How Much Do You Actually Know About Tilapia?

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Fresh pieces of tilapia

Never before has the problem of fake news been so prominent. So many fraudsters are posting and reposting the same catchy, outrageous stories, fishing for our attention with cheap clickbait. And if you’ve read stories about how Tilapia is bad for you, you’ve probably been the victim of fake news.

The Problem with Fake News

There are a few sensationalist headlines out there that are posted over and over again, often by pseudo health and wellness sites. And somehow, Tilapia became the target of one of these internet hoax smear campaigns, leaving nutritionists, dieticians, doctors and scientists completely baffled.

Because the truth is that Tilapia makes for some of the most wholesome, versatile, and dare we say Instagram-worthy seafood dishes out there.

Why Tilapia?

Fresh harvested Tilapia

The anti-Tilapia internet theories are probably inspired by subpar aquaculture practiced in some poorer nations, where fish are being raised without proper environmental protections, health and safety standards. This has proven a considerable problem in China (although there are excellent farms there as well), and of course it is a legitimate cause for concern.

However, these problems are associated with poor aquaculture practices generally—not Tilapia itself. Any fish species will be unhealthy if it comes from an unhealthy farm. Unfortunately, it seems Tilapia has been singled out since it’s used so commonly in aquaculture worldwide.

How Tilapia is Raised

Tilapia raised in floating cages

When farmed sustainably, Tilapia are kept in net pens on large, pristine lakes, where onsite facilities test the water frequently to ensure purity and environmental safety. They are also fed plant-based diets: Tilapia are herbivores and nourishing them properly increases their own nutrient stores, including protein and omega-3 fatty acids, while taking no toll on the natural world.

To spot Tilapia that has been raised in the right conditions, look for certifications on the label. Groups such as the Global Aquaculture Alliance and the Aquaculture Stewardship Council audit Tilapia fish farms regularly. They only grant their seals of approval to companies that meet the highest standards for health and sustainability. Regal Springs Tilapia has received these certifications and more, and can be found in grocery stores across North America.

A Healthy Fish

Delicious Tilapia dish with salad and sauce

Tilapia is favored the world over not only for its mild taste, and the fact it works well with pretty much any fish recipe, but because it’s packed with protein. And while most sources of animal protein tend to be high in fat, Tilapia is super lean and low in calories. This fish allows you to be on a weight-loss diet without forgoing your nutritional needs, and supplies vital minerals such as phosphorus, potassium and selenium (a natural antioxidant that also bolsters the immune system).

And of course, the omega-3 fatty acids in Tilapia and other fish are some of the best nutrients out there for heart health and brain function. There used to be concern that Tilapia’s concentration of omega-6 fatty acids counteracted its omega-3s, but more recent research has found that omega-6s are safe, and may have under-appreciated health benefits that deserve further study.

A Healthy World

Regal Springs Tilapia nets

Eating farmed Tilapia is good for the environment since it eases the strain on wild fisheries, which are currently overfished to the point of near extinction. By offering employment opportunities in the communities where they work, companies prevent overfishing while supporting local cultures and economies.

Operating largely in remote or rural areas in Mexico, Honduras and Indonesia, Regal Springs invests capital and resources in its communities. Employees are entitled to living wages, benefits and education opportunities. Regal Springs builds schools, buys books, pays teachers’ salaries and even provides electric power, often through solar panels. They also help pave roads, provide clean water and establish medical clinics. These are just a few of the examples of the good that can come from choosing the right seafood from the right company.

Don’t let fake news stop you from enjoying the benefits of protein-rich, environmentally friendly (and delicious) Tilapia. It’s low in fat, high in protein, and definitely a lot healthier than bacon. Ultimately, the truth about Tilapia is: it’s a very good option for your next meal.

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Photos: Nate Steiner, WorldFish, WorldFish, Komarina, Regal Springs