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For a healthy heart, tilapia may be bad

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By Prof Raphael Nyarkotey Obu

Tilapia is a popular food source due to its affordability and numerous health benefits in other areas. However, for the heart, tilapia appears to be a bad omen. I herein explore why tilapia might not be good for your heart health in this article.

In general, self.com reported that fresh tilapia contains a good source of protein. In 3.5 ounces (100 grams), it is loaded with 26 grams of protein and only 128 calories.

Tilapia is rich in niacin, vitamin B12, phosphorus, selenium, and potassium.

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A 3.5-ounce serving contains the following:

o          Calories: 128

o          Carbs: 0 grams

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o          Protein: 26 grams

o          Fats: 3 grams

o          Niacin: 24% of the RDI

o          Vitamin B12: 31% of the RDI

o          Phosphorus: 20% of the RDI

o          Selenium: 78% of the RDI

o          Potassium: 20% of the RDI

Tilapia is also a lean source of protein, with only 3 grams of fat per serving.  However, the type of fat in this fish contributes to its bad reputation.

The danger:  omega-6 to omega-3 ratio may lead to inflammation

This is why tilapia might not be good for your heart health. Generally speaking, fish are normally regarded as one of the healthiest foods on the planet. This is because fish like salmon, tuna, and sardines contain large amounts of omega-3 fatty acids. Wild-caught salmon contains over 2,500 mg of omega-3s per 3.5-ounce (100-gram) serving.

Some studies(Mori and Beilin, 2004; Eslick et al.2009; Penny et al.2002) found that omega-3 fatty acids are healthy fats that lower inflammation and blood triglycerides. They also reduced the risk of heart disease.

However, in the case of tilapia, it appears to be different,  the bad news for tilapia is that it only contains 240 mg of omega-3 fatty acids per serving — ten times less omega-3 than wild salmon.

Another danger is that tilapia has more omega-6 fatty acids than omega-3. Though Omega-6 fatty acids are an extremely debated topic, they are normally considered less healthy than omega-3s.

Simopoulos AP(2002) held that others think that omega-6 fatty acids can be harmful and increase inflammation if consumed in large concentrations. The same author also recommended that the ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 in the diet should be  1:1 as possible. This means that eating fish high in omega-3 like salmon will help to meet this need, but tilapia will not provide this need.

Weaver et al.(2008) warned that those who are concerned with heart health should avoid eating due to the high contents of omega-6 fatty acids as against omega-3 fatty acids.

Take home

Fresh tilapia contains much less omega-3 than other fish like salmon. Its omega-6 to omega-3 ratio is higher than other fish and may contribute to inflammation in the body.

Many of the health benefits of eating fish are due to their high omega-3 fatty acid content. These unsaturated fats benefit heart health in a variety of ways, including:

o          Reducing blood clotting 

o          Lowering blood pressure

o          Decreasing your risk of strokes and heart failure

o          Reducing irregular heartbeats (arrhythmia)

This is not the case for tilapia due to the high content of omega-6 fatty acids.

This notwithstanding,  tilapia has better  omega-3 fats than beef, pork, chicken, or turkey. Omega-3s support the membranes around every cell in your body and play important roles in your heart, blood vessels, lungs, and immune system—your body’s defense against germs.

Additionally,  the omega-6 fats, thanks to the corn it eats. Omega-6s are another essential fatty acid our body can’t make on its own. These fats help keep your cholesterol under control. They also prepare your muscle cells to respond to insulin—the hormone that helps turn sugar into energy. That’s a great benefit, especially if you have diabetes.

So for those concerned with heart health, you might consider avoiding it or better still eating occasionally.


Prof. Nyarkotey has strict sourcing guidelines and relies on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations to justify his write-ups.  My articles are for educational purposes and do not serve as Medical advice for Treatment. I aim to educate the public about evidence-based scientific Naturopathic Therapies.

The writer is a Professor of Naturopathic Healthcare, a Medical Journalist, and a science writer. President, Nyarkotey College of Holistic Medicine & Technology (NUCHMT)/African Naturopathic Foundation, Ashaiman, Ghana. E. mail: [email protected].

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