Last week I discussed how to eat quality seafood for less and gave a few basic principles for buying seafood (low in mercury, high in nutrients, with a low impact on the environment.). I also mentioned the regional guides to eco-friendly seafood that Monteray Bay Aquarium puts out. These are very helpful in making sure that the seafood you buy isn’t putting our natural resources at risk.
But I also wanted to point out that not all of the eco-friendly choices on that list (even the ones low in toxins) are necessarily good for us. Just because it is sustainable, doesn’t mean it’s healthy. Tilapia may be in that category.
Once upon a time, tilapia was breed in a way where most of the fish would be male (which allows the fish to grow larger to a marketable size). However, they soon discovered a nifty little trick. If they put testosterone in their feed for the first few months, they would all turn male. Now, I haven’t read of any adverse health effects from people eating testosterone feed fish. But I find the practice a little disturbing and unnatural. Not all fisheries use this practice, but it is very common. Secondly, some fish farms use growth hormones. We avoid growth hormones carefully in our meat, so why would we consume fish that contains it?
While some fisheries may still use their natural food ( like duckweed), many, if not most fisheries feed them corn. Tilapia are easy to grow because, like pigs, they will eat anything, including “poop”. So it’s quite easy to grow them on corn. First, the corn is probably genetically modified. That has it’s own problems. Secondly, this high in corn diet leads to fish that’s high in Omega 6’s.
Wait, a minute! High in Omega 6 Fatty Acids?
High in Omega 6 Fatty Acids
One of the biggest health benefits of eating fish is getting Omega 3’s. You aren’t going to find that in Tilapia. In fact, you may be doing harm instead of good by eating it!
Tilapia has higher levels of potentially detrimental long-chain omega-6 fatty acids than 80-percent-lean hamburger, doughnuts and even pork bacon, the article says.
“For individuals who are eating fish as a method to control inflammatory diseases such as heart disease, it is clear from these numbers that tilapia is not a good choice,” the article says. “All other nutritional content aside, the inflammatory potential of hamburger and pork bacon is lower than the average serving of farmed tilapia.” Source
Note of course that this is comparing tilapia to grain feed beef. So…. tilapia contains more omega 6 fatty acids than grain feed beef, and doughnuts? That seems pretty high. And pretty darn, not good for you too.
All things considered, I just don’t think that tilapia is a good choice in seafood.. Sure it’s cheap, but I can buy grassfed beef for the same price or cheaper per pound, and that will contain a much better ratio of omega 3 to 6 fatty acids. Tilapia may be sustainable, but that’s doesn’t mean it’s good for you.
My only disclaimer is that there could be fisheries who follow better practices. If you are going to eat tilapia, try to find a good source for it and ask about specific practices. But before I made it a common food in our diet, I would also like to see some data on the omega 3 to 6 fatty acid ratio in tilapia feed duckweed.
So what do you think? Have you heard any other news or facts on tilapia to share?