Is Tilapia Healthy or Bad for You?

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Fish is taken into account a healthy source of protein as a result of it’s lean, straightforward to digest, and stuffed with wholesome omega-Three fatty acids and different vital minerals.

Nevertheless, the darkish facet of the story is that about 50% of the fish we eat are factory farmed, and tilapia takes a fair proportion of that share. Based on Seafood Well being Details, it was the fourth most consumed fish in the USA in 2017.

Not surprisingly, tilapia can be one of many least expensive sorts of fish available on the market. Which additionally would possibly make you marvel —  may one thing so low-cost really be wholesome?

What Is Tilapia?

Tilapia is a tropical fish and a member of the Cichlid household. This fish is native to Africa and the Center East, although a lot of the tilapia you discover within the shops originate from fish farms. In truth, over 135 nations have tilapia farms, with China main the pack (and supplying on to the U.S.)

Many individuals get pleasure from consuming tilapia as a result of it’s such a mild-tasting white fish. It’s straightforward to prepare dinner and works nice in tacos and different straightforward recipes.

Tilapia is a straightforward fish to farm because it eats an inexpensive food regimen, grows shortly, and is exceptionally hardy. Sadly, this makes tilapia a straightforward fish to farm with poor practices.

Why Tilapia Is Farmed

It’s wonderful how adaptable the tilapia fish will be. It may well tolerate various concentrations of salt, and excessive focus of pesticides, treatment residues, and fertilizers. Such circumstances usually trigger an overgrowth of algae, which considerably reduces the quantity of oxygen within the water. That is typically an issue for different fish, however tilapia can survive these harsher circumstances.

Tilapia feeds totally on algae and marine planktons, though it will possibly eat almost something, together with corn and soy. This may very well be an issue, as their food regimen may easily contain GMOs or pesticides.

Since it’s a tropical freshwater fish, tilapia can’t survive in chilly water. Due to this fact, the vast majority of tilapia consumed within the U.S. is farmed in Asia.

The Risks of Tilapia Farming

China is the most important exporter of farmed fish, which is an issue attributable to water air pollution. These farms additionally make ample use of pesticides, antibiotics, and different chemical compounds to maintain fish alive and maximize revenue.

Sadly, the FDA doesn’t do an excessive amount of to verify the tilapia is secure. They solely pattern about 1-2% of imported seafood to display for unlawful chemical compounds which might be banned in the USA. Among the many fish shipments examined, the rejection fee for tilapia is excessive: as much as 82% in 2014.

The tilapia fish that move (or escape) the FDA testing should still comprise questionable medication or different residues, even when it’s not from China. A research of tilapia coming from South America discovered that two out of three samples contained malachite inexperienced and gentian violet, each of that are identified to trigger most cancers. All samples contained not less than one heavy steel, like mercury, cadmium, arsenic, or lead.

Though the degrees are beneath FDA security limits, it will possibly nonetheless be dangerous in the long term. I like to recommend avoiding imported tilapia because you simply can’t know what’s in them.

Are There Reliable Sources of Tilapia?

Type of. In the event you actually need to eat tilapia, keep on with the sort raised within the U.S.

Home fisheries are a significantly better guess as a result of they’re extra strictly regulated for cleanliness. On the draw back, they are usually costlier than imported tilapia.

When executed appropriately, farmed tilapia will not be the worst to your well being. They’re fed vegetarian diets and farmed for comparatively brief intervals of time, which means that there’s much less room for biomagnification (the method wherein poisonous pollution accumulate up the meals chain). If the fish is correctly farmed and fed with high quality feed, then it needs to be much less polluted than the fish that eat different fish.

Nevertheless, we all know that’s not at all times the case! In the event you select to sometimes eat tilapia, you need to supply it from respected corporations. Ensure that in addition they use third get together testing to make sure that the fish is secure for human consumption.

Is Tilapia Wholesome?

This can be a sophisticated query to reply. There are a couple of good well being advantages of this common fish, particularly its excessive protein content material and low calorie rely. Tilapia additionally could be very low in fats. Per 100 grams, it clocks in at just below two grams of fats. But it surely’s exactly that small quantity of fats that carries its points.

It’s vital to get your omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids in a healthy balance. An excessive amount of omega-6 fatty acids can result in irritation, which worsens issues like coronary heart illness. Sadly, tilapia incorporates an elevated quantity of omega-6s and never sufficient omega-3s to be thought-about wholesome.

Briefly, you’re higher off consuming grass-fed beef or rooster to get your coronary heart wholesome omega-Three fat.

What In regards to the Mercury in Tilapia?

Most individuals are involved about mercury ranges in seafood, particularly pregnant ladies.

The seafood with the very best quantities of mercury is often on the prime of the meals chain, like swordfish and marlin. Nevertheless, farmed fish like tilapia are inclined to have mercury as properly as a result of poor circumstances that it’s raised in.

The mercury content material in tilapia won’t be as regarding as the degrees present in sure kinds of wild seafood. One solution to offset this threat is to be sure to’re getting sufficient selenium. Methylmercury binds to selenium within the physique, and when the mercury ranges are increased than the nutrient selenium, all kinds of issues can happen.

Thankfully, most seafood contains selenium in excessive sufficient quantities, so it should assist your physique take care of the results of the mercury.

You can even intention to get loads of wild-caught salmon in your food regimen, which is an unimaginable supply of selenium, amongst different vitamins.

Hearken to this podcast the place I sit down with the president of Important Selection Seafood and discuss mercury considerations in farm raised and wild seafood.

Higher Options to Tilapia

Thankfully, there’s loads of fish within the sea that has higher dietary profiles than tilapia.

Listed here are a couple of nice seafood decisions that beat tilapia nutritionally:

  • Sardines. In the event you’re in search of a sort of fish that rivals tilapia in protein, seize a can of sardines. They’re an awesome supply of omega-3s and are filled with nutritional vitamins and minerals like selenium, calcium, and vitamin D. Here’s how to make them taste better in the event you’re delicate to their robust scent. I get mine from Thrive Market.
  • Wild-caught salmon. Alaskan salmon is a good selection in the event you’re in search of a nutrient-dense various to sardines. We get ours (together with the 2 varieties listed beneath when in inventory) from Vital Choice.
  • Pink snapper. Much like tilapia, pink snapper is a low calorie, protein-rich selection. Simply make sure you restrict your consumption to some instances per 30 days, as it might comprise mercury that may very well be dangerous to pregnant ladies or youngsters.
  • Cod. This can be a good various in the event you’re trying to find a equally gentle, flaky fish. Attempt utilizing cod filets in these home made gluten-free fish sticks recipe!

The Backside Line

It’s best to keep away from tilapia due to its unhealthy farming practices, plus its potential to trigger irritation and disrupt your fatty acid steadiness. Since it’s a reasonably bland-tasting white fish, it’s straightforward to interchange it with one other extra nutritious, ideally wild-caught and fatty fish like salmon.

This text was medically reviewed by Dr. Jennifer Walker, an inside drugs doctor. As at all times, this isn’t private medical recommendation and we suggest that you just speak together with your physician or work with a physician at SteadyMD.

Do you eat tilapia? Are there higher options for cheap fish? Inform us within the feedback beneath!


  1. Babu, B., & Ozbay, G. (2013). Screening of Imported Tilapia Fillets for Heavy Metals and Veterinary Drug Residues in the Mid-Atlantic Region, USA. J Meals Course of Tech, 4(9), 1-7.
  2. Barboza, D. (2007). In China, Farming Fish in Toxic Waters. New York Occasions.
  3. Meals and Agriculture Group of the United Nations (2014). The State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture.
  4. Seafood Well being Details (2017). Overview of the U.S. Seafood Supply.
  5. Younger, Okay. (2009). Omega-6 (n-6) and omega-3 (n-3) fatty acids in tilapia and human health: a review. Worldwide journal of meals sciences and vitamin, 60(sup5), 203-211.

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