut butter, tahini, or muesli (6).

Vitamin D is important for our brain, bones and teeth and muscle cells. Its deficiency is also strongly correlated with the occurrence of neurodegenerative disorders (7). Plant-based foods with this contribution: sun, fortified plant milks, supplement if deficient (8)..

  1. Minerals: Calcium, Iodine and Zinc – Among them, calcium (soy, spinach, cabbage or watercress, broccoli, etc.), , iodine (algae, iodized salt.), magnesium ( green vegetables, nuts, Spinach, legumes, seeds, whole grains, avocado) and zinc (peanuts or peanut butter, tahini or sesame paste, nuts, whole grains, legumes, soy food), all of them essential for the body (8,9).
  2. Healthy fats – Fish is rich in unsaturated fats, that is, the good fats. Unsaturated fats help reduce the level of cholesterol in the blood, which protects us from heart disease. Vegetable oils: such as virgin olive oil, or sunflower, soy, corn or peanut oils. Fruits: avocado stands out above all, rich in oleic acid (8).
  3. Omega 3 – Fish contains the most omega-3 fatty acid from all the food available to us. Omega 3 is anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant and cardioprotective, therefore, we cannot stop including it in our diet (10). A plant source is algae. 

We know that it is mainly found in fish, but if you are one of those who do not consume much fish or if you are a vegetarian, we will tell you what are the main sources of omega 3 in the plant world (11):

  • Chia seeds: contain about 4 grams of omega 3 per 100 grams.
  • Canola oil: It has about 9-11 grams of omega 3 per 100 grams.
  • Soybean oil: it has 6 grams of omega 3 for every 100 grams of product consumed.
  • Nuts: 3-6% of its total fats are represented by omega 3, which indicates that the amount we can consume of this fatty acid through a portion of walnuts is around 1 gram, a not very significant contribution
  • Walnut oil: contains 10.4% omega 3 in its composition, so one tablespoon offers us 1.35 grams of linolenic fatty acid.
  • Oatmeal: provides about 1.4 grams of omega 3 per 100 grams and is among cereals, the main source of this fatty acid.

These are the main sources of omega 3 in the vegetable world, as we can see, olive oil is not a significant source of this type of fat, since it does not reach 1% of omega 3 in its composition. Every 100 g of olive oil contains the following fatty acids: monounsaturated fatty acids/MUFA 73.3 g (n-9 oleic acid 18:1); saturated fatty acids/SFA 13.5 g (16:0 palmitic acid); polyunsaturated fatty acids/PUFA 7.9 g (n-6 linoleic acid/LA 18:2 and n-3 alpha-linolenic acid/ALA 18:3) (12).

You know, if you eat little fish or are a vegetarian but you don’t want to stop including alpha-linolenic acid, this healthy fat, in your daily diet, you can add seeds or some of the aforementioned oils to your meals to get omega 3.

Other FAQs about Sauces which you may be interested in.

Does Worcestershire sauce have to be refrigerated after opening?

Can you leave out fish sauce?

Can you mix soy sauce and fish sauce?

The bottom line

In this article, we answered the following question: Do vegetarians eat fish sauce? We talked about 5 vegetable subtitles for fish and fish products.

Since vegetarians do not eat fish meat, they cannot use fish sauce either. The most common alternative is to use soy sauce to obtain the umami taste. Fish undoubtedly has an interesting supply of vitamins, proteins, minerals and fats that are very appropriate for the body. But all of them can be substituted with plant foods!

If you have any questions or comments on the content, please let us know!


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