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Tilapia fish Nutrition facts

Tilapia fish is a freshwater seafood prized for its white, delicate, and mild-flavored flesh. Tilapia are tropical fish found in the Nile and other warm rivers but can also live in saltwater. There are several species of commercially important tilapia with colors ranging from grey to bright red.

Scientific name: Oreochromis niloticus. These Cichlidae family attractive fish are known by many local names as - Nile tilapia, tilapia du Nil (French), tilapia del Nilo (Spanish), etc.

Tilapia fish
Tilapia fish


Tilapia is a non-oily, warm-water fish. Its body is vertically compressed and covered with smooth-edged cycloid scales. The dorsal fin has 16 to 17 spines and 11 to 15 soft rays. During the spawning season, its pectoral, dorsal, and caudal fins turn reddish with numerous black bars. (stripes)

Nile tilapias weigh 5 lb. In their natural habitat, they live longer than 10 years. Its flesh is light pink, sweet, and delicate. But once cooked, it turns white.


Nile tilapia is a tropical species that prefers shallow river waters and coastal estuaries. It is a voracious feeder that feeds on phytoplankton periphyton, aquatic plants, zooplankton, and small invertebrates.

In cultured nurseries, tilapias attain sexual maturity by 5-6 months. Tilapia fish are asynchronous breeders, and spawning begins when the water temperature reaches 24 ° C. Female tilapias incubate and brood -eggs and fry- in their mouth.

Health Benefits of Tilapia Fish

  1. Tilapia is non-oily, shallow water fish and is one of the lowest calorie fresh-water fish; 100 g holds just 96 calories; almost the same as halibut (91 calories).

  2. It is one of the finest sources of essential fatty acids, protein, minerals, and fat-soluble vitamins E and D (cholecalciferol).

  3. Tilapia is composed of lean, white meat that composes a quality amino-acids profile. 100g fish provides 20.08 g/100 g (36% of RDI). Tilapia protein composition is complete in the sense that it has all the essential amino acids in good proportions.

  4. Its lean, white meat is also a good source of polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA). Studies have shown that eating seafood can decrease the risk of heart attack, stroke, obesity, and hypertension. Tilapia fat is less saturated but has lots of “heart-healthy polyunsaturated fats, including omega-3 fatty acids.

  5. US FDA categorizes tilapia in "the best choice" section considering mercury levels in its flesh. It recommends the consumption of 2-3 servings a week for adults.

  6. Tilapia meat is good source of omega-3 eicosapentaenoicacid (EPA), docosapantaenoicacid (DPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) fatty acids. Studies suggest that those fatty acids, particularly DHA, play an important role in the growth and development of the nervous system, especially in infants and children.

  7. According to Cornell University and the New York Sea Grant Extension Program. 2012- The fatty acids play a crucial role in decreasing blood pressure and heart rate and help improve cardiovascular function. For example, research has shown that omega-3 fatty acids decrease the risk of arrhythmias (abnormal heartbeats) that can lead to sudden death.

  8. In adults, several large trials have evaluated the effect of fish or fish oils on heart disease. In the "GISSI Prevention Trial heart attack survivors who took a 1-gram capsule of omega-3 fats every day for three years were less likely to have a repeat heart attack, stroke, or die of sudden death than those who took a placebo".

  9. 100 g of tilapia fillet holds -pyridoxine (B-6) 0.162 mg (12.5% RDA) and niacin 3.903 mg (24% RDA). It is also a good source of vitamin E, vitamin B12, thiamin, and riboflavin.

  10. Sole fillet is a naturally rich source of minerals including selenium (41.8 μg or 76% of DRI), iodine, calcium, zinc, potassium, phosphorus, and magnesium. Iodine is an important trace element in human nutrition and is essential for thyroid hormone synthesis.

See the table below for in depth analysis of nutrients:

TILAPIA FISH (Oreochromis niloticus), raw, Nutritive value per 100 g. (Source: USDA National Nutrient data base)
Principle Nutrient Value Percent of RDA
Energy 96 Kcal 5%
Carbohydrates 0 g 0%
Protein 20.08 g 36%
Total Fat 1.7 g 8.5%
Cholesterol 50 mg 25%
Dietary Fiber 0.5 g 1.3%
Folates 24 μg 6%
Niacin 3.903 mg 24%
Pyridoxine 0.162 mg 12.5%
Riboflavin 0.063 mg 5%
Thiamin 0.041 mg 3.5%
Vitamin-A 0 IU 0%
Vitamin-C 0 mg 0%
Vitamin-D 124 IU 17%
Vitamin-E 0.57 mg 4%
Vitamin-K 0.4 μg <1%
Sodium 52 mg 3.5%
Potassium 302 mg 6.4%
Calcium 10 mg 1%
Iron 0.56 mg 7%
Magnesium 27 mg 7%
Phosphorus 170 mg 24%
Selenium 41.8 μg 76%
Zinc 0.33 mg 3%
Omega-3 fats
EPA (20:5 n-3) 0.005 g --
DPA (22:5 n-3) 0.043 g --
DHA (22:6 n-3) 0.086 g --


Tilapia fish are available all year round. Much of its supply is now farmed. Small fish are sold whole, while larger tilapia are filleted. A 1.5 lb fish will serve two.

Tilapia sold as fresh, frozen, fileted..etc. You can buy either whole fish or filets.

Buy a high-quality tilapia from authentic sellers. Try to purchase a whole tilapia or fillet that is cut from the thickest part of the fish. Wild-caught tilapias are brighter than farmed varieties. Also, wild varieties types are nutritionally rich and have fewer toxins than farmed ones.

Avoid tilapia with a strong fishy odor. Tilapia spoils quickly, so always store it in the freezer section of the home refrigerator.


Whole tilapia need little preparation. Just trim fins, scale, and remove innards before cooking. Tilapia are delicious stuffed and baked, grilled (broiled), or barbecued.

Tilapia may be pan-roasted, shallow fried, broiled, foil-baked, and grilled in the preparation of a variety of mouth-watering menus.

Just ensure it should be cooked until the meat is opaque and flakes off easily.

Here are some serving ideas:

Tilapia recipe
Tilapia recipe. Photo credit: kurmanphotos

  • Tilapia filets can be lightly coated in cornmeal or egg and breadcrumbs or batter and then deep fried.

  • Enjoy parmesan cheese-crusted tilapia filets with roasted vegetables.

Safety profile

Tilapia is one of the top aquacultured seafood. In many Asian countries, it is farmed in polluted rivers where the water contains fish feces, rotting fish feed, and residues of pesticides and veterinary drugs as well as other pollutants that were already mixed into the poor-quality water supplied to farmers.

Tilapia fish has low mercury levels; 0.013 ppm. WHO's tolerable upper limit of mercury in food is 0.5 mg/kg of fish. Accordingly, the U.S FDA final guidelines on how much fish expectant as well as breastfeeding mothers can eat, along with lists of specific options that are safe or should be avoided, place tilapia fish consumption under the best choice category. By this yardstick, they can consume 2-3 servings a week. (Medical disclaimer).

Also read ≻≻-

≺≺ Brook trout nutrition facts and health benefits.

≺≺ Halibut nutrition facts and health benefits.

≺≺ Sardines nutrition facts and health benefits.

≺≺ Back to Seafood from Tilapia fish nutrition facts and health benefits.

Further reading (Links opens in new window):

  1. FAO-Oreochromis niloticus.

  2. pregnancy-and-fish.

  3. USDA National Nutrient database.

  4. Omega-3 Fatty Acids: An Essential Contribution.

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