Tilapia for a Low-Cholesterol Diet

Try Tilapia for a Heart-Healthy Change of Pace

woman preparing tilapia
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 Think salmon and tuna are the only heart-healthy fish on the block? Think again. High-protein tilapia (and baked tilapia, in particular) is another delicious, cholesterol-friendly fish that makes a great addition to your diet. Tilapia are native to Africa, where they were first farmed—possibly as far back as the ancient Egyptians. Today, most tilapia are farmed in Latin America, China, Indonesia, and in the U.S. South, making it readily available at most American grocers.

Tilapia Nutrition Information

Although not as high in omega-3 fat as salmon or tuna, tilapia is still considered heart-healthy. It is low in saturated fat and has only 30 calories per ounce.

Per 3-ounce baked serving of tilapia: 109 calories, 20 calories from fat, 2.2 g total fat, 0.8 g saturated fat, 0.5 g polyunsaturated fat, 0.8 g monounsaturated fat, 46 mg cholesterol, 48 mg sodium, 323 mg potassium, 0 g carbohydrates, 0 g dietary fiber, 0 g sugars, 22.2 g protein, 1% calcium, 3% iron

Tilapia Preparation Tips

Tilapia is a great choice for those who don't like the taste of fish, as it is mild, very lean, very white, and has almost no flavor of its own. Having no discernible flavor of its own, tilapia easily takes on the flavor of the ingredients it is prepared with. Try tilapia with citrus (lemon, lime, oranges), savory (tarragon, dill) or spicy (chili peppers, chili sauce) toppings, or Asian flavors. Tilapia is delicate, so it's best fried, steamed, baked, or broiled. Do not eat it raw, and do not grill it. For low cholesterol, steaming, baking, or broiling preparations are the best choices.

What to Look for When Buying Fresh Fillets

When purchasing fresh tilapia:

  • Look for vibrant-colored flesh. 
  • Smell it. The fillets should have no pungent aromas.
  • If there is liquid on the flesh, it should be clear, not milky. Milky liquid on a fillet is the first stage of rot.
  • If possible, press the fish flesh with your finger. It should be resilient enough so your indentation disappears. If your fingerprint remains, move on.

Is Tilapia a Low-Mercury Fish?

Shereen Lehman says, "The U.S. Food and Drug Administration and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency test and monitor mercury levels in all the fish and seafood that are sold commercially here in the U.S., and [tilapia is one of the species] among the lowest in mercury, and can be consumed freely."

The other 14 fish lowest in mercury are:

  1. Anchovies
  2. Atlantic Mackerel
  3. Catfish
  4. Clams
  5. Crab
  6. Crawfish
  7. Freshwater Trout
  8. Haddock
  9. Herring
  10. Oysters
  11. Pollock
  12. Salmon
  13. Scallops
  14. Shrimp
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