Back in 2008, a study was published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association that claimed that Tilapia is worse for you than bacon. Given all the bad things we’ve heard about bacon lately, that is obviously NOT TRUE—but what would prompt someone to make that claim?
We’ve broken down the arguments behind the allegations so you can see why their claims are false, and why you can feel confident in eating healthy Tilapia from sustainable producers. The plain truth is that Tilapia is an excellent high protein, low calorie, low fat, low carb and mercury-free seafood choice.
Argument: Tilapia is Too High in Omega-6 Fatty Acids
Truth: The principal argument behind the study calling Tilapia worse than bacon was that Tilapia has high levels of polyunsaturated omega-6 fatty acids relative to omega-3 fatty acids, in a ratio of over 2-to-1. Although omega-6s are considered a healthy fat because they lower “bad” cholesterol and are vital for brain development and normal growth, a high ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 may increase inflammation in the body.
However, the amount of omega-6s in Tilapia is less than 0.5 grams per serving, and not everyone agrees that the 2-to-1 ratio is important for good health. When you consider that Americans get far more omega-6s from healthy foods such as nuts and seeds than from Tilapia, and that the average American’s omega-6 to omega-3 ratio is 16-to-1, it seems absurd to say that Tilapia is unhealthier than bacon due to the ratio of its omega content.
Argument: Eating Tilapia Can Cause Chronic Illness
Truth: A study claimed that eating Tilapia could contribute to the development of chronic illnesses like heart disease or cancer, since eating Tilapia causes inflammation. Their reasoning for this was due to the aforementioned omega-6s. High amounts of omega-6 fatty acids can cause inflammation, which can then contribute to chronic illness.
However, the amounts of omega-6 found in Tilapia are not enough to significantly increase inflammation to the body. Other foods with a much higher content of omega-6s, such as fast food or anything that’s been deep fried, are much more likely to pose a problem than Tilapia.
Argument: The Omega-6 Content is What Makes Bacon Unhealthy
Truth: The basis for the study that claims that Tilapia is worse than bacon is the omega-6 content of Tilapia. However, this comparison makes little sense since bacon isn’t overly high in omega-6s, either. It’s other things in bacon, such as the amount of saturated fat, calories and sodium, that make it unhealthy.
On the other hand, Tilapia is a lean source of protein that has only 90–180 calories per serving and just 0.5 grams of saturated fats, which is just 3% of your recommended daily intake. Tilapia is low in sodium, as one serving has only 1% of your daily recommended intake. Tilapia also contains important nutrients such as vitamin B12, niacin, selenium, phosphorus and magnesium. All of these make Tilapia a much healthier choice than bacon.
Argument: Eating Farm-Raised Fish is Unhealthy
Truth: This isn’t the case at all. Tilapia sometimes gets a bad reputation because some Tilapia aren’t raised in a healthy, sustainable way. But bad fish growing practices result in bad fish—no matter what species you’re looking at. In reality, the majority of farms strive to achieve cleanliness to keep their fish healthy and keep their enclosures clear of dirt and deceased fish—this is not only better for their fish, but it’s also better for the farms (and their profits) too.
When it comes to Tilapia, fish that are fed a sustainable diet of US-grown grains and cereals are the best choice for a healthy diet. That’s why you should always buy your Tilapia from a reputable provider like Regal Springs and look for labels from organizations like the Aquaculture Stewardship Council that verify the fish comes from a sustainable, responsible farm.
When you look at the real evidence behind the arguments, it’s not hard to see that the claim that Tilapia is worse than bacon is both ridiculous and false. So don’t let this misleading statement stop you from enjoying a healthy Tilapia dinner. Just make sure it isn’t wrapped in bacon!
Image credits: svry / Shutterstock.com , Regal Springs Tilapia