We live near the water, so as a result, we love to eat our local seafood!  We watch the fishing boats go out up and down the Jersey Coast all year long and enjoy eating in local seafood restaurants.  However, there does come a time when we have to buy seafood that is not caught locally, or perhaps we have to choose a farmed fish.  tilapia farm

The right seafood can make for a nutritious and satisfying meal, but it’s not always easy to decipher its labeling. Wild-caught, farm-raised, all-natural and organic are just a few buzz words shoppers notice at the seafood counter, but relying on a one-off label alone won’t guarantee a quality product, particularly in the case of tilapia.

Tilapia has surged in popularity in recent years. When raised well, this mild and firm fish delivers a nutritional punch. High quality tilapia is packed with protein, but low in calories, fat and carbohydrates, plus it’s gluten-free. It provides essential vitamins and minerals like vitamin B12, niacin, selenium, and magnesium, and its levels of omega-3 fatty acids are comparable to Mahi-Mahi and Yellowfin tuna.

The key to realizing the benefits of tilapia in a balanced diet is to find a source committed to quality. Tilapia is a farm-raised fish, and as with any protein, it’s important to know where and how it’s raised. In some countries like China, the lack of regulation and oversight has raised concerns about chemicals, hormones or antibiotics in the fish. However, other countries, such as Mexico, Honduras and Indonesia, have taken great care to grow tilapia in unspoiled environments that enable the fish to achieve their full nutritional potential.

The immaculate, deep freshwater lakes of Mexico, Honduras and Indonesia provide ideal environments for tilapia to thrive and are choice locations for the world’s leading producer, Regal Springs. The company not only delivers a high quality product but invests in practices that protect and improve natural resources for a sustainable industry and healthy community. For instance, water quality monitoring stations and labs are located on-site for constant testing of conditions to ensure the absence of contaminants. Regal Springs supplies fresh all-natural tilapia to retailers like Kroger, HEB, Safeway and Walmart, and frozen and fresh tilapia for Costco’s Kirkland brand.

Selecting fresh or frozen tilapia from Mexico, Honduras or Indonesia can make a world of difference in terms of nutritional value. Tilapia raised in a pristine environment in large floating nets have room to swim against currents and develop muscle. Rising above algae, mud or waste, the floating nets also allow for a controlled diet that ensures fish free of mercury. Producers that utilize primarily vegetarian feed – such as soy beans and grains – supply tilapia that are lean. In addition, an overall healthier aquaculture environment means antibiotics and growth hormones and chemicals are not necessary to achieve a quality product.

One of the easiest ways to judge a fish’s quality is to find approval from the world’s leading industry authorities. The Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC), Best Aquaculture Practices (BAP) and British Retail Council have some of the most stringent quality and sustainability guidelines.

If the country of origin isn’t labeled in the seafood case, inquire at the counter or consult resources like thehealthyfish.com to judge the producer’s and source country’s quality standards. When you know where your fish is coming from, tilapia is a wonderful, healthy and versatile protein choice.