October 8, 2008

You Ask, I Answer: Tilapia

I understand the importance of eating fish that have good levels of Omega 3's for heart health.

I always read about salmon, tuna, and sardines, but not about other fish.

I like to eat tilapia. Is it a good source of Omega 3's?

-- Melissa Oswald
Buffalo, NY

Tilapia isn't generally a fish I recommend to people looking to improve heart health through higher intakes of Omega-3 fatty acids.

It's not that tilapia is inherently unhealthy. My recommendation simply comes back to the issue of fish farming.

You see, it's very rare to find wild tilapia, so you can bet that whether you're buying it at the supermarket or ordering it off the menu at a restaurant, you are getting a farmed version.

That's NOT good news. Rather than consuming their regular aquatic diet, these fish are being fed cheap, dependable corn.

This ultimately results in negative health consequences for consumers.

Earlier this year, a study published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association found that the average Omega 6 to Omega 3 ratio in a 3.5 ounce portion of farmed tilapia was a disconcerting 11:1 (wild salmon, meanwhile provides a 1:1 ratio.)

As I have explained in previous posts, dietary Omega 6:Omega 3 ratio plays a significant role in heart health (Cliff's Notes version: too much Omega-6 and not enough Omega-3 promotes inflammation, thereby increasing the risk of a number of diseases).

This is probably why you don't ever see tilapia mentioned in articles on heart-healthy fish.


Anonymous said...

Hi Andy,
With respect to the "You Ask, I Answer" posts, how does one leave a question for you? (Sorry, I'm somewhat new to the blog world.)
Thanks, Lori.

Andy Bellatti said...

Hello Lori,

You have two options:

1) Send me an e-mail (andy.bellatti@gmail.com)

2) Leave your question in a blog post comment.

Look forward to hearing from you.


Biz said...

Interesting, I never thought about it like that before.

I just discoverd Barramundi - an Australian white fish that is so NOT fishy!

It is farm raised though too.

Anonymous said...

I saw that Costco started carrying Barramundi and I did some googling. Turns out it has a high mercury level! It can live longer than most fish thus contributing to eating more mercury laden fish than others I presume. It's always something, isn't it?