Tilapia is a popular fish eaten by people around the world. Recently, concerns have flooded the internet as people have asked, is tilapia healthy?
Many are concerned that most commercial tilapia are farm raised and contain high levels of mercury. Others simply argue that tilapia doesn’t contain the high levels of fatty acids that make fish like tuna and salmon worth the risk for healthy adults.
What Is Tilapia?
The name tilapia refers to a large number of species of fish that are all in the cichlid family. There are over 100 known species of tilapia, some of which can be traced back to the ancient Egyptian diet. The tilapia is currently the 4th most consumed fish in the United States.
It is a mild tasting, easily farmed fish that is often very affordable for most families on a budget. When asking yourself, if it is tilapia healthy, you will want to refer to the information below when making your own decision.
Types of Tilapia Available
- The Nile Tilapia originates from the Nile River in Egypt. There it has been found for the last 4,000 years. In the last 20 years, this species has grown in popularity as a high protein, low fat food.
- From North Africa and the Middle East, the Blue Tilapia is now found widely in Florida’s waters. It can live in salt or freshwater, which makes it ideal for farming.
- The Mozambique Tilapia is native to Africa, but was introduced to the U.S. recently for sport fishing. This fish is easy to spot with its olive color and yellow underbelly.
Dangers of Tilapia
It is said that tilapia may have an unhealthy proportion of Omega-6 to Omega-3 fatty acids. This study was done comparing both farm raised and wild caught tilapia. This creates the following potential dangers that you will want to know about if you are wondering, is tilapia healthy?
- The particular ratio from tilapia is famous to have adverse effects on humans. These relate to inflammation and heart disease.
- Farmed fish can contain up to 10 times the amount of toxic chemicals that wild caught fish contain.
- Farm raised tilapia was found to contain harmful levels of pesticides and antibiotics.
- Tilapia have high levels of dioxin, a compound known to increase your risk for developing cancer significantly enough to put many healthcare professionals on the alarm.
- The Omega 6 fatty acids can increase your risk of developing Alzheimer’s.
Most of these dangers apply heavily to farm-raised tilapia. Therefore, you should know that finding wild-caught tilapia is rare in today’s food market. This means that the majority of tilapia available to the public has been raised on a farm and may be subject to the health concerns above.
Ending the Debate: Is Tilapia Healthy?
If you are trying to figure out the answer to the whether is tilapia healthy or not, first know that there are some health benefits to tilapia that have made it such a popular fish in the food industry. The benefits below apply to wild-caught tilapia, which can be difficult to find unless you know which markets near you carry it.
- Tilapia is low fat and high protein, which can benefit people trying to increase their protein intake.
- This fish also has high levels of potassium, which many Americans need to supplement in their diets.
- The protein level in tilapia is beneficial to those trying to lose weight as it is low calorie in addition to low fat.
- Phosphorous is available in tilapia in amounts which are significant enough to positively impact bone health when you consume it in moderation.
- Research suggests that wild-caught tilapia may actually help improve brain health in comparison to its farm-raised counterpart.
- Omega 6 fatty acids may be beneficial for those with healthy hearts who are trying to build and maintain muscle mass (i.e., bodybuilders).
Tilapia is a huge part of the global fish industry. Nile Tilapia farming alone accounts for over 70% of the world’s tilapia production. A decrease in tilapia farming due to health concerns could devastate millions of fish farmers around the world. This is unless those farmers receive support to transition to another type of fish farming. Salmon and tuna farming are more expensive and time consuming than tilapia farming. Yet, the health benefits may necessitate a switch for many fisheries in the coming years. In this regard, is tilapia healthy for the fish industry? Undeniably so.
In the meantime, regulations regarding safe fish farming practices need to a global scale evaluation. Also, more conclusive research is necessary to validate or invalidate recent tilapia health concerns. The Marine Stewardship Council verifies certain wild varieties of fish, including tilapia. If you limit your searches to farm fish, you should try to find fish that are hormone, antibiotic, and pesticide free.
Is tilapia healthy for you? If you would rather steer clear of tilapia for the time being while you ponder this question, there are some great alternatives:
- US Haddock;
- California Halibut;
- Pacific Halibut;
- Alaskan Cod.
The answer to is tilapia healthy? can be a difficult one to find, with conflicting research and a lack of conclusive studies on the risks and benefits compared to other fish and meats. Ultimately, your decision regarding tilapia in your diet should come after consulting with your healthcare provider. They will give you the best suggestion for on your personal health and nutritional needs.
We would love to hear what you think about the health benefits of tilapia in the comments below! Let us know about your experiences with this unique fish.