What is wrong with tilapia fish? The truth about eating home-grown aquaponics tilapia
If you type “tilapia fish” into Google, you’ll find plenty of scare mongering about how bad or dangerous tilapia fish are for you. These articles include: Why you should never eat tilapia. But is this the truth? What’s wrong with tilapia fish? Are tilapia fish safe to eat or are they dangerous for you. But what about whether it’s a good idea to grow them aquaponically or not? Let’s take a look…
Why you should never eat tilapia in 20 seconds…
The bottom line on why you should never eat tilapia: It appears to be true and there are several reasons why you should never eat tilapia. But aquaponics tilapia are safe and good to eat. There are scary reports of Chinese tilapia growers using animal faeces as food. The Chinese also continue to use banned chemicals and antibiotics. Therefore avoid eating tilapia fish from China and you’ll be just fine. There are many very good reasons for choosing tilapia fish for your aquaponics system.
Why you should never eat tilapia
If you were hoping to read an article that’s just about why you should never eat tilapia, then I’m sorry to disappoint you. This article on the whole is about why tilapia fish are actually good to eat. But you have to be careful where your tilapia fish are sourced.
What are the dangers of eating tilapia?
“Tilapia fish farming practices in China, in particular, have drawn a good amount of controversy in recent years. According to one report published by the USDA, it is common for fish farmed in China to be fed feces from livestock in an effort to cut costs. However, this can also increase the risk of contamination and foodborne illnesses such as Salmonella, which can be serious if left untreated.” However…
“Tilapia is low in calories and fat but loaded with protein. It’s also a good source of several vitamins and minerals, including selenium, vitamin B12, niacin and phosphorus.” So if you grow your own tilapia in Aquaponics you’re okay!Dr Axe – Is Tilapia Safe to Eat? Nutrition Facts and Potential Benefits
But in order to satisfy your curiosity, let me tell you when or why you are best to avoid eating tilapia fish. Plus when they are bad for you or could be dangerous to eat!
Reasons why you should never eat tilapia fish – 3 sources of tilapia to avoid:
- If the source of the tilapia fish is from countries where farming practices are deemed unsafe.
- Don’t eat tilapia if it’s found that the farming source has fed faeces from livestock animals to the fish (yes believe it or not this is done in China!). Feeding faeces to fish is a practice carried on in China and it carries the risk of Salmonella contamination. But you’d like to think that in the US for example, the FDA would protect you from this. It does to a degree, as tilapia have been on the list of import refusals from China.
- Avoid eating tilapia fish if they have been polluted with potentially harmful chemicals. This includes veterinary drug residues and unsafe additives that are used in the growing process.
“Approximately 26% of Chinese tilapia was exported in 2014, and China is a major exporter of tilapia to North America. Exports to the US approached 134,000 MT in 2017, accounting for roughly 73% of total US tilapia imports, and are largely in the form of frozen fillets.”
“…recent evidence that the banned chemical malachite green is still being used in tilapia production in China, and was the cause for detention of frozen tilapia fillets entering the US in 2016. Also, nine import rejections since 2015 have been imposed on Chinese tilapia due to detection of antibiotics in fish fillets, including several antimicrobials listed as “Highly Important for Human Medicine” by the World Health Organization (WHO): sulfadiazine, trimethoprim, and sulfamethoxazole.”Monterey Bay Aquarium – Seafood watch
Why tilapia is not good for you?
The only real reason why tilapia is not good for you is for the reasons explained above. Which is when tilapia fish come from a bad food source like China.
However, having said there is a small disadvantage of eating tilapia fish over other Omega-3 rich fish. Tilapia fish only contain about 240 milligrams of Omega-3 fatty acids per serving. This represents about ten times less than Omega-3 levels found in wild salmon. For example; 100 grams (3.53 ounces) of wild salmon contains 2,600 milligrams of Omega-3.
But also, tilapia contain higher levels of Omega-6 fatty acids. Which some believe can be harmful. Omega-6 is said to increase inflammation if eaten in excess. See below for more on these aspects of tilapia fish.
In conclusion therefore, you should avoid eating tilapia fish from China due to their concerning farming practices. In fact Monterey Bay Seafood Watch say to avoid three sources of tilapia, all of which are from China!
But outside of that tilapia are fine to eat. If you’re interested to find out more on the positives of eating tilapia fish please read on. Plus I discuss how tilapia are one of the best fish for an aquaponics system.
Reasons why you should eat tilapia
When tilapia are reared in good conditions (like in an aquaponics ecosystem), they are perfectly safe fish to eat. In fact in America, The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) list tilapia under their “Best choices – Eat 2 to 3 servings per week“. Bearing in mind this list of best choices of fish is directed at women who are or might become pregnant. Plus it’s for those women who are breast feeding and for young children.
Tilapia fish benefits and is tilapia fish good for you?
Tilapia is an excellent lean source of protein and nutrients, with just 3 grams of fat per serving.
But here’s the even better news:
However, one of the downsides of tilapia fish is they are low in Omega-3 fatty acids, i.e. 100 grams (3.53 ounces) of tilapia has 240 milligrams of Omega-3 fatty acid. However, tilapia is high in Omega-6 fatty acids.
But don’t let that put you off eating this really tasty fish. Tilapia still has more Omega-3 fatty acids than beef, chicken and turkey. Although tilapia meat does have less Omega-3 than pork and lamb.
- Omega-3 in beef: 100 grams (3.53 ounces) of grass-fed beef averages about 80 milligrams of Omega-3 fatty acid according to Berkeley Wellness.
- Omega-3 level in chicken: 100 grams (3.53 ounces) of chicken averages about 70 milligrams of Omega-3 fatty acid according to Nutrition Data.
- Levels of Omega-3 in Turkey meat: 100 grams (3.53 ounces) of turkey averages about 20 milligrams of Omega-3 fatty acid according to Nutrition Value.
- Level of Omega-3 in pork: According to National Hog Farmer 100 grams (3.5 ounces) of pork averages about 400-2,000 milligrams of Omega-3 fatty acid.
- Omega-3 in lamb: According to Nutrition Advance 100 grams (3.5 ounces) of grass-fed lamb rib averages about 580 milligrams of Omega-3 fatty acid.
Omega-6 vs Omega 3 fatty acids argument
It’s well known that fish are one of the healthiest sources of protein you can eat. But it’s also argued that fish that are high in Omega 3 fatty acids are particularly good for you.
But what about Omega-6 fatty acid, is this good for you? Versus Omega-3 fatty acids and why these may be better for you. Let’s take a look at both…
Why are omega 3 fatty acids good for you?
There’s a list of findings on Wedmd.com that show omega-3 fatty acids may help to lower your blood pressure. It may also help to slow down the development of plaque in the arteries. It can also reduce the likelihood of heart attack and stroke. But it can also lessen the chance of sudden cardiac death in people with heart disease.
In this same Webmd article they talk about using fish oil supplements to get your Omega-3 dose. Which is not something I personally do or recommend. However, if you believe that Omega-3 is good for you and you don’t like eating fish then go for it.
However, if like me you love to eat fish, then eat Omega-3 fatty acid rich fish like salmon. But on the other hand if you were looking for an Omega-3 fix by growing tilapia in your aquaponics system, then I’m afraid the levels are quite low.
So instead of keeping tilapia, you could alternatively grow aquaponics trout instead. Trout are known to have high Omega-3 levels in their meat. For example, 100 grams (3.53 ounces) of trout has around 1,200 milligrams of Omega-3. But don’t discount tilapia fish just yet!
Is Omega 6 good or bad for you?
Why the question “is Omega 6 good or bad for you“. This question is important with regards to tilapia fish because their meat has more Omega-6 than Omega-3.
However, because the total fat content in a tilapia fillet is low, you’ll only consume a small quantity of omega-6 when you eat the fish in any event.
According to Webmd eating too much omega-6 can raise your blood pressure. It can lead to blood clots which can cause heart attacks and strokes. They also claim that it can cause your body to retain water. However, Harvard Health say different to this.
Omega-6 fatty acids are good for the heart and body
If you read an article in Health-Harvard, they say this about Omega-6 fatty acids:
Key points: “Omega-6 fats from vegetable oils and other sources — like their cousins, the omega-3 fats from fish — are good for the heart and body.
To improve the ratio of omega-3 fats to omega-6 fats, eat more omega-3s, not fewer omega-6s.”Harvard Health Publishing – No need to avoid healthy omega-6 fats
According to the same article in Harvard Health, where the above quote was taken, Omega-6 fatty acids lower harmful LDL cholesterol and boost protective HDL.
The article also explains that Omega-6 fatty acids help to keep blood sugar in check by improving the body’s sensitivity to insulin.
Which article do you believe? What I will say is the article in WebMD was taken from their archives. It was therefore written more than two years ago. Whereas the article from Harvard Health was last updated in August 2019. As we all know science behind what we eat changes over time. I’d therefore be more inclined to trust the Harvard article myself.
In summary therefore, I’d say that tilapia are good to eat. But to balance things out you may wish to eat other Omega-3 rich foods too. Once you’ve established your aquaponics with tilapia fish, you may wish to progress to keeping Omega-3 rich trout too.
Why are tilapia used in aquaponics
Why tilapia are used in aquaponics is because they are hardy fish. But what are the other benefits of growing tilapia in your aquaponics system?
Tilapia fish are great for beginning aquaponic gardeners due to the fact they are easy to keep. Some say they are almost impossible to kill, unless of course when it comes to killing them for the dinner table.
Reasons why tilapia fish are used in aquaponics:
- Tilapia fish grow fast: Tilapia have a good feed to protein conversion ratio. Their conversion ratio is somewhere between 1.6:1 and 1.8:1. When compared to beef, which can be as much as 20:1, you’re on to a winner.
- Tilapia are hardy fish: When compared to trout or other more sensitive fish, tilapia are extremely difficult to kill. Which is why they make great starter fish for beginners to aquaponics.
- Tilapia are omnivorous: An omnivore is an animal that will eat a bit of everything. Tilapia are happy to eat a diversity of food types. This includes plant food to insects and worms.
- Happy in large groups or schools: Aquaponics requires your fish to live together in a fish tank. This can at times be quite closely bunched together. Tilapia are quite happy to thrive in large groups in aquaculture tanks.
- Tilapia taste good: There are many great recipes for cooking with tilapia fish.
“62% of food fish will come from aquaculture by 2030.“Aquaculture Alliance
How often can you eat tilapia?
Following the US FDA’s advice that tilapia fish are safe to eat. Also, based on the fact that the FDA give tilapia fish an official thumbs up for children and women who are breastfeeding or pregnant.
Then there’s no reason why you can’t eat between two to three servings per week.
How much mercury is in tilapia?
If you grow your tilapia fish aquaponically then the levels of mercury in your tilapia will be next to zero. Also, if you use rain water to top up your aquaponics system up. Plus if you use organic fish food and organic nutrient supplements. Then you’ll have no problems with mercury from your home-grown tilapia fish.
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