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Tilapia nutrition

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The nutritional value of tilapia

Omega-3 fatty acids

There is no doubt that omega-3 fatty acids are beneficial for your health. They can lower triglyceride levels in your blood and ease the joint pain and stiffness associated with rheumatoid arthritis. They might even help with depression, asthma, ADHD, alzheimer's and dementia. It even appears that one omega-3 fatty acid, DHA, may be important to developing infants.

The three most important Omega-3 fatty acids are EPA, DHA and ALA. The last one, ALA, is found in nuts and seeds, whereas EPA and DHA are primarily found in fish. Most health organizations agree that a diet consisting of between 250 and 500 milligrams per day should be recommended, but that can be difficult without using supplements unless you want to eat fish every day.

A single four ounce serving of tilapia contains about 200 milligrams of Omega-3 fatty acids. Similar amounts can be found in cod, haddock, mahi mahi and yellowfin tuna. Even shrimp, lobster and scallops can deliver 200 milligrams of omega-3 per serving. So what's the problem? Well, not everyone likes to eat omega-3 rich foods every day. For those people there are a couple of options: supplements and salmon. With supplements you can scarf down as much omega-3 as your stomach can handle and with salmon you can get about 1500 milligrams with each serving. This may be why omega-3 fans love salmon so much, but there's still a problem.

To get the recommended intake of between 1750 and 3500 milligrams per week with salmon as the only source of Omega-3 and without supplements, a person would have to eat salmon every 3rd day for the rest of their life. You can't simply eat two large servings once per week, your body would just eliminate the "overdose". This is also why you can't take a whole month's worth of vitamins at a time either, your body just doesn't work that way.

Don't forget, there are also many plants and non-fish foods that are decent sources of omega-3. Brussels sprouts, kale, spinach, broccoli and cauliflower are all excellent examples. Walnuts, flax, chia and hemp seeds are almost as high as salmon. And when you consider all the foods that are fortified with omega-3 these days, you can count in eggs, margarine, milk, juice, soy milk, yogurt, breads, cereals, pastas, peanut butter, oatmeal and even pumpkin seeds. Oh, and don't forget cooking oils like Canola and other oils such as cod liver, flaxseed, soybean, walnut and mustard. They are all good sources of omega-3.

While were on the subject, did you know that salmon isn't even the highest fish-based source of Omega-3? It's true. Both mackerel and herring are higher. In fact, mackerel is five times higher than salmon. But unless you're a performer at Sea World being rewarded for tricks by a trainer, you probably aren't eating much of that. Herring on the other hand is very popular. So why aren't the salmon cheerleaders also shouting for kipper snacks?

Is salmon a tasty fish with comparatively high omega-3 fatty acids? It certainly is. And if you like eating the same thing every couple of days and you're okay with paying a high price for those meals, then a diet of salmon is for you. But if you are a normal human being who likes to treat their tastebuds to wide range of flavors, then a diet consisting of a healthy variety, including delicious tilapia, can provide you with steady a intake of the recommended levels of omega-3 fatty acids.

Omega-6 fatty acids

Omega-6 fatty acids are essential for human health. They are important for healthy skin and hair growth, bone health, the reproductive system and they even help regulate metabolism. There are many types of Omega-6 fatty acids that have been studied or used in the treatment of a wide range of conditions including diabetic neuropathy, rheumatoid arthritis, allergies, ADHD, breast cancer, eczema, hypertension, symptoms of menopause, osteoporosis, PMS and MS. You need omega-6 fatty acids. Without them your body would not kill bacteria or heal wounds and you would die.

Health note: According to the Health Publication of Harvard Medical School, Omega-6 fatty acids have also been linked to protection against heat disease.

When thinking about omega-3 vs. omega-6, it's best to not think of them as good vs. bad, but rather as Yin and Yang, working together in proper balance. It's no so much as how many milligrams of omega-6 your body needs, but rather how much omega-6 your body needs in relation to the milligrams of omega-3 you've taken in expressed as a ratio. So for example, salmon is about 4 parts of omega-3 to one part of omega-6, or 4:1, which is pretty good for a single food item. But a single food item does not make a meal, let alone an entire week's worth of meals.

In comparison, tilapia contains 3 parts of omega-3 to 4 parts of omega-6, or 3:4. Again, were only talking about a single food item. Almonds, pecans, pumpkin and sunflower seeds contain far more omega-6 per serving than tilapia, as do most cooking oils, salad dressings and mayonnaises. And it wouldn't be fair to leave out the fact that beef ribs, lamb, milk, cheese, butter, chicken thighs, turkey and pork are all higher in omega-6 than tilapia. And as if that wasn't enough, you can include french fries, onion rings, Filet-O-Fish sandwiches and Subway tuna subs to the list of foods higher in omega-6 than tilapia. And finally, corn chips, cheese puffs, potato chips (including reduced fat), tortilla chips, brownies, blueberry muffins, graham crackers and even Twix Bars. Which all makes one wonder why every year there's another minor-celebrity guest on Dr. Oz telling everyone that tilapia is bad for your health.

People who rely completely on one food item or source are bound to develop deficiencies. So by simply eating a variety of foods, you can balance your intake of omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids for optimal health.


A single four ounce serving of tilapia is around 112 calories. Great news for anyone watching their weight.


Just four ounces of tilapia provides you with nearly half of the suggested daily value for protein, 46% to be exact.


There are 331 milligrams of potassium in a single serving of tilapia. That's 9% of what your body needs each day. It's about the same as a banana.

Vitamin D and B-12

Surprise, you can get 32% of your daily allowance of vitamin D and 26% of your vitamin B-12 just by eating 4 ounces of tilapia.

Vitamin B-6 and magnesium

You can even get 5% of your daily value of vitamin B-6 and 7% of your magnesium in a single serving of tilapia.