Is tilapia a real fish?

In this brief article, we will answer the query, ”Is tilapia a real fish?” We will look at the health benefits of tilapia. We will also discuss some precautions that can be taken when shopping for tilapia.

Is tilapia a real fish?

Yes, tilapia refers to several species of freshwater fish that belong to the cichlid family and are native to Africa and the Middle East. Wild tilapia are native to Africa, however tilapia is now in many regions in the world being farmed in over 135 countries.

There are 3 main types of tilapia fish which are:

  • Mozambique (or Red) Tilapia
  • Blue Tilapia
  • Nile (or Black) Tilapia

It is a great fish to farm because it grows quite rapidly and eats an affordable vegetarian diet. It also does well in crowded places. China is the biggest producer of this fish and largely exports it to the US.

What are the health benefits of tilapia?

It is a good source of protein and other nutrients

Tilapia is a good source of protein. In a 100 grams serving (3.5 ounces) it contains 26 grams of protein and only 128 cals.

Tilapia also contains an excellent amount of essential vitamins and minerals. It contains niacin, Vitamin B12, Selenium, Potassium and Phosphorus.

A 100 grams serving of tilapia can typically provide:

  • Calories: 128
  • Carbs: 0 grams
  • Protein: 26 grams
  • Fats: 3 grams
  • Niacin: 24% of the Daily Value (DV)
  • Vitamin B12: 31% of the DV
  • Selenium: 78% of the DV
  • Potassium: 20% of the DV
  • Phosphorus: 20% of the DV

Tilapia is also a lean source of protein only providing 3g in a serving. 

It can help prevent Cancer 

Tilapia is an excellent source of selenium providing 78% of the RDI in just a serving size of 100 grams. Selenium is an essential mineral with a vital role that aids in lowering the risk of diseases such as heart disease, thyroid disease and cognitive decline.

The body only requires selenium in trace amounts but it is vital for bodily functions.

It is good for heart health

Tilapia, like many other types of fish, is a good source of omega-3 fatty acids. Omega 3 fatty acids are unsaturated fatty acids and can benefit the heart in the below ways:

  • Reducing blood clotting
  • Reducing the levels of  cholesterol
  • Lowering the  blood pressure levels
  • Decreasing the risk of suffering from stroke and heart failure
  • Reducing arrhythmia which are irregular heartbeats

Tilapia contains more omega 3 fats than other meat sources such as pork, chicken, beef and turkey.

It helps strengthen the bones

Tilapia contains a lot of nutrients that the body utilizes to make, maintain and strengthen bones. Some of the nutrients include:

  • Calcium
  • Magnesium
  • Phosphorus
  • Vitamin D

Therefore consumption of tilapia can help strengthen the bones.

What are some concerns with consumption of tilapia?

Tilapia are fed animal feces in China

A report from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) indicated that in China fish are commonly fed with animal feces from livestock.

This practice is harmful as it can potentially cause an outbreak of food borne infections such as Salmonellosis because animal feces can contain salmonella.

Tilapia may contain harmful chemicals

An article reported that the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the period 2007 to 2012 rejected well over 800 shipments coming from China which comprised 187 shipments of tilapia.

This is because the fish did not meet the safety threshold in place as they were contaminated with harmful chemicals which included drug residues from vet drugs and also contained additives harmful to humans.

Another publication also reported that some chemicals which have been studied to result in toxic effects in humans were being used in China to farm tilapia despite some being banned.

What are the precautions to take when looking to buy tilapia?

When looking to buy some fresh tilapia ensure that you source for tilapia which comes from the US, Netherlands, Peru or Ecuador and avoid tilapia from China.

Also opt for wild caught tilapia as compared to farmed fish although they tend to be much more difficult to find.

You can as well skip tilapia and consume other types of fish which are better sources of omega 3 fats. These fish include trout, salmon and herring which contain more Omega-3 fats than tilapia in a serving.


In this brief article, we have answered the query, ”Is tilapia a real fish?” We have looked at the health benefits of tilapia. We have also discussed some precautions that can be taken when shopping for tilapia.


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