Why We Don’t Recommend Tilapia

farmed fish in cagesThere is a huge debate about Tilapia right now. You hear the name everywhere. Where ten years ago you probably had never heard of it, now it’s served in many restaurants. The United States currently eats more seafood than ever before and Tilapia is fourth in popularity behind shrimp, tuna and salmon. In fact, farmed fish consumption has taken over beef in popularity. Many people like Tilapia because it lacks a “fishy” taste common to a lot of seafood.

So, what is Tilapia? Tilapia is actually the name of many fish from the cichlids family. It is a white, fresh-water fish. They are native to Africa and have been found in the Sea of Galilee as early as Biblical times. They grow really quickly and eat a vegetarian diet, whereas many other fish are carnivorous. This works well for farming because the farmers save money on meat based foods and can feed the Tilapia plant based foods. This also helps with the mercury levels. They can tolerate dense stocking levels, which also benefits farming. They are an invasive species, however, and can take over lakes if not contained. Waste from cage farming can destroy native eco-systems and Tilapia that escapes the cages can over take native species. Cage farming is the main method throughout the areas Tilapia is farmed.  In sushi Tilapia is also known as izumidai, so be aware when ordering.

Some questions remain about Tilapia. Is it a healthy alternative to other fish like salmon? Does it really matter whether it’s farmed or not? Does it matter what country it comes from? Continue reading for the answers.

Most doctors today recommend eating fish two to three times per week because of the health properties of omega-3 fatty acids, EPA and DHA, which are found in most fish. However, Tilapia is actually not high in omega-3s. When compared to salmon, which is very high in omega-3s, it comes up short. Salmon has nearly three grams of omega-3s per 100 grams, while Tilapia has less than ½ gram per 100 grams. The thing it’s really high in is omega-6s and too many of those can cause inflammatory responses in the body which can lead to many diseases.  In fact, research shows that it is higher in omega-6s than even pork bacon. The main cause of this is the diet they are fed in farms and the lack of eating lake plants and algae, the diet they get naturally. You need to keep your omega-3s and omega-6s in proper balance.  Even though it can be a good source of lean protein, the high levels of omega-6s make it difficult to justify eating it.

The majority of Tilapia consumed in the United States is farmed and most of it does not come from farms in the US.  They mainly come from farms in Ecuador, Taiwan, and China. Fish farms have come a long way in recent years with new regulations for sustainability and lowering numbers of escapes. However, not all farms throughout the world follow the same strict standards as farms in the US and Canada. Tilapia from US farms is best because of the higher standards of the farms. Those from Ecuador, which are grown with shrimp to lower the water pollution, are considered the next best. Those from China and Taiwan are considered the worst because you never know what kind of farm they come from. Unfortunately that’s exactly where most of the Tilapia consumed in the US comes from. It is near impossible to get Tilapia that is not farmed, so be sure and ask where it comes from.

Here, at Amino Diet, we recommend that all your fish be wild caught and you avoid farms. With new fishing regulations in place for sustainability, we feel it is the best and healthiest option. We do not recommend eating Tilapia, wild or farmed, because of the lack of health benefits found in them. If you have questions please remember that we have Health Coaches standing by, 1-800-980-7208. You can also comment on our facebook page, www.facebook.com/aminodiet.

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