What is Tilapia?
Did you know that tilapia is the 4th most consumed seafood in the US since 2002? This is after tuna, shrimp, and salmon.
Seafood in itself is a favorite delicacy among the population due to its vast nutritional benefits.
However, tilapia tilts the scale in its favor due to its natural preparation requirement and light taste.
Additionally, it is relatively cheap compared to most seafood hence affordable to most.
Another thing that most people don’t know is that tilapia is a general term that’s used to classify almost 100 different species of cichlid fish.
These belong to a tribe known as tilapiine cichlid.
The tilapia that we are familiar with is mainly a freshwater fish that’s found in shallow ponds, streams, lakes, and rivers.
Characteristics of Tilapia Fish
Tilapia has a compressed and thick body with its lower pharyngeal bones which are fused together to form a single tooth-bearing structure.
The tilapia uses these as a 2nd set of jaws to process food, a process which is enabled by a complex set of muscles.
This division of task makes work more comfortable for the mandibles (square jaws).
This factor also makes the efficient tilapia feeders so expect them to capture and chew away a variety of food items.
Their lips are full and swollen, their teeth conical, and have a long dorsal fin.
The tilapia is not entirely a large species but some, Nile tilapia, are known to grow up to 2 feet in length.
You’d be impressed to learn that tilapia is a mouth breeding species of fish. This means that they carry fertilized eggs as well as the young ones in their mouth for days after the yolk sac has been absorbed.
These tasty and favorite fish cannot withstand extreme temperatures hence only found in specific water bodies.
Health Benefits of Tilapia is Good for You
Did you know that eating 8 ounces of seafood reduces your chances of suffering from heart disease?
This is according to a publication on the “dietary guidelines for Americans, 2010.”
Even though some people are aware of how vital seafood is to their health, they cannot stand the ‘fishy’ flavor of these nutritious creatures.
In this case, tilapia has steadily become a popular choice due to its mild flavor which is deemed tolerable.
This lean white fish is not only delicious but full of health and nutritional benefits as well which make it a popular choice.
Some of its health benefits include;
Tilapia Aiding in weight reduction
- Boost metabolism
- Facilitate body growth and repair
- Strengthen bones
- Reduce triglyceride levels
- Prevent cognitive decline
- Prevent arthritis
- Prevent some types of cancer
- Boost the health of your hair
- Reduce signs of aging
- Strengthen your immune system
Benefits of Tilapia Nutrition
The benefits of tilapia are many, and what makes this fish unique unlike others is that the taste of tilapia has the lowest “fishy” taste from amongst seafood.
Tilapia Has Low Calories
Tilapia is a low-calorie food.
This means that it is recommended for people trying to lose or maintain weight, or those who are on a strict diet due to health concerns.
In this case, a 3.5 ounce serving of this fish contains 128 calories.
This is impressively low compared to the same serving of roasted skinless chicken breast which contains 165 calories.
In the attempt to reduce the calorie intake of Americans (which is at its highest), tilapia comes highly recommended as it facilitates lower calorie intake without even decreasing the portion size.
Tilapia High in Protein
Another nutritional perk of tilapia is its high protein content. A 3.5 ounce serving of it contains 26 grams of protein.
In a day, women require 46 grams of protein while men need 56 grams.
In this case, a single serving of tilapia meets half of your daily requirement. Additionally, these being animal proteins mean that it nourishes you with all the essential amino acids which makes it a complete source of protein. This way, your body can use the protein from tilapia to build and replenish its protein stores.
Tilapia Healthy Fat
One of the most popular nutritional benefits of fish is the Omega-3 fats. Omega-3’s are classified as essential fats because your body is unable to manufacture them.
Although low in fat, tilapia contains healthy levels of Omega-3 fatty acids. In this case, a 3.5-ounce serving contains only 3 grams of total fat and 113 mg of omega-3 fatty acids.
According to the “Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010”, each person needs about 250 mg of Omega-3 fatty acids each day.
Fatty acids are essential because they help reduce inflammation and trim down the risks of acquiring heart disease.
Vitamins and Minerals in Tilapia
Another essential nutrient that tilapia is rich in is Vitamin B, Vitamin D, and Magnesium.
You need magnesium as it supports the health of your bones, regulates blood pressure as well as blood sugar.
On the other hand, Vitamin B is responsible for turning the food that you eat into energy.
Vitamin D is a very nutrient but rare in foods. It is responsible for the absorption of calcium for healthy bones and teeth.
It is also a vital nutrient for the overall health of your bones.
Your body can make some through sun exposure but it still advisable that you incorporate foods rich in Vitamin D in your diet.
A 4-ounce serving of tilapia will provide you with 11.3% of the RDA (Recommended Daily Amount) of calcium and 10% RDA of potassium. Calcium works well with potassium to conduct impulses in the nervous system.
Potassium enables the heart to perform its functions and also facilitates muscle contraction.
Is Tilapia Safe for Consumption?
In my quest, I discovered that as nutritious as tilapia is, it’s quite an unclean fish.
In fact, this topic is quite controversial and has risen eyebrows because these delicious fish are natural scavengers of toxic and detritus material in the water bodies that they live in.
As much as this is true, it is necessary.
By eating these poisonous materials, they naturally clean the environment by purifying the water and reducing the oxygen wastage.
When it comes to the culinary world, this isn’t quite appetizing and may even put you at risk depending on the toxicity of the fish.
In this case, I highly recommend that you buy your tilapia from an established and reputable source.
Look out for fish farmers who breed their tilapia domestically in clean and healthy environments.
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Tilapia Bakes Recipes and Instructions
Tilapia is a delicate fish that requires delicate procedures of cooking. If too much heat is used or handled aggressively, it will break and its flavor lost. However, I have discovered a variety of excellent ways of cooking this tasty fish without interfering with its nutritional value or taste.
- Two pieced of skinless tilapia fillet (1-2 oz)
- A pinch of salt
- 1/2 tablespoon of vegetable cooking oil
- If the tilapia still has skin on it, use a thin sharp knife to cut the skin off from under it.
- This will prevent it from curling.
- Ensure not to cut through the flesh.
- Once the surface is off, pat the fish dry and sprinkle the salt on both sides.
- Heat the vegetable oil in a nonstick skillet over moderately high heat enough to smoke it. Sauté the fish.
- Avoid turning the fish over repeatedly.
- Let it sit on one side until it achieves a golden color then use a spatula to turn it over to the other side.
- Approximately, each team should sit for 4-5 minutes depending on how you like your meat (rare, medium or well done).
- Transfer the fish to a plate and serve hot on a bed of green vegetables.
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- Two 6-oz Tilapia Fillet
- One tablespoon of melted butter
- One tablespoonful of lemon juice
- 1/2 teaspoonful of garlic powder
- A pinch of salt to taste
- 1/2 tablespoon of capers (drained)
- A pinch of oregano
- A pinch of paprika
- In a bowl, mix in the garlic powder, lemon juice, butter, and salt. Place the tilapia in an ungreased baking dish and pour the mixture of ingredients over it until it is well coated.
- Sprinkle the oregano, paprika, and capers over the fish fillet. Bake it uncovered at 425 degrees for about 10-15 minutes.
- You can check to see whether the fish is ready if it flakes easily with a fork.
- One tablespoonful of olive oil
- One tablespoonful of lemon juice
- A clove of garlic
- One tablespoon of fresh parsley (minced)
- One teaspoon of fresh basil
- One teaspoonful of ground black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoonful of salt
- Two tilapia fillets (6oz each)
- Whisk the extra virgin olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, parsley, basil, white pepper, and salt in a plastic ziplock/resealable bag.
- Add the tilapia in there, mix thoroughly and ensure that the marinade coats it well.
- Press the air out from the pack and seal the bag. Put the mixture in the refrigerator for an hour.
- Preheat the grill and oil it lightly.
- Remove the tilapia fillet from the marinade and shake off the excess dough.
- Place the fillets on the rack and allow the fish to cook until it is no longer translucent at the center.
- When ready, it will flake off easily when probed with a fork.
- This will take approximately 3-4 minutes per side although the thickness of the fillets will determine this.
- This can be served with mango salsa on the side.
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TIP for Cooking Tilapia
Use aluminum foil to prevent the fillet from drying out and to facilitate even cooking.
This also makes clean up easy as fish tends to stick on the grill especially when temperatures are too high.
- Five tilapia fillets
- Black pepper to taste 9ground)
- Salt to taste
- Two tablespoons of chopped fresh basil or dill
- One tablespoon of olive oil
- One tablespoon of olive oil
- One sliced lemon
- 1 Bag of charcoal
- Lighter fluid or chimney starter
- 1-2 bags of wood chips
- Soak the wood chips then light the smoker.
- While charcoal smokers take about 30 minutes to get hot and turn to an ashy white color, gas grills will heat up quicker in 5-10 minutes.
- Prepare the tilapia by mixing the dill/basil, salt, black pepper, garlic, herb seasoning and olive oil.
- Rub the seasoning into both sides of the fillets using your fingertips.
- Wrap the wood chips in an aluminum foil pouch and punch holes through it so that the smoke can escape.
- Alternatively, you can place the wood chips in a metal smoker box.
- Position the tilapia on the smoker and set the vent to open fully.
- If the lid on your smoker is adjustable, strategically position the vent over the fillets.
- Check the tilapia fillet in an hour to see determine the progress and whether the wood chips are still smoking.
- If everything is working as it should, this recipe will take one 1/2-2 hour.
- Serve the tilapia with some lemon wedges to drizzle over the fillet pieces.
To determine whether the fillets are cooked, insert a fork or a metal thermometer in the middle or thickest part of the tilapia.
Keep it in there for 5-10 seconds.
Remover and feel the end of the thermostat or fork to see whether it is warm or not.
If warm, your tilapia fillet is ready.
You can also examine the color and texture to determine whether the fillet is cooked or not.
If white and flaky, it is ready to be removed from the smoker.
Unlike other recipes, this one takes the longest time, 2 hours to ensure that you have company around.
The smoked tilapia in basic and garlic is undoubtedly worth it.
- 1 lb of fresh tilapia
- One tablespoonful of margarine
- Two cloves of garlic chopped
- 1/3 cup of dry white wine
- 1/2 cup low sodium chicken broth
- 1/2 cup of whole milk
- One tablespoon of cornstarch
- 1/3 cup of fresh parsley (chopped)
- A pinch of black pepper
- 4 Lemon wedges
- Heat the margarine in a nonstick skewer over medium heat.
- Add the garlic and stir for 2 minutes.
- Add the fish, pour the wine in and let it cook for 2 minutes.
- Turn the fish over to the other side (gently).
- Add the broth and bring to a boil then reduce the heat to medium-low. Let the fish simmer until it is opaque.
- Use a fork to test whether it is ready.
- Depending on the size of the fish, this will take approximately 6 minutes. When ready, remove from fire and cover to keep it warm.
- Keep boiling the poaching liquid for 5 minutes to reduce it.
- Reduce the heat and allow it to simmer.
- Mix in the milk to the cornstarch and stir then gradually add it into the broth.
- Keep stirring through the entire process. It will thicken to a creamy sauce then add the pepper and parsley.
- Drizzle over the poached fish and serve with some lemon wedges on the side.
- This was my ‘safety net’ favorite recipe back in the day when I was worried about burning my tilapia (which is likely with the other ingredients).
- You are guaranteed of a moist tilapia fillet, and the white wine sauce adds a creamy texture to it.
Pan Fried Tilapia
- 2 Tilapia fillets
- 1/4 cup wine
- Three tablespoons of soy sauce
- 1/2 teaspoon of sesame oil
- Two teaspoons of cornstarch
- Two scallions (sliced)
- Ground white pepper
- A cup of wood ear mushrooms (soaked)
- One red bell pepper (chopped)
- One green pepper
- Small onion
- Two cloves of garlic
- Two scallions (sliced)
- 1-inch piece of ginger
- Vegetable oil
- Two tablespoons of cornstarch
- 1/2 teaspoons of sesame oil
- In a bowl, add the diced tilapia pieces, sesame oil, soy sauce, cornstarch, and a few pinches of white pepper.
- Thoroughly mix and set aside to marinate. Drain the soaked mushroom and cut into rough chunks.
- Chop the onions, peppers, scallions, garlic, and ginger.
- When all the vegetables are ready, heat the oil in a wok and fry the ginger for 1 minute.
- This will get all the flavor from the ginger into the oil.
- Add the chopped garlic and cook for another minute.
- Add the onion and cook until translucent followed by the bell peppers then the mushrooms.
- Stir for a few minutes until all the ingredients are well mixed.
- Add the marinated tilapia, a 1/3 cup of water then cover the pan.
- Reduce the heat and steam the fish and vegetables for 5-6 minutes until the tilapia turns opaque.
- Uncover the wok and increase the heat.
- Add the scallion and toss the mixture for a minute.
- Remover from fire and serve.
- I find this recipe pretty convenient when I have some leftover veggies.
- The best thing about it is that it remains tasty and nutritious.
- Four tilapia fillets
- 1/4 teaspoon of seasoned salt
- Two tablespoons of olive oil
- One tablespoon of lemon juice
- One can of diced tomato
- One small red onion
- 1/2 cup of chicken broth
- 1/4 cup of tomato paste
- 3/4 cup of roasted sweet red peppers
- One teaspoon of dried oregano
- One teaspoon of garlic powder
- 1/4 cup tomato paste
- Seasoned salt to taste
- Pat the tilapia fillets dry with kitchen paper towels.
- Sprinkle seasoned salt and drizzle some lemon juice.
- Heat the oil in a nonstick pan over medium-high heat.
- Add the onions and stir until tender then add the peppers, tomatoes, tomato paste, broth, oregano and garlic powder then continue stirring for an additional 3 minutes.
- Place the tilapia fillets over the tomato blend, cover, and continue cooking for 6-8 minutes.
Although I love braised tilapia, I must admit that I usually end up with a pile of dirty dishes to battle with afterward.
Farm Raised VS Wild Caught Tilapia Which Fish is the Healthiest
This is a debate that has raised controversy over the years and left many, including me, skeptical about which fish is a healthier choice.
For starters, both farm and wild tilapia are high in Oega3 fatty acids and low in saturated fats.
However, most people assume that wild tilapia is more nutrient dense because it comes from a natural source.
But the truth is that there isn’t much difference in their nutrient content.
Through research, I came to learn that wild tilapia is more calcium and iron dense while farm-raised tilapia has more selenium and Vitamin A.
I also learned that eating farm-raised tilapia, as well as salmon and catfish, is highly recommended because it is free from mercury toxins which are familiar with wild fish, for instance, shark, swordfish, tuna, tilefish and king mackerel.
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In my quest, I also learned that there is a common misconception that farm-bred tilapia are genetically modified to speed up growth.
However, this is far from the truth.
There are strict measures in the US that warn against the use of antibiotics or hormones in the growth of farm-bred tilapia.
This is according to an outreach specialist for the national agriculture association, Linda O’Dierno.
As much as this is true, it is important to note that these strict regulations only apply in the US and not in other countries where the United States sources its tilapia.
I discovered that 90% of the tilapia consumed in the United States is farm-bred in other nations then imported for consumption.
You will be surprised to learn that the US only manages to produce 2.5% of the farm-raised tilapia in the world.
This low percentage is also very expensive due to the strict measures that regulate the rearing of tilapia.
All in all, I would say that there are some factors that one should consider before settling for farm-bred tilapia.
These include; safety, nutritional content, price, and sustainability.
If you want to know the countries that import healthy and safe tilapia, then it is essential that you keep track of the evolving fishing industry practices as well as the environmental on-goings around the world.
This way, you can learn about the regions that are safe and which ones aren’t.
There is always a tag indicating the origin of the fish on the casing of the tilapia.