Why You Should Think Twice Before Eating Tilapia

Fish is generally the healthiest option on many menus. Lifehack points out that fish is a protein that has fewer calories and less cholesterol than other popular proteins such as pork and red meat. However, not all fish should be seen as equal on the healthy scale. Take tilapia, for example. Tilapia doesn't have the same stellar, healthy reputation as other popular fish such as salmon or cod — and possibly, for good reasons. 

According to The Healthy, tilapia is a farm-raised fish that ranks as the fourth most consumed fish in America. It is one of the oldest farmed fish in the world and is currently farm produced in more than 130 countries. Tilapia is easy to farm raise as it can stand crowded conditions and feed on algae and soybeans instead of meat. Because of its similarity to chicken and egg whites as a source of protein, tilapia has been given the nickname "aquatic chicken." While tilapia isn't the only farm-raised fish, it's the associated farming practices that have experts questioning how healthy tilapia is for us. 

Its origins may be giving tilapia a fishy reputation

To choose the healthiest tilapia, The Healthy recommends looking at the package for its country of origin. The best countries are likely "Ecuador, Peru, and Colombia," says Celine Beitchman, director of nutrition at the Institute of Culinary Education, because the fish has been raised in freshwater tanks and shallow ponds. Avoid farm-raised tilapia from China, as their farmers have been known to use illegal antibiotics. Chinese-raised tilapia may be hard to avoid, however, as LIVESTRONG points out that China is responsible for over 50% of the world's tilapia production.

Fishy origins may be giving this tilapia a fishy reputation. In addition to illegal antibiotics polluting some of the tilapia sold around the world, WebMD states that eating too much tilapia may expose you to carcinogens. This may be especially true of countries that have their tilapia fish farms near water polluted with heavy metals. Tilapia's origins and its farming methods are why many are raising a skeptical eyebrow to an otherwise mild-tasting, healthy fish. We can't overlook the positives. LIVESTRONG claims the fish is a healthy source of lean protein and rich in omega-3 fatty acids. If you're careful about the amount you eat and check the origin of the tilapia you are buying, there is no reason why you shouldn't be enjoying this aquatic chicken every now and then.