Tilapia nutrition compared to other common foods

Omega 3 and Omega 6

a Synopsis

Perhaps the largest misconception that has circulated the media for far too long is the potentially "dangerous" amounts of omega 6 found in tilapia. Much like gossip in a high school, what was meant as a side comment in a study was suddenly picked up and turned into a headline.[1] In the pursuit of minuscule details, the larger picture went ignored; even if tilapia has higher amounts of omega 6 than salmon, it doesn't even compare to the high amounts found in certain vegetable oils like sunflower oil, grapeseed oil, and certain dressings.[2] But before we dive into setting the record straight, we need to know what these omegas are.

"A 4 Ounce Fillet Has Just 90 Calories & 2 Grams of Fat."

Omega 3 and Omega 6 are known as PolyUnsaturated Fatty Acids (PUFAs). Omega 3 is desirable because of its anti-inflammatory properties that benefit brain growth and heart health. Like most PUFAs, Omega 3 and Omega 6 can only be consumed through diet, and omega 3s tend to be hard to come by. Omega 6, on the other hand, usually promote inflammation. Unlike Omega 3, Omega 6 is a lot easier to find in our diet, especially American diets; often we consume it without realizing it. But just because it promotes inflammation does not mean it is inherently harmful. Along with Omega 3s, Omega 6s also play a crucial role in brain development, and they help "stimulate skin and hair growth, maintain bone health, regulate metabolism, and maintain the reproductive system."[3] Therefore, the key to a healthy lifestyle is not outright avoiding omega 6 consumption, but instead finding the right balance between the two. A shift toward a Mediterranean diet with fruits, vegetables, fish, nuts, and olive oil can certainly help.

So tilapia has Omega 6; it is not the end of the world. There are plenty of nutritional benefits in tilapia that outweigh that small half-a-gram of omega 6, such as its low fat content and high amount of protein. The next time you're perusing health articles online and elsewhere, skip the gossiping school children and go straight to the source.

Often the ratio of Omega 3 to Omega 6 is considered to see how one outweighs the other, since they tend to have contradicting functions. Looking at the ratios for chicken and tilapia, for example, you will see that chicken has a higher ratio of Omega 6 to Omega 3, practically double than what tilapia has.


[1] http://www.bendbulletin.com/health/4806652-151/pros-and-cons-of-tilapia

[2] http://nutritiondata.self.com/foods-000141000000000000000-w.html

[3] http://umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/supplement/omega6-fatty-acids