A 2008 study on the omega-6-to-omega-3 fatty acid ratio in fish discovered that tilapia has a much higher inflammatory ratio in omega-6 fatty acids. The inflammatory effects of tilapia were found to be worse than those of bacon and hamburgers, according to the researchers. This comment sparked a media outcry that tilapia is harmful to health.
There is also concern about how tilapia is raised, its contamination, and its environmental impact. Regardless of what the media has said about tilapia in the past, here’s everything you need to know about its nutrition, health benefits, and risks.
Tilapia is a light-tasting white fish that includes several different species. A 3.5-ounce serving of cooked tilapia has:
- Calories: 127
- Protein: 26 g
- Carbohydrates: 0 g
- Total Fat: 2.6 g
- Saturated Fat: 0.9 g
- Selenium: 99% daily value (DV)
- Vitamin B3 (niacin): 29% DV
- Vitamin D: 18% DV
Tilapia is a great source of protein, it’s low in fat and high in important nutrients like vitamin D, selenium, and vitamin B3. Eating this white fish is a great way to meet the goal of two servings of fish per week, per the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
While tilapia doesn’t have as many omega-3 fatty acids as salmon, you can get around 15% of your daily value from one 3.5-ounce serving. Eating tilapia can help you get your omega-3s without the strong “fishy” taste of salmon if you don’t enjoy it.
Omega-6 fatty acids have a bad rep for causing inflammation since some of them can get converted into arachidonic acid in the body, which leads to inflammation that promotes heart disease. But, not all omega-6 fatty acids lead to inflammation. In fact, omega-6 fatty acids help to calm inflammation, prevent blood clots from forming and can help to lower triglycerides in the blood.
Safety and sustainability of tilapia
For years, tilapia brought to mind farms of dirty water packed to the brim with sick fish. According to the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch, this may only be true of farmed fish from China. Overcrowded environments and dirty water is breeding grounds for disease, and there has been controversy in the past over illegal antibiotic use at tilapia farms in China.
The Seafood Watch also recommends buying tilapia that’s been farmed in Peru in raceways and Ecuador in ponds and any that’s been certified by the Aquaculture Stewardship Council, Best Aquaculture Practices, or Naturland.
Should you eat tilapia?
Tilapia can be a healthy part of your diet, especially if eating stronger-tasting seafood isn’t as appetizing. It’s budget-friendly, easy to prepare, and highly nutritious. Just be sure to buy your tilapia from a reputable source to avoid potential contaminants.