Tilapia Fish – Benefits, Safety, And Recipes

Relish some scrumptious freshwater fish dishes and become healthier at the same time.

Medically reviewed by Dr.Jacob Wilson, PhD, CSCS*D
Written by Charushila Biswas, MSc (Biotechnology), ISSA Certified Fitness Nutritionist
Edited by Arshiya Syeda
Fact-checked by Payal Karnik, Certified Health & Nutrition Life Coach  • 

Tilapia is an inexpensive source of protein (1). The many benefits of tilapia fish can be attributed to its rich nutritional profile. It is the second most farmed fish in the world. It had originated in the Middle East and Africa and achieved global popularity when scientists revealed its many health benefits. Culturing tilapia fish for mass production was also easy as it could grow in any condition. However, concerns about heavy metal poisoning have surfaced recently. Here, we bring you the truth. Read on to know the science-backed benefits of consuming tilapia fish, its recipes, and if consuming the fish is safe.

protip_icon Trivia
Tilapia is also known as St. Peter’s fish. This is because, according to the Holy Bible, the fish caught by St. Peter to feed the masses was tilapia.

Tilapia – A Brief Introduction

Tilapia fish
Image: Shutterstock

Tilapia belongs to the cichlid family. It is a freshwater fish that grows in ponds, rivers, lakes, and shallow streams at warm temperatures and has a mild taste. It resembles a sunfish and has lateral stripes and a long dorsal fin.

There are four commercial species of tilapia – Mozambique tilapia, Blue tilapia, Red tilapia, and Nile tilapia. The history of Nile tilapia can be traced back to ancient Egyptian culture.

protip_icon Quick Tip
You can store cooked tilapia in a shallow airtight container and refrigerate it. It lasts for 3 to 4 days.

Interestingly, tilapia was considered the symbol of rebirth. These days, it is cultured in farms, and hybrid fish are being produced to meet the increasing market demands. And they are often injected with growth hormones that may have a detrimental effect on humans. Let’s consider all the pros and cons of Tilapia fish to come to a conclusion. Let’s begin with the nutrition facts.

Tilapia Nutrition Facts

Tilapia fish is loaded with protein, low in calories, and is a good source of vitamins and minerals. Take a look at its nutritional profile.

1 oz tilapia contains

  • Calories – 36
  • Protein – 7.3g
  • Total Fat – 0.7g
  • Polyunsaturated Fat – 0.11g
  • Carbs – 0 grams
  • Calcium – 3.9mg
  • Magnesium – 9.5mg
  • Potassium – 106mg
  • Selenium – 15.2mg
  • Vitamin E – 0.2mg
  • Niacin – 1.3mg
  • Folate – 1.7mcg
  • Vitamin B12 – 0.5 mcg
  • Pantothenic acid – 0.2mg

Tilapia’s selenium content is said to aid the immune system while its omega-3 content is recommended to improve vision health. So, is tilapia good for you? Is tilapai healthy? Let’s find out in the next section.

8 Health Benefits Of Tilapia

1. Good For The Bones

Tilapia fish is good for your bones. It contains nutrients like vitamin D and minerals such as calcium and phosphorus that are needed for bone growth and bone health maintenance. A few recent studies have shown that tilapia fish collagen type 1 is highly useful in regenerative medicine (2). It has shown promising results in aiding bone cell regeneration in the laboratory and can also be used as a scaffolding biomaterial in the dental field (3), (4).

2. Prevents Diseases Like Cancer

Like several other kinds of fish, tilapia contains selenium and antioxidants that fight cancer and treat heart-related diseases (5). Selenium reduces the free radical activity and makes you less prone to oxidative stress (6), (7). It inhibits the mutation of healthy cells to cancerous ones(8). Moreover, scientists have found that an antimicrobial peptide (short amino acid chain), hepcidin 1-5, has anti-inflammatory effects and can be used as a novel treatment for cancer (9).

3. Good For The Brain

Tilapia fish may boost brain health
Image: Shutterstock

Consuming tilapia can boost brain function as it contains omega-3s in abundance that increase neurological function and have neuroprotective properties (10). Tilapia is also loaded with selenium that is proven to protect the brain from various diseases like Alzheimer’si  XA progressive neurological disease that affects mental functions, such as memory and thought due to the degeneration of brain cells. , Parkinson’si  XA central nervous system disorder that causes uncontrollable tremor-like movements due to reduced dopamine levels. , and epilepsy (11). It increases the flow of oxygen to the brain, which helps in balancing fluids throughout the body. It not only deposits nutrients into the system but also boosts mental clarity.

4. Protects The Heart

Another health benefit of tilapia is that it improves your heart health. With zero carb content, it may also help with cholesterol level and diabetes management. But mind you, it is wild tilapia that does this not the aquaculture tilapia that’s fed with chemicals and generally has an imbalanced omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acid ratio. Wild tilapias have more omega-3 fatty acids compared to the cultured ones (12). According to a recent study, omega-3s can help reduce high blood pressure and prevent heart attacks, strokes, and atherosclerosisi  XA build-up of fats along the walls of arteries that makes them grow narrower and blocks blood flow, increasing the risk of heart disease. (13) (14).

5. Fights Aging

Tilapia contains antioxidants and vitamin E that improve skin health. They improve your complexion and make your skin radiant. Both the vitamins are potent antioxidants, which means they help scavenge the harmful free radicals, thereby helping reduce inflammation and stress. They also protect the skin from photodamage (skin damage caused by harmful UV rays). As a result your skin, bones, organs, and cells remain active and young (15).

6. Weight Loss

Tilapia, in conjunction with proper diet and exercise, can help boost weight loss efforts due to its high protein and low fat. It is very high in protein and very low in calories. It could be a great way to reduce the calorie intake and also provide your body with the nutrients it needs to function properly. It can also be a dietary option for those who are trying to get back into shape.

7. For Thyroid Patients

Tilapia contains selenium that plays an important role in the regulation of the thyroid gland and improves the hormonal functions as well (16). Regular functioning of the thyroid gland will make sure your metabolism is boosted and prevent weight gain/loss or any other disease related to a malfunctioning thyroid.

8. Heals Wounds

Scientists have found that marine collagen peptide from Nile tilapia showed significant progress in closing scratch wounds and flesh wounds in laboratory animals (17).

These are the mighty eight different ways in which tilapia fish benefits your health. But how to prepare it? Here are a few Tilapia fish recipes to give you the general idea.

1. Baked Tilapia

Baked tilapia fish
Image: Shutterstock
  • Prep Time: 10 mins
  • Cooking Time: 30 mins
  • Total Time: 40 mins
  • Serves: 2
  • 4 oz tilapia filets
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 cup broccoli
  • 1 cup chopped carrot
  • 1 teaspoon chili flakes
  • Salt to taste
How To Prepare
  1. Preheat the oven to 135o F.
  2. Line the baking tray with parchment paper.
  3. Toss the tilapia filets and veggies with olive oil, butter, lemon juice, salt, and chili flakes.
  4. Transfer them to the baking tray.
  5. Cover it and bake for 20-30 minutes.

2. Lemon Garlic Tilapia

Lemon garlic tilapia fish
Image: Shutterstock
  • Prep Time: 10 mins
  • Cooking Time: 30 mins
  • Total Time: 40 mins
  • Serves: 2
  • 4 oz tilapia fillets
  • 1 teaspoon butter
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped garlic
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon chopped parsley
  • Salt to taste
  • ½ teaspoon pepper
How To Prepare
  1. Preheat the oven to 135oF.
  2. Line the baking tray with parchment paper.
  3. Toss the tilapia fillets in lemon juice, salt, pepper, and garlic.
  4. Drizzle butter on top and top with parsley.
  5. Transfer the fillets to the baking tray.
  6. Cover it and bake for 20-30 minutes.

3. Tilapia Taco

Tilapia taco
Image: Shutterstock
  • Prep Time: 10 mins
  • Cooking Time: 30 mins
  • Total Time: 40 mins
  • Serves: 2
  • 4 corn tortillas
  • 4 tilapia fillets
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice
  • Salt to taste
  • ½ teaspoon pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon red chili flakes
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • ½ cup shredded cabbage
  • ½ avocado, chopped
  • 1 tomato, chopped
  • ¼ cup chopped cucumber
  • ½ cup grated cheese
  • ½ cup yogurt
  • Cilantro for garnish
  • Cooking spray
How To Prepare
  1. Rub the tilapia fillets with lime juice, salt, pepper, and garlic powder.
  2. Spray the fillets with cooking spray and grill them, 5 minutes on each side.
  3. Heat the tortillas on a skillet.
  4. In the meanwhile, blend yogurt, cilantro, and chili flakes into a smooth sauce.
  5. Divide the grilled tilapia on the tortillas.
  6. Add salsa, cabbage, cucumber, avocado, and tomato.
  7. Top with the yogurt sauce and garnish with cilantro.

One main question remains unanswered – is consuming tilapia fish safe? Find out next.

Is It Safe To Consume Tilapia?

Is tilapia healthy? Yes, if it is wild-caught tilapia. But if it is farm-raised, there are many concerns, and you should be aware of them and make an informed decision while buying or ordering tilapia. Here’s what you should know.

  • Risk Of Arsenic Poisoning

Sad but true. Scientists evaluated farmed tilapia fish in Taiwan, which were found to harbor arsenic (18). Arsenic is a cancer-causing metallogen, and chronic exposure to arsenic increases the risk of cancer (19).

  • Risk Of Mercury Poisoning

You may have heard about mercury poisoning related to tilapia or fish in general. It is true. Scientists have found that both freshwater and aquaculture tilapia can bioaccumulate mercury. However, freshwater tilapia poses about 5% less mortality risk when compared to the mercury poisoning caused by farmed tilapia (20).

  • Can Increase Inflammation

Tilapia is also known as aquatic chicken because of its protein content and numerous health benefits. But farmed tilapia can lead to an increase in inflammation in the body. This, in turn, can lead to arthritisi  XA common disorder that causes inflammation of one or more joints allowing for a reduced range of motion. , weight gain, and heart disease (21).

  • Imbalanced Omega-3 and Omega-6 Ratio

The ideal ratio of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids is 1:1. But in farmed tilapia, the ratio is 2:1 or 4:1, which may cause many diseases, including hypertensioni  XA condition that raises blood pressure above normal and increases the risk of stroke and heart disease. and heart diseases (22).

  • Risk Of Cancer

Farmed fish are exposed to heavy metals that finally enter the human system. Consuming too many of them can lead to mutation in the DNA and cancer (23). Moreover, not all farmed fish are not grown in healthy and hygienic culture conditions, thereby leading to many other diseases.

  • PCB And Pesticide

Researchers have found that tilapia grown in farms contain many pollutants, such as polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), organochlorine (OC), organophosphorus (OPs), hexachlorobenzene (HCB), and trifluralin pesticides (24).

Tilapia is a freshwater fish with a mild flavor. It is inexpensive and is a great source of protein. The many benefits of tilapia can be attributed to its rich nutritional profile and low calorific values. The intake of tilapia is good for bone growth and maintenance. It also reduces cancer risk, improves brain health, protects the heart, fights aging signs, and helps with weight management. You can prepare many delicious recipes with tilapia. However, farm-raised fish may cause arsenic and mercury poisoning and increase inflammation. Hence, buy them from a trusted source and consult your doctor in case of any emergencies.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is tilapia healthier than chicken?

Both tilapia and chicken are great sources of lean protein. However, tilapia contains more omega-3 fats than chicken.

Can you eat tilapia everyday?

No, the FDA recommends consumption of 8 to 12 ounces of tilapia per week, which roughly translates to two to three times per week.

Is tilapia good for your liver?

Yes, tilapia is an oily fish and its moderate consumption may help lower the risks of fatty liver disease (25), (26).

Key Takeaways

  • Tilapia, a freshwater fish, is rich in protein and many nutrients.
  • Tilapia are rich in omega-3s, which improve neurological function and help the brain function better.
  • Antioxidants and vitamin E in tilapia brighten and enhance your skin tone and shield the skin from photodamage.
  • Since tilapia fish are farm-raised, they raise the risk of cancer and mercury poisoning. Therefore, always buy them from a trusted source and seek medical advice immediately.

Unlock the amazing health benefits of tilapia in this eye-opening video. Click on it and dive into the 9 compelling reasons why this fish deserves a place on your plate.


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