One of the leading and fast growing sales of fish in the United States belongs to fish like tilapia and swai. Tilapia and swai are all freshwater fish. Tilapia variants can be found in freshwater bodies throughout the world.

Swai is a white-fleshed, moist fish that has a firm texture and neutral-flavored fish. It is imported from Vietnamese fish farms. Once called Asian catfish, US laws no longer permit the use of this name. American catfish is from a different family than swai, but they are related.

According to the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), swai ranks as the sixth most popular fish in the nation. It’s native to Asia’s Mekong River. Swai production in the Mekong Delta of Vietnam is one of the largest freshwater fish farming industries worldwide. However, swai available to consumers is most commonly produced on fish farms in Vietnam. Previously, swai imported into the US was called Asian catfish. In 2003, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) passed a law that only fish in the Ictaluridae family, which includes American catfish but not swai, can be labeled or advertised as catfish.

Swai is from a separate but related family called Pangasiidae, and the scientific name for it is Pangasius hypophthalmus. Other names for swai and similar species are panga, pangasius, sutchi, cream dory, striped catfish, Vietnamese catfish, tra, basa. Although it’s not a shark, it is sometimes referred to as iridescent shark and Siamese shark.

Is Swai Fish Healthy?

swai fish fillet

If youve been to the fish counter of a large supermarket recently, youve probably seen fish you hadn’t heard of before, such as Swai. Swai, according to Tightwad Todd of Consumer Reports is similar to catfish. Native to Southeast Asia, Swai costs less than American farm-raised fish. And, if you choose wisely, it can be a nutritious and tasty addition to your healthy diet. Firstly, Swai can be described as a white-flesh fish that can be found in many areas around the globe. Typically, this fish is currently being made available in the fillet form. It is relatively easy to find it in many stores in the U.S.

Based on the information that comes from Swai fish eaters, this fish has a mildly sweet taste that many people enjoy. When it is boiled, baked or grilled, its texture can be described as light and flaky and easy to eat. This fish can be coated with bread crumbs or corn meal and then pan fried. Once fried, some people will also serve this fish with a wide variety of different sauces. Similar to the catfish, it may be referred to in California and other places as a river farmed catfish. Swai is considered to be an economical fish that people eat all the time.

Swai, like tuna and salmon, is a somewhat fatty fish. A 4-ounce fillet has 100 total calories, with 45 calories coming from fat. Of 5 grams of fat, 3 grams is heart-healthy unsaturated fats, while 2 grams is saturated fats. A Swai fillet also has 15 milligrams of cholesterol and 300 milligrams of sodium. These are approximately 5 percent and 12 percent of your daily allowance, respectively.

Nutritional Value

swai fish fillet

Eating fish is generally encouraged as it supplies lean protein and heart-healthy omega 3 fatty acids. The protein content of swai is average compared to other common fish, but it offers very little omega-3 fat.


Just like other fish types, swai is also known for containing a primary macronutrient known as protein. Therefore, people who are on high protein diets may want to consider swai fish as another food that can add a variety of their diet regimen or program.

A Swai fillet has 15 grams of protein, about 30 percent. Because swai fish is so high in this nutrient, people who consume it usually get as much as 30% percent of their daily requirement in only one serving. With this kind of protein, your body will maintain a healthy weight. Since your body digests it slowly, protein helps you maintain fullness and keep hunger under control. Hence, dieters will also feel fuller faster so they will automatically eat less as well as consume a lower number of calories. So, it’s not only good for getting the protein for the body, it’s a great way to lose more weight.

Omega 3 Fatty acids

This fish is exceptionally rich in Omega 3 fatty acids based on information published in the ‘Doctors Book of Remedies’. In fact, approximately one-half of the calories in this fish comes from fat. However, this fat content is healthy and not bad. Meaning it helps to promote good heart health instead of inhibiting it. So, for those who decide to eat swai on a fairly regular basis, they may find that they can take advantage of a number of excellent health benefits. For instance, the nutrients in this fish will help to keep the blood flowing freely, while also preventing blood clots in the body from forming. As a result, it will lessen the chances and risks of strokes and major heart attacks.

A 4-ounce (113-gram) serving of uncooked swai contains:

  • Calories: 70
  • Protein: 15 grams
  • Fat: 1.5 grams
  • Omega-3 fat: 11 mg
  • Cholesterol: 45 grams
  • Carbs: 0 grams
  • Sodium: 350 mg
  • Niacin: 14% of the Reference Daily Intake (RDI)
  • Vitamin B12: 19% of the RDI
  • Selenium: 26% of the RDI

For comparison, the same serving of salmon packs 24 grams of protein and 1,200–2,400 mg of omega-3 fat. While American catfish contains 15 grams of protein and 100-250 mg of omega-3 fat in 4 ounces (113 grams).

The sodium in swai may be higher or lower than shown above. This is based on how much sodium tripolyphosphate, an additive to retain moisture, is used during processing. Swai is an excellent source of selenium and a good source of niacin and vitamin B12. However, amounts can vary based on what the fish is fed.

Swai don’t have particularly healthy diets. They’re typically fed rice bran, soy, canola and fish by products. The soy and canola products are commonly genetically modified, which is a controversial practice.

Swai is moderate in nutritional value, offering a decent amount of protein but very little omega 3 fat. Its main vitamin and mineral contributions are selenium, niacin and vitamin B12. Use of an additive to keep swai moist increases its sodium content.

Health Risks of Adding Swai to a Diet

Even though sway fish does have numerous benefits, there are some drawbacks to eating swai fish too. One of the most notable that people may be concerned about is its high source of mercury content. Meaning the long term effects of eating foods like Swai, with its high levels of mercury, may also involve causing damage to the nervous system. Some of the most common and prominent signs and symptoms usually include disturbances with speech, hearing, and vision. In certain situations, the person may also be subject to numbness and tingling of the toes and fingers and muscle weakness if the levels of mercury are too high.

What is Tilapia Fish?

swia fish and tilapia

Tilapia is a large cichlid genus that contains more than 100 species. They are naturally found in Africa and in the Levant region in the Middle East.

Widely-Consumed in The US

Tilapia is one of the most widely consumed fish species in America. According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), Americans consume more than 475 million pounds of tilapia every year. Today, it’s the fourth most consumed fish in the United States, after tuna, salmon, and Alaskan pollock.

Affordable Easy to Prepare Fish

Tilapia is affordable, mild white fish that’s easy to prepare and cook, making it an appealing dinner choice. But beyond taste, it’s the farming practices that have caused tilapia to explode in popularity. Tilapia does not have the typical taste associated with most other species of fish. It can be produced on a mass scale. Thus, it allows the fish to be widely available at a high quality and an affordable price. Moreover, most of the tilapia consumed in the US, as well as other parts of the developed world, come from fish farms. This is because tilapia is only native to water bodies in Africa and the Middle East.

Farm-Raised Fish

Tilapia is a farm-raised fish because it’s not available wild. There are concerns that tilapia is no longer a real fish but a “frankenfish.” Tilapia is produced from aquaculture, meaning they’re raised in freshwater systems and feed on algae. As Seafood Health Facts notes, these producers have developed different breeds or hybrids to improve and control the quality of growth, appearance, and flavor of the fish. This means that producers employ selective breeding techniques to cultivate a strong fish.

One such strain, in part created with the organization WorldFish, is referred to as “Genetically Improved Farmed Tilapia” (GIFT). This tilapia grows faster than other tilapia varieties and is easy to grow and farm. It also resists disease and is largely available in Asia and Africa. In developing countries, where more people live in poverty and face food insecurity, this strain of tilapia is an important source of inexpensive protein. While the United States imports much of its tilapia from places like China, which uses GIFT strains, it’s important to know that these strains are developed with selective breeding – not genetic modification. So, no: It’s not a Frankenfish.

Is Tilapia healthy?

Tilapia is rich in protein, with more than 20 grams (g) per small fillet. Tilapia is a great source of protein that’s low in fat (28) and saturated fat (18). It’s also relatively low in fat and has very little saturated fat, making it a lean source of protein. The fish also offers a range of trace minerals. While fatty fish (those with relatively greater amounts of omega-3s) are generally recommended by organizations like the American Heart Association to help reduce the risk of heart disease, it’s more important that you eat fish twice a week, particularly if fish is replacing high saturated fat foods, like red or processed meats. Tilapia offers a range of nutrients. Having tilapia as a lean protein source in your dinner rotation can mix things up and could help you stick to a healthy diet.

Here are the nutrition stats for about a 3-ounce (oz) cooked fillet

  • Calories: 111
  • Protein: 23g (46 percent DV, or daily value)
  • Total fat: 2g
  • Saturated fat: 1g
  • Monounsaturated fat: 1g
  • Polyunsaturated fat: 0.5g


swai fish and tilapia farming

High omega 6 fatty acids

Most health practitioners recommend eating fish with high levels of omega-3 fatty acids. These include wild Alaskan salmon, black cod, sablefish, mackerel, albacore tuna, or sockeye salmon. Even less expensive choices such as herring and sardines contain relatively high levels of omega-3. The problem with tilapia is that it contains very low levels of beneficial omega-3 fatty acids and very high levels of omega 6 fatty acids. This is according to a study carried out by researchers at Wake Forest University’s School of Medicine and published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association (ADA).

Farm-raised Tilapia

A study published American Dietetic Association (ADA) found that farm-raised tilapia contains high levels of arachidonic acid (AA). One of the researchers involved in Wake Forest University Study, Dr. Floyd Chilton, believes eating farm-raised fish might be dangerous for people suffering from health complications such as asthma, arthritis, and heart disease. This is because the high levels of omega-6 and arachidonic acid could cause such people to develop an exaggerated inflammatory response. This is essentially an inflammation that causes serious damage to one’s lungs, digestive tract, as well as blood vessels.

Type of feed used in Tilapia farming

There have been concerns about the type of feeds used in tilapia fish farms. Dr. Jeffrey McCrary, an American fish biologist working in Nicaragua, reckons that fish farming standards in Latin American countries and Asia fall below American food safety standards. This notwithstanding, Americans still import and eat large quantities of tilapia fish from Asia and South American countries. Most fish farms use cheap corn-based feeds and soy instead of algae and marine plants. Furthermore, a report published in the New York Times states that some tilapia fish farms use testosterone and prophylactic antibiotics to feed young tilapia fish. At the same time, such farms tend to breed large numbers of tilapia in overcrowded fish cages. This can lead to pollution of natural water reservoirs such as lakes. –

Tilapia Causes Cancer

The amount of carcinogens in the Tilapia is 10 times higher than in any other kind of fish. No surprise there since as we mentioned earlier the farmers feed the Tilapia with antibiotics and testosterone. A researcher has shown the presence of dioxin in this fish. Dioxin is connected with the development and progress of cancer. In this case, our body would need around 7-11 years in order to flush out the dioxin out of it.