Tilapia - Good or Bad for You?

tilapiatankI’m exhausted. I’ve spent the better part of a day reading and reading, and watching videos, about tilapia and its inherent omega-3 : omega-6 “imbalance”. I would give you link after tiring link, but I’m too beat to do that. I’ll give you the meat of what I found instead.

Farmed fish have problems. It’s that simple. The unnatural diet fed to these things from feed producers include ingredients that allow for the toxic buildup of chemicals, inappropriate fats and coloring. (Did you know there is a red color chart used to gage how much coloring needs to be added to feed to get salmon to show red meat?) Farmed fish also end up receiving antibiotics to combat the diseases occurring in the dense grow pens in which they live. What we get on the dinner plate is a fish that has consumed all kinds of things it wouldn’t normally eat – and then we take that into ourselves.

Part of what I was doing today was a bit of research for a friend. It had to do with a portable farm system (aquaponics /aquaculture)  I included in a previous tilapia post. What popped up today was reminder of a conversation I had with my wife, wherein she told me that these fish are high in omega 6 oils. Article after article pointed this out to me. The more comprehensive articles mentioned that the trouble is with the ratio of omega 3 to omega 6 oils, and in the case of these fish raised in captivity, it is 1:2 or higher in favor of omega 6. According to two that I read, omega 6 is “okay” if it is balanced against omega 3. Omega 3s will offset omega 6. But in farm raised tilapia, there isn’t enough 3 in these fish to create a healthy balance.

It wasn’t until one article led me to an American Heart Association publication from 1/26/2009 that I found any information in favor of omega 6 oils. This publication says that it is fine as a 10% component of the fats in your diets, and might even have benefits at higher levels. Left unsaid, was that it would be better if the omega 3 levels were raised within a diet high in omega 6. Since omega 6 oils do have a connection with the formation of coronary heart disease, and are said to have systemic inflammatory response issues resulting in cardio stress and arthritis, I don’t want to get that understanding wrong.

bluetilapiaSo where does that leave us with tilapia? Well, we first need to recognize that tilapia in the wild have a pretty good balance of oils. This is because they move about more (burning off fat) and have a natural diet. Tilapia will eat mosses and algae, fry, insects, worms and plants. They are not fed commercially manufactured crumble and pellets that are built to raise fish at the lowest cost. Our farm-raised fish, or backyard fish that are fed commercial feed, are the specimens that present with the oils imbalance. Wild fish are good food. Farm fish are not so good.

….. or are they?

If the major difference between the life cycles of the two class of fish happens to be their diets, can that be altered in private aquaculture /aquaponics? Besides, what prepper wants to be reliant on someone else if there is another way? If you are looking at building an aquaponics system that includes fish, then you are probably okay with raising your own fish food, too. You’re not afraid of a little work, right? The two foods that came up today in my YouTube search are “duckweed” and worms. Vermiculture is its own little world, but it fits into aquaponics and fish feeding. Duckweed appears to be a food the fish will readily eat, and you can grow it quite easily near your other systems.

So, at this point, I’m inclined to say that tilapia raised on duckweed, other mosses and algae, and worms, will grow in about as healthy a manner as the average prepper can muster. If I were to do it, those are the foods I would incorporate into their diet.


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