Is Tilapia Bad for You?

A recent article in The New York Times, “Another Side of Tilapia, the Perfect Factory Fish,” reports that Americans ate 475 million pounds of tilapia last year, making it the most popular farmed fish in the United States. Tilapia is so popular, that it’s now referred to as the “aquatic chicken” (although tuna might have something to say about that moniker). As Americans are routinely lambasted for poor nutrition choices, the adoption of more fish in the U.S. diet is largely viewed as a good thing.

However, on closer inspection, the picture doesn’t look as rosy. “While a portion of tilapia has 135 milligrams of omega-3 fatty acids, a portion of salmon has over 2,000 milligrams,” the Times reports. “And farmed tilapia may have even less than wild tilapia because fish acquire omega-3s by eating aquatic plants and other fish.” Farmed fish, by contrast, largely eat feed made from corn and soy.

Additionally, where tilapia is being grown and harvested is a source of concern. In Latin America, the fish grow in overcrowded pens under conditions that would not be allowed in the U.S. According to the Times, “Seafood Watch lists tilapia raised in the United States as a ‘best choice,’ tilapia from Latin America as a ‘good alternative’ and tilapia from China as ‘to be avoided.’” Fish farming in China is considered poorly regulated, although Chinese-raised frozen fish can be bought in the U.S. very cheaply.

Despite these problems, white fish such as tilapia is high in protein and low in fat—both good reasons to include it in your diet. Take care to know where your fish is coming from and make an informed shopping decision. Considering the issues with tilapia, rotate your fish selections so that you get a good dose of omega-3s. But in the end, tilapia once a week is still a healthier choice than a cheeseburger and fries.

Sources: The New York Times, USDA

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55 thoughts on “Is Tilapia Bad for You?

  1. It’s just a promotion gimmick by Tilapia from Mexico…..Smoking is bad, okay ! Eating Tilapia won’t kill you.

  2. I marvel at the American fascination with tilapia as a source of food.

    It’s basically a freshwater trash fish that is used to eat aquatic weed, mosquito larvae, and sometimes “poop” (no, I’m NOT kidding). They do reasonably well in poor water quality fish farms, hence, they are very popular with Chinese and Latin American fish farms (particularly those farms that are not up to U.S. fish farm standards). If accidently released, they are often considered an “invasive species” in warmer, non-temperate areas of the world.

    Most fish have Omega-3 fatty acids, and tilapia are no exception – BUT –

    From a few tilapia fish-related sources on the net:

    “You may not have heard so much about a second ingredient they contain, omega-6 fatty acids. Like omega-3s, these are polyunsaturated and help lower blood cholesterol levels, however they are thought to play a role in clotting function, are inflammatory and susceptible to oxidation — thereby possibly increasing risk for blood clots, arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease and cancers.

    The National Institutes of Health funded study by Weaver and colleagues looked at the favorable omega-3 fatty acid content and unfavorable omega-6 contents of commonly eaten fish and found that while catfish and tilapia contain both, they contain a high amount of unfavorable omega-6 fat.

    They report that a 3-ounce portion of catfish or tilapia contains 67 and 134 milligrams respectively of the bad fat (the same amount of 80 percent lean hamburger contains 34 milligrams, and bacon 191 milligrams)”.

    Bottom line:

    Tilapia are not considered a quality fish, and their meat isn’t as healthy as other fish. IMHO, they’re little better than carp, not a fish that is high on American’s choice of seafood.
    That being said, they can be pretty tasty if prepared properly, and there are worse foods around to eat. Because of the potential of these farm fish being raised in poor water quality conditions, the presence of omega-6 fatty acid, and the absurd price of tilapia (particularly in restaurants), my family stopped eating tilapia two years ago.

  3. Aquaponics rocks. Fresh Tilapia and Organic Veggies all in the back yard. We’ve been doing it for over a year and we certainly enjoy it!

  4. Here in the US, tilapia is often more expensive than Salmon at restaurants. It’s a joke, people gladly paying a premium price for a low-quality fish that is cheap to produce.

    1. Really?! Where are you shopping? In California tilapia is the cheapest of any meat or fish that I can find anywhere! It is the reason my family eats so much of it.

    2. And most of the Salmon you eat at restaurants are Atlantic farm raised. Get a connection in Alaska, Northern Pacific, buy your Sockeyed (Red) Salmon from the Copper River, or Bristol Bay.

  5. I’ve been very frustrated seeing how tilapia has been crowding out other fish products on my grocery shelf. I know cod has been fished out but I was buying the Gorton’s pollock fish fillets and most times cannot find them., It’s all tilapia now. I don’t care for it’s taste and instinctively have avoided it, maybe I have better sense than I know.

    1. it’s probably better for you than the breaded gordon’s with other additives.

  6. Another fish to watch out for is Basa fish. Basa fish are raised in the Mekong delta in Vietnam and are sold in restaurants and markets as a low priced alternative to more expensive seafood. The Mekong river is one of the most polluted in the world and all that pollution flows down river and deposits in the delta where the fish are being raised.

  7. Eating Tilapia is akin to eating a couple of hot dogs. Filler yes but woefully inadequate in nutrition.

    1. Except of course the Tilapia has way more protein, way less fat, and way less salt. Other than that, identical. But be sure to buy only fish from the US.

  8. When I was growing up talipia was considered ‘junk’. Then all of a sudden that changed. Why?

        1. If Obozo the clown wasn’t in office I sure would be able to afford something much better. Meanwhile I’m paying for lazy bums to eat whatever they want with my tax money.

          1. Why, because I’m right? You’re going to have to come up with a better argument than name calling. I know someone who eats sushi with food stamps so don’t call me an idiot.

          2. If the shoe fits, you may be an idiot. Not that I’m an Obama fan but where was the economy under previous leadership? what does this have to with Tilapia? Who cares if they buy Sushi? When their stamps run out for the month, they eat beans and bread. Same amount of aid no matter what they eat.

        2. Right, the Affordable Fish Act, otherwise known as ObamaFish. “If you like your fish, you can keep your fish.”

          I keep forgetting that President Obama is responsible for every bad thing that has been done, said, or made since the dawn of time several billion years ago. Or six thousand years ago. Take your pick. Thank goodness, though, that there is someone on every thread who reminds us.

          1. White folks still acting stupid over President Obama…such pathetic little people!!!

          2. I hope you realize that I was gently kidding the Obama haters who bring their polarized view into every discussion, relevant or not.
            And yes, before anyone needs to point it out, I’m aware that there are folks who do the same sort of thing coming from the other end of the political spectrum.

          3. Yes I was, my comment was not directed towards you….sorry!! :-(

          4. I’m white folk….and I still think these people are idiots!!! I wish Obama could run again….wouldn’t THAT get their panties in a wad??? Poor simple minded people. SMH

          5. They call them food stamps, moron. People are chowing down on sushi and lobster for free while hard working Americans like me have to work and skimp for our meals.

    1. Because it’s cheap and people will eat it if they are told it’s trendy or exotic.

  9. As far as I’ve observed, Tilapia, though popular in the U.S, is one of the fishes with very little value (nutrition). Extremely low in Omega 3 fatty acid and other nutrients, farm-raised Tilapia tastes like mud (sand), this is because that’s one of the things they feed on in the environment raised in. The fish is pretty big for nothing, that is why it’s cheap: $1.99/LB in most metropolitan areas..  I’ve observed that Africans in diaspora-USA tend to buy the fish often. 

    Ibe 
    InformAfrica Webteam

  10. As far as I’ve observed, Tilapia, though popular in the U.S, is one of the fishes with very little value (nutrition). Extremely low in Omega 3 fatty acid and other nutrients, farm-raised Tilapia tastes like mud (sand), this is because that’s one of the things they feed on in the environment raised in. The fish is pretty big for nothing, that is why it’s cheap: $1.99/LB in most metropolitan areas..  I’ve observed that Africans in diaspora-USA tend to buy the fish often. 

    Ibe 
    InformAfrica Webteam

  11. what about mozball soup is that good for you?  How about gorilla cheese?  Please inform asap.

  12. Nice misleading headline.  Yet again professional writers and editors need to be reminded: If the answer to your headline question is “NO”…DON’T WRITE THE ARTICLE!

    Basically boils down to once sentence-don’t buy whitefish from China.  What a waste of time.

    1. Your comment is even more worthless than you claim the article is. You provided even fewer facts to back up your claims than the article.

  13.  While in northwestern Thailand I observed rice patties being converted into “tilapia farms”.
     This meant digging them to a depth of four feet, placing in  an air pumping system and putting in small tilapia.
     They are growing in a pit that for a thousand years prior was a rice patty, fertilized with human waste.
     I  have seen tilapia imported from Thailand.
     Any one who eats anything from China is foolish,you may be better off eating pet food, however the chinese even poisoned that several years ago with tainted fillers.
     Look for local grown meats, fish and vegetables, and support your local farmers.
     

  14.  While in northwestern Thailand I observed rice patties being converted into “tilapia farms”.
     This meant digging them to a depth of four feet, placing in  an air pumping system and putting in small tilapia.
     They are growing in a pit that for a thousand years prior was a rice patty, fertilized with human waste.
     I  have seen tilapia imported from Thailand.
     Any one who eats anything from China is foolish,you may be better off eating pet food, however the chinese even poisoned that several years ago with tainted fillers.
     Look for local grown meats, fish and vegetables, and support your local farmers.
     

  15. Doesn’t mention that fish in China, where the air everywhere is pretty much TOXIC, falls into the water of the fish farms and then is absorbed into the fish…  whatever you eat from China, POISON.

    READ THE LABELS – especially from fish (or any food) bought in Wal Mart or Sam’s club, etc.  They buy EVERYTHING from China, including their fish, meat and frozen produce and vegetables.  STAY AWAY FROM THIS STUFF IN THESE STORES. 

    If it doesn’t say made in USA, then don’t buy it or eat it.  Period.  (and even then, make sure you cook it properly)

  16. Years of self-education, voracious non-fiction reading and actually noticing and noting news stories I determined years ago to maximize food safety (maximize, not ensure) by shunning ALL foreign-sourced foodstuffs; Mexico included.

    1. Yeah because the USA is the biggest grower of GMO products in the world. Feel sorry for you all. 

    2. Yeah because the USA is the biggest grower of GMO products in the world. Feel sorry for you all. 

    3. Yeah because the USA is the biggest grower of GMO products in the world. Feel sorry for you all. 

    4. Yeah because the USA is the biggest grower of GMO products in the world. Feel sorry for you all. 

      1. And what exactly is wrong with GMO’s? I expect to see links to scientific articles, none of this hippie tree hugging nonsense.

      2. GMOs are superior. There is nothing wrong with GMO crops. Go take a genetics course.

        1. Bt and other biocide GMOs contain proteins that can be toxic to humans and non-targeted organisms, like honeybees and butterflies. Roundup ready genes allow farmers to dump massive levels of herbicides into the food chain which has caused mutated fish and frogs.
          Windbourn pollen makes it impossible for organic farmers to grow safe crops that are free of modified genes and farmers can’t plant seed from their own crops without being sued by the corporations that have monopolized the seed market.

    5. Yeah because the USA is the biggest grower of GMO products in the world. Feel sorry for you all. 

  17. Before you eat another Tilapia do yourself a favor.  Go to YouTube and search “Dirty Jobs Tilapia”.  That’s all I’m going to say about that.

  18. We used to eat only Tilapia because I heard that other fish have higher level of mercury. The frozen Tilapia at supermarket are often on sale but we never buy them because it’s from China. We later switched to salmon. Canned salmon has lots more omega 3 and it’s even cheaper for canned ones.

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