"Clean Tilapia": What is it?

Question: Why you would care about clean tilapia?

You want healthy food. Clean tilapia is fed a plant-based diet and is 100% free of antibiotics, hormones, and growth promoters. While it is raised on farms, it is raised under controlled conditions that are carefully maintained and audited by third party observers. You cannot say the same about any of the other major sources of protein. Beef, pork and chicken are almost assured to be artificially modified unless you pay extra for organic.

Cost. Pound for pound, clean tilapia is on the lower end of the cost spectrum. Prices may vary from store to store as well as different times of year; however, it is generally one of the lowest priced options for protein — if not the lowest. To find out where to buy clean tilapia keep reading as all Tilapia is not created equally.

Macros. If you are one of the many health-conscious people out there, then chances are you track your macros and therefore you know how easy it can be to eat too much fat trying to hit your protein. Here’s a fun fact: Four ounces of Tilapia from Ecuador contains 90 calories, 20.5 grams of protein, and only .75 grams of fat. Yes, you read that right.

Given that new information, let’s discuss what “clean tilapia” is and what it means for your diet.

You may have heard a lot of negative things about the hazards associated with eating tilapia. We often hear things like:

  1. It’s worse for your health than bacon.
  2. They’re fed animal waste.
  3. It’s a dirty fish.

Would you ever eat anything described like that? Much of the negative press tilapia receives may have started with the publication of a study from researchers at the Wake Forest University School of Medicine. You can read an article on the study here, as well as a retort from Harvard Medical School here.The rumors weren’t shut down when met with the Wake Forest study and once a false rumor gets started, it tends to gain momentum.  

Let's take a minute and unpack these arguments.

  1. It’s worse for your health than bacon. This stems from the assumption that the ratio within a normal diet of two different fatty acids (omega-6 and omega-3) should be around 2:1 which, in itself, is debatable. Anything higher than that may result in inflammation within the human body. To put this in perspective, a 4 oz. serving of tilapia contains about 0.4 grams, which is far less than bacon, which contains a higher ratio of omega-6 to omega-3. It’s a deceptive statement to make.
  2. They are fed animal waste. There hasn’t been any sound evidence proving that this is true. We can say, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that the tilapia we import are fed diets consisting of plant-based food sources.
  3. It’s a dirty fish. Tilapia is a low-calorie, high-protein fish that is beneficial to your health and wellness when added as a part of a well-balanced diet. Tilapia typically contains less mercury than other popular fish due to its diet and place in the food chain. Higher level predators, such as shark, swordfish, king mackerel or tilefish tend to contain far higher levels of mercury which, when consumed, can lead to very serious health problems.

To help further tell our tale of necessary redemption, let’s talk import statistics.

Info graphic displaying gross import of tilapia to the United States

Latin America accounts for 96% of fresh tilapia imported into the United States with ZERO FDA rejections. The same cannot be said about other Asian and South Pacific sources of tilapia. The exact statistics can be found here.

If you are wondering how or where to find clean tilapia, it’s quite simple, just ask where it comes from. If it is imported from Brazil, Ecuador, or Columbia, then you can typically trust it to be clean. If it is imported by Tropical Aquaculture Products, Inc, you can rest easy in knowing that they only import clean tilapia.