Cod and tilapia are very nutritious protein sources. But, people often have a hard time choosing between these two types of fish for their nutrition goals. As a Registered Dietitian, it is my role to guide them into what is better for them.
So, when it comes to cod vs. tilapia, which is better?
Cod is better than tilapia since it has fewer calories (-14 kcal), less fat (-1 g), and similar omega-3 content, which provides anti-inflammatory benefits. Also, it has a lower omega-6 content (pro-inflammatory fats) compared with tilapia. But, cod costs 2X more than tilapia, which is a concern if you’re on a budget.
Even though cod is a better option due to its lower caloric content and higher micronutrient profile, tilapia is still an excellent option to incorporate into your diet under certain scenarios. In this article, I will explore the differences between cod and tilapia.
Cod vs. Tilapia: Nutritional Information
Cod and tilapia have different nutritional profiles. In the following table, you can find the nutritional content of 100 g of raw cod and tilapia.
|Saturated fats (g)||0.1||0.8|
|Monounsaturated fats (g)||0.1||0.7|
|Polyunsaturated fats (g)||0.2||0.5|
One of the differences between cod and tilapia is the calorie content. Cod has a lower caloric content than tilapia. It has 14 kcal less per 100 grams, which in the grand scheme of things isn’t significant. But if you’re someone who is trying to lose weight and concerned about your overall daily caloric intake, then this difference is something to note.
Tilapia has more protein compared with cod. Per 100 grams, it has 2.8 grams of protein more than cod.
Again, while this might not seem like a significant difference, for someone with a higher protein requirement (like a bodybuilder), those couple of grams are the ones that can help you achieve your overall daily protein requirements.
For example, the difference is larger the more fish you consume. In 200 grams of tilapia, you get 40 grams of protein. On the other hand, the same amount of cod would provide 36 grams of protein.
So if you require a lot of protein in your diet, and have trouble reaching your intake, tilapia is the better option.
When it comes to the fat content, they only differ by one gram, with tilapia having more fat than cod.
However, they are both considered lean protein sources since they don’t contain significant fat (less than 5 grams per serving).
They are both low in saturated fats, making them an excellent option for those with a higher risk of heart disease.
If the fat content is important, you can rest assured that either fish is a great low-fat protein source.
When it comes to the micronutrient profile, we have a vast difference between cod and tilapia. Cod has a richer micronutrient profile.
In the following table, you can find an analysis of all the nutrients in tilapia and cod:
|Ingredient||Cod - Daily Recommended Value in 100g portion||Tilapia - Daily Recommended Value in 100g portion|
Here are the top nutrients cod has and its benefits
- Selenium. It is a potent antioxidant that helps reduce inflammation in the body. A study also showed that a 50% increase in selenium concentrations could decrease the risk of heart disease by 24%. Finally, it can also help increase your immune system making you stronger against illnesses.
- Phosphorus. It plays an important role in bone health since it is one of the components that make up teeth and bones. Also, it helps produce energy in the body. The body needs to convert the food that we eat (carbs, proteins, and fats) into usable energy for the body. Phosphorus is part of that energy molecule that our body uses for us to be able to move.
Here are the top nutrients tilapia has and its benefits
- Niacin. A study determined that niacin can reduce the risk of high blood pressure. The average niacin intake was set to be 14.8 mg per day. It concluded that every extra 1 mg of niacin reduced the risk of high blood pressure by 2%. Those that had a consumption of fewer than 15 mg per day of niacin saw an increase in high blood pressure by 3%. Additionally, along with the other vitamins from the B complex, it helps convert the food you eat into energy that your body can use.
- Vitamin B12. It plays an essential role in the formation of red blood cells. The lack of vitamin B12 over a long time could lead to anemia, which is when you don’t have enough healthy red blood cells to carry oxygen to your organs. This leads to symptoms like fatigue, weakness, dizziness, and headaches.
Cod vs. Tilapia: 6 Differences
1. Taste and Texture
One of the differences between cod and tilapia is their taste and texture.
Tilapia doesn’t have an overwhelming taste. It has a mild taste that pairs with any spice you decide for you. It also has a tender texture that easily melts in your mouth.
On the other hand, cod has a more intense taste. It has a sweeter and more milky flavor. It has a firmer texture that can somewhat resemble chicken.
They both offer great flavors that go nicely with any spice of sauce that you decide to use.
2. Cooking Methods
Cod and tilapia are easy to cook. It normally takes 8-15 minutes to cook them (or 20-30 minutes if you bake them).
One of the advantages of both fishes is that you can cook them in several different ways. You can pan-fry them, place them in the oven, or even put them in the air fryer.
Since they are not very thick fishes, it is easy to realize if they are cooked. They both turn from a pinkish hue to white.
Based on personal experience, if you are trying to make breaded fish sticks, tilapia is a bit flaky. So cod is slightly better if you plan to bread your fish while cooking.
They have similar cooking times and methods. They take a shorter time to cook than other fish (like salmon).
One of the most significant differences between cod and tilapia is its price. Cod is almost twice as expensive as tilapia.
The prices can vary depending on the grocery store and whether it is farm-raised or wild-caught fish. I compared the prices according to the Walmart website. Tilapia costs $6,58/lb, while cod has a price of $12,88/lb.
This can be a significant difference for someone on a budget that likes to have fish several times per week or for people with a higher protein intake (like bodybuilders).
This price difference might not be very significant for someone with a lower protein requirement, or that doesn’t eat fish frequently.
If you have a lower grocery budget, then tilapia is the best choice.
4. Omega-3 and Omega-6
Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids are fats that the body cannot produce, meaning that you need to have them throughout your diet.
The benefit of omega-3 is that it can decrease inflammation, making you have better muscle recovery, less pain, and better gut health.
On the other hand, omega-6 fatty acids (while essential) a large intake leads to more inflammation in the body. An increase in inflammation can lead to poor digestion, poor quality of sleep, and weight gain.
The typical US diet is greater in omega-6 than omega-3 fatty acids. While the ideal ratio is said to be 2:1, the reality is more 16:1.
Since diets are typically greater in omega-6, adding foods higher in omega-3 fatty acids is important in order to compensate.
Tilapia has a higher omega-3 content than cod. However, the difference is not that great. Per 100 g, tilapia has 220 mg of omega-3 while cod has 195 mg. Resulting in a difference of only 25 mg.
However, tilapia has a higher omega-6 content than cod. Tilapia has 210 mg of omega-6 while cod has only 5 mg. Thus, if you are trying to balance your overall omega-6 and omega-3 ratio, cod might be better.
So if you eat tilapia (which is greater in omega-6 content) decreases other omega-6 sources throughout the day like vegetable oil, sunflower seeds, corn oil, and peanuts.
While tilapia has a higher omega-3 content, the difference is not a lot (25 mg), and cod has a lower omega-6 content.
One of the biggest concerns about fish is the mercury content. High mercury exposure could lead to mercury poisoning, leading to neurological problems, increased fatigue, headaches, depression, anxiety, memory problems, and tremors.
The FDA classifies cod and tilapia as low mercury fish, making them the best choices you could opt for. However, they still recommend not consuming more than 2-3 servings of fish (the size of the palm of your hand) per week to avoid mercury accumulation.
They are both considered fish low in mercury.
6. Environmental Sustainability
Tilapia is typically farmed raised. While it depends on the farmed practices that each one has, it seems that farmed fish is higher in omega-6 fatty acids, antibiotics, and antimicrobials that are given to fish.
On the other hand, cod is typically wild-caught. However, when it comes to the Atlantic cod it seems to be a species on the verge of extinction. Thus, if you are on the lookout for cod, make sure that you opt for the Pacific cod since there is a wider population of this fish.
Choose the Pacific cod since the Atlantic cod is an endangered species.
Cod vs. Tilapia: Which Is Better For Weight Loss?
Both cod and tilapia are good if you’re goal is to lose weight. But, if you had to pick one over the other, cod is better than tilapia for weight loss since it has 14 fewer calories per serving (100g), and 1 gram less fat. Both are considered to be high protein sources, which help keep you full when cutting calories.
Now, this doesn’t mean that you cannot have tilapia if you are trying to lose weight.
Tilapia is still a great lean and low-calorie protein option, and if your taste preference is more suited to tilapia, then eating foods that you enjoy is much more important in order to stick to your diet than trying to save a few calories.
Cod vs. Tilapia: Which Is Better For Muscle Gain?
Tilapia is a better option for those looking to gain muscle since it has a higher protein content compared with cod (2.8 grams). However, tilapia is still considered a low-calorie food, so you would need to add other high-calorie foods to your diet to help you reach a caloric surplus.
Truthfully though, whether you eat cod or tilapia is not going to make or break your goals of building muscle. A protein difference of 2.8 g is not very significant (unless you eat a lot of fish throughout the day).
As well, in order to eat in a caloric surplus, you’ll need to focus on the entirety of all the meals you eat throughout the day more so than choosing a single protein source in a single meal.
Therefore, feel free to switch between cod and tilapia if your goal is to build muscle, opting for the one you enjoy the most.
Practical Recommendations: Eating Cod vs. Tilapia
Have Diversity In Your Diet
Even though one might be better than the other one in certain circumstances, they each offer different macro and micronutrient profiles.
A healthy diet has different foods throughout the day and over the course of a week to ensure you are getting different nutrients.
Make sure you don’t have only one type of fish all the time. Explore different kinds like tuna, salmon, or sardines to get other nutrients, flavors, and textures. That way, you won’t get bored with your diet or prevent from having a nutritional deficiency.
Choose The One You Like
The most important thing about which one to choose is your food preferences. Choose the one that you like the most.
While cod is a better option than tilapia in a lot of situations, forcing yourself to eat it is unnecessary if you don’t like it. This will make you hate your meals instead of finding joy in them.
Whether you decide to include tilapia or cod into your diet, you need to keep track to ensure you get enough calories and proteins to help you achieve your goals.
While some people calculate the protein content based on visual representation (for example, eating a protein the size of the palm of your hand). There are some cases (like bodybuilding) where you need to be more accurate in the quantity of the food that you are having.
Using a food scale and a calorie counter app can help you determine if you are getting enough protein from cod and tilapia.
Spice Things Up
A lot of people don’t like to include fish in their diet due to its “fishy” taste. However, fresh fish should not have this smell. So whenever you go shopping for fish, make sure it doesn’t have any smell.
If you are still finding yourself having a difficult time with fish. You can always add some spice to it to make it more flavorful.
Here are some of my favorite recipes you can try for yourself:
Frequently Asked Questions
Can You Substitute Tilapia for Cod?
Yes, you can substitute tilapia for cod. While tilapia has more calories than cod, the difference is not significant (14 calories). They are both low in fat, but cod has a lower protein content than tilapia (3 g), so you might need to compensate with higher protein in other meals.
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About The Author
Brenda Peralta is a Registered Dietitian and certified sports nutritionist. In addition to being an author for FeastGood.com, she fact checks the hundreds of articles published across the website to ensure accuracy and consistency of information.