The Truth About Tilapia: Why You Should Stop Eating it Right Now
Move aside tuna – tilapia is the new chicken of the sea, touted as an inexpensive, mild-flavored fish that is rich in protein and low in calories (26 grams of protein and 130 calories per 3.5-ounce cooked serving).
Yet ever since the World Health Organization’s (WHO) found that processed meats, including bacon, are linked to cancer, the quality of our food sources has been at the forefront of our minds. So – did you know that tilapia may be just as bad, if not worse, than bacon?
You May Want to Read: It’s Confirmed Processed and Red Meats Are Linked to Cancer
This tropical fish is the world’s second most farmed fish, mostly from sources in Central America and Asia. Due to modern-day farming methods and sources, tilapia can be detrimental to your health. The difference between good-for-you fish sources and potentially health hazardous is in the source: farm-raised tilapia.
Here are 6 reasons why you should avoid farm-raised tilapia:
May Cause Inflammation
Farm-raised tilapia contains small levels of omega-3 fatty acids (just 135 mg per serving), a heart-healthy oil acclaimed for its numerous health benefits. However, due to tilapia’s diet high in GMO corn and soy, the fish has high levels of omega-6 fats, which are found to increase inflammation in your body and cause issues with your heart and brain. Inflammation causes a wide range of health problems, including asthma, heart disease, stroke, diabetes and arthritis. In fact, tilapia may cause more inflammation than highly processed foods such as bacon and red meat.
Tilapia do not just eat poorly, they actually have a diet that consists of soy, corn and fecal matter from other animals. Farm-raised fish also tend to be fattier than wild fish as they are raised in cages and not free to swim. Nothing says healthy eating like eating a fatty, poop-fed piece of fish . . .
Pesticides and Antibiotics
Fish farms are overpopulated, and due to these crowded conditions, the fish are more likely to have high levels of antibiotics to combat disease that is spread from the close living quarters. To fight off sea lice, tilapia are also given pesticides that are deadly to other other fish. Additionally, the use of antibiotics in farmed fish is a contributing factor to drug-resistant bacteria, a growing public problem. Worst of all, only a small percentage of seafood imported into the United States is tested for contamination, so you really have no idea what you are eating from these sources.
Tilapia is fed methyltestosterone during early stages of life to help them grow larger and at a faster rate than untreated fish. That chemical causes them to grow quickly without developing reproductive organs, requiring less energy and less food, thus helping the fish farmer’s bottom line profit. This chemical has the potential to be toxic to the liver when exposed to humans, so why on earth would you eat an animal that was exposed to this?
Farmed fish contain 10 times the carcinogenic agents of wild-caught fish due to the food that they are fed. Dioxin, a toxic substance that can cause cancer among other health issues, is found to be up to 11 times higher concentration in farmed fish than wild-caught fish. Once dioxin is introduced into your system, it can take as much as a decade for it to leave your body. No piece of fish is worth more than a decade of exposure to cancer-causing agents!
While you opt for fish instead of red meat thinking that it is full of healthy nutrients, if your fish is farmed, that might not be the case. Farm-raised fish have lower levels of healthy nutrients like omega-3s and protein.
The bottom line is that tilapia can be a good food source, if you choose wild caught and responsibly-farmed sources. When you shop, be sure to avoid farm-raised tilapia (and all farmed fish for that matter). When you go out to eat, ask your server about the source of the fish, and if they don’t know, order another entree. Typically, you will want to choose domestic sources of fish that are regulated by the FDA, and avoid those from China or the Pacific Ocean (less than 2% are inspected before coming into the US). Be smart about what you choose to eat, and say no to farm-raised fish!
Aren’t sure about the source of your fish, particularly when you go out to eat? Check out this amazing resource: seafoodwatch.com to learn more.