Health Benefits of Tilapia

Tilapia is a type of fish that is native to only the Middle East and Africa. It is now farm-raised in over 80 countries worldwide. The three main tilapia species are:

  • Nile (or Black) Tilapia
  • Mozambique (or Red) Tilapia
  • Blue Tilapia 

Tilapia is known for its sweet, mild taste and flaky texture. The taste of tilapia fluctuates greatly depending on the water quality and feed.

Tilapia is a popular food source due to its affordability and numerous health benefits.

Health Benefits

Fish is one of the healthiest sources of protein, and tilapia is no exception. 

Tilapia is packed with vitamins and minerals like choline, niacin, vitamin B12, vitamin D, selenium, and phosphorus. It is also a good source of omega-3 fatty acids, which are healthy fats that your body needs to function. 

Due to its high nutrient content, eating tilapia can provide the following health benefits: 

Cancer Prevention

Selenium is a mineral that plays a role in the prevention of cancer, heart disease, cognitive decline, and thyroid disease. Although you only need a small amount of selenium, it is essential for various bodily functions. Tilapia is an excellent source of this mineral, as a single tilapia fillet covers 88% of your daily value of selenium.

Heart Health 

Many of the health benefits of eating fish are due to its high omega-3 fatty acid content. These unsaturated fats benefit heart health in a variety of ways, including: 

Tilapia gives you more omega-3 fats than beef, pork, chicken, or turkey.

Bone Strength

Tilapia has many of the nutrients your body uses to make and maintain bones, such as:

  • Calcium
  • Vitamin D
  • Magnesium
  • Phosphorous

Eating tilapia is a great way to keep your bones healthy. 

Nutrition

Tilapia is high in vitamin B12, which helps your body make DNA, maintain its nervous system, and produce red blood cells. It’s also low in fat, saturated fat, omega-3 fatty acids, calories, carbohydrates, and sodium making it a healthy addition to any meal.

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Tilapia is also rich in:

  • Phosphorus
  • Potassium
  • Selenium
  • Niacin
  • Vitamin B-12

One fillet (116 grams) of tilapia contains: 

  • Protein: 23 grams
  • Vitamin D: 3.60 micrograms
  • Potassium: 350 milligrams
  • Vitamin B12: 1.83 micrograms
  • Calcium: 11.60 milligrams
  • Phosphorous: 197.20 milligrams
  • Selenium: 48.5 micrograms

Portion Sizes

Although eating tilapia offers many health benefits, it also carries some risk. In some cases, it can cause bleeding problems and increase your risk of developing certain diseases.

 Fish oil acts as a natural anticoagulant, which means that it can thin your blood. High doses (more than 3 grams a day) of omega-3 fatty acids may cause bleeding problems if taken together with tilapia.

Eating large amounts of tilapia and other fish could expose you to certain cancer-causing chemicals. This is especially true in countries where many fisheries are near industrial parks that pollute the water with various heavy metals.

How to Prepare Tilapia

Tilapia is sometimes referred to as “the chicken of the sea” because of its bland flavor. Therefore, it is usually paired with a flavorful sauce or heavily seasoned. This versatile fish can be grilled, baked, broiled, sauteed, pan-fried, or steamed. If possible, you should buy fresh, whole tilapia. Fillets that are frozen lose their texture and taste.

Here are some easy ways to cook tilapia:

  • Batter and fry the tilapia for fish tacos
  • Season tilapia with garlic, butter, and lemon juice before baking it in your oven
  • Pan fry tilapia with chili powder, several herbs, and pepper
  • Bake tilapia and cover it with a cilantro cream sauce
  • Stuff tilapia with breadcrumbs, sage, and celery
WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on December 05, 2020

Sources

SOURCES: 

Bulletin of Environment Contamination and Toxicology: "Health risk of consuming heavy metals in farmed tilapia in central Taiwan."

Cleveland Clinic: "Fish Faceoff: Wild Salmon vs. Farmed Salmon."

C.S. Mott Children's Hospital: "Cholesterol and Triglycerides: Eating Fish and Fish Oil."

Harvard Health Letter: "Flap over tilapia sends the wrong message."

Healthbeat: "5 Ways to boost bone strength early."

Mayo Clinic: "Omega-3 in fish: How eating fish helps your health."

National Institutes of Health: “Vitamin B12.”

National Institutes of Health: "Selenium."

Nutrition Value: "Fish, raw, tilapia."

South Dakota State University: “TILAPIA: Profile and Economic Importance.”

University of Florida: “Culture of Hybrid Tilapia: A Reference Profile.”

© 2020 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.

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