Tilapia, commonly known as engege is one of the oldest types of fish in Uganda. It is affordable, with each costing between Shs5,000 and Shs10,000 and can be cooked and enjoyed in different ways.
Moreen Arinda loves cooking tilapia and when she cannot cook it herself, she eats it at her favourite restaurant in Kampala. "My doctor said tilapia is a good source of proteins. I was also told that if I eat tilapia, and it is more than what my body needs, the body system converts it into energy that is used for the development of organs such as the skin and muscles," Arinda says.
Omega 3 fatty acids
Dr Henry Musinguzi, a physician at Nyakibaale Hospital, says when you eat tilapia, you tap into its rich natural omega 3 fatty acids that are scientifically known for preventing and reducing the health risks of various heart diseases.
"These oils (omega 3 fatty acids) act as cleansers of excess fats within the human blood vessels, especially around the heart area. When these are not kept in check, they clog or block blood vessels transporting blood to all parts of the body and one of the natural remedies of keeping your heart functioning well by eating tilapia," Musinguzi explains.
According to Dr Musinguzi, not only do omega 3 fatty acids found in tilapia get rid of excess fats in blood vessels but they also have an element of boosting brain functionality and development. He adds that tilapia also contains selenium which plays an anti-aging role in the human body by making your skin smooth and healthy. Eating tilapia to tap in selenium, Dr Musinguzi says, is highly connected to the reduction of the risk of prostate cancer, especially in men above 40.
"Tilapia is also rich in phosphorous which helps in the development of bones especially in children. This phosphorous component also helps to strengthen your teeth and nails," he further explains, adding that eating tilapia twice a week, if resources permit, makes your bones twice stronger compared to someone who does not eat it.
Hope Nimurungi, a nutritionist, says unlike other white foods, tilapia is one of the sea or lake foods that keep your body weight at a constant. This is because it contains low fat and calorie levels. "Tilapia is a rich source of vitamins B6 and B12 and these help in cognitive development and for the proper functioning of your body nerves. When your body is low on vitamin B12 which is got from tilapia, it may lead to nerve damage," Nimurungi explains.
Studies have found that people who eat fish regularly are much less likely to get depressed. Numerous controlled trials have also found that omega-3 fatty acids in tilapia are beneficial in fighting depression, and significantly increase the effectiveness of antidepressant medication.
What this means is that tilapia can quite literally make you a happier person and improve your quality of life. Fish and omega-3 fatty acids may also help with other mental disorders, such as bipolar disorder.
Dr Musinguzi concludes that when pregnant mothers eat tilapia, it enhances the fast development of the child's brain which makes them brighter and intelligent when they start schooling.