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9 Health Benefits of Tawilis, Description, and Side Effects

Tawilis is a species of fish that can only be found in Taal Lake in the Philippines. In this blog post, we will discover the health benefits of Tawilis, its characteristics, description, and conservation status.

This small but mighty fish is native to the Philippines and has gained popularity for its delicious taste and numerous nutritional advantages. So, if you’re curious about what Tawilis has to offer, let’s dive in and uncover all there is to know about this little gem from the sea!

What is Tawilis

Tawilis, scientifically known as Sardinella tawilis, is a freshwater fish found only in the Philippines. It is commonly called “tawilis” or “freshwater sardine.” This small and slender fish belongs to the herring family and is highly significant in Philippine cuisine.


The term “tawilis” is the Tagalog name given to the fish. Since it is only found in Taal Lake, there are no other names in other local languages, especially in Bisaya.

In terms of appearance, Tawilis has a sleek and elongated body with silvery scales that reflect light beautifully when it swims through the water. Its average size ranges from 10 to 15 centimeters long, making it quite petite compared to other fish species. Don’t let its size fool you, though – this little creature packs a punch!

When it comes to taste, Tawilis offers a delightful experience for seafood enthusiasts. It boasts a mild yet distinct flavor with hints of sweetness and richness. Its delicate texture makes it perfect for cooking methods such as frying, grilling, or even enjoying raw food.

As for its habitat, Tawilis thrives in Taal Lake, located in Batangas province in the Philippines. This lake provides an ideal environment for their growth due to its clean freshwater source and abundant food supply.

In terms of coloration, Tawilis typically exhibits shades of silver on its body, along with subtle streaks of blue or greenish hues running across its sides. These colors add an aesthetic appeal while also seamlessly blending with its watery surroundings.

Physically speaking, Tawilis has two dorsal fins positioned closer to its tail end and pectoral fins that aid in maneuvering through the water effortlessly. Its mouth is equipped with tiny teeth suitable for capturing prey efficiently.

Tawilis Nutrition Per 100g

Here’s an approximate nutritional breakdown for tawilis:

  • Calories: ~200 kcal
  • Protein: ~25 g
  • Fat: ~10-15 g (mostly healthy omega-3 fatty acids)
  • Carbohydrates: 0 g (negligible)
  • Fiber: 0 g
  • Vitamins: Rich in vitamin B12 and vitamin D
  • Minerals: Good source of selenium, phosphorus, and calcium
  • Sodium: Can vary based on processing and canning method
  • Other nutrients: Omega-3 fatty acids, including EPA and DHA

It’s important to note that the nutritional composition can vary based on factors like preparation, freshness, and the specific environment in which the fish is found. For precise and up-to-date dietary information about tawilis, I recommend checking with local sources, fisheries, or relevant governmental agencies in the Philippines.

Health Benefits of Tawilis

Tawilis, a type of freshwater sardine, offers several potential health benefits due to its nutritional content. Here are some of the health benefits associated with consuming tawilis:

  1. Rich in Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Tawilis is a good source of omega-3 fatty acids, including eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). These fatty acids are known for their cardiovascular benefits, including reducing inflammation, improving blood vessel function, and supporting heart health.
  2. High-Quality Protein: Tawilis is rich in protein, which is essential for muscle growth, tissue repair, and overall body function. Protein also helps in maintaining a feeling of fullness, which can aid in weight management.
  3. Vitamins and Minerals: Tawilis is a source of important vitamins and minerals, such as vitamin B12, which are crucial for nerve function and red blood cell production. It also contains vitamin D, which is important for bone health and immune system function. Minerals like selenium, phosphorus, and calcium are also present in tawilis and contribute to various physiological processes.
  4. Brain Health: The omega-3 fatty acids found in tawilis have been linked to cognitive health. DHA, in particular, is known to play a role in brain development and function and may positively impact memory and cognitive abilities.
  5. Heart Health: Omega-3 fatty acids are associated with a lower risk of heart disease. They can help lower triglycerides, reduce blood pressure, and improve cardiovascular health.
  6. Anti-Inflammatory Properties: Omega-3s in tawilis have anti-inflammatory effects that may benefit individuals with conditions characterized by chronic inflammation, such as arthritis or certain autoimmune disorders.
  7. Eye Health: The DHA in omega-3s is also beneficial for eye health, as it is a major structural component of the retina. Consuming omega-3-rich foods like tawilis can contribute to maintaining good vision.
  8. Healthy Fats: While tawilis contains fats, they are primarily healthy fats, including unsaturated fats and omega-3s, better for heart health than saturated fats.
  9. Weight Management: The protein and healthy fats in tawilis can contribute to satiety, helping you feel full for longer periods. This may help control overeating and support weight management.

It’s worth noting that the specific health benefits you’ll gain from consuming tawilis will depend on factors such as your overall diet, lifestyle, and individual health conditions. As with any food, moderation is vital, and it’s essential to incorporate various nutrient-rich foods into your diet to achieve a balanced and healthy lifestyle.

Side Effects and Disadvantages of Tawilis

While tawilis has numerous health benefits, it’s essential to be aware of the potential side effects and disadvantages of consuming this fish. Here are a few things to consider:

1. Mercury Content: Tawilis, like many other fish species, may contain traces of mercury due to pollution in its habitat. High levels of mercury can pose risks, especially for pregnant women and young children. These individuals should limit their consumption or opt for smaller-sized tawilis.

2. Allergy Potential: Some people may have allergies or sensitivities to certain types of fish, including tawilis. If you experience adverse reactions such as itching, swelling, or difficulty breathing after eating tawilis, consult a healthcare professional immediately.

3. Environmental Concerns: The rise in demand for tawilis has led to overfishing in Lake Taal where it is primarily found. This poses threats not only to the population of tawilis but also disrupts the ecosystem balance within the lake.

4. Bones: Tawilis are known for their abundance of fine bones throughout their body, which can be tedious and time-consuming when eating this particular fish.

5. Sustainability: Due to various environmental factors affecting Lake Taal and its surrounding areas, there are concerns about the long-term sustainability of tawilis populations.

We must consume tawilis responsibly while considering the potential side effects and disadvantages associated with its consumption.

How to Prepare and Cook Tawilis

Tawilis, a popular fish in the Philippines, can be prepared in various ways to suit different tastes and preferences. Here are some common methods of preparing tawilis:

  1. Fresh Tawilis:
    • Grilled: Marinate the fish in oil, garlic, salt, pepper, and your choice of herbs, then grill until cooked.
    • Fried: Coat the fish with a light layer of flour or cornstarch, then shallow fry until crispy.
    • Steamed: Place seasoned tawilis in a steamer and steam until cooked through.
    • Adobo: Prepare a tawilis adobo by simmering the fish in soy sauce, vinegar, garlic, bay leaves, and peppercorns.
  2. Dried Tawilis:
    • Salted and Sun-dried: Clean and gut the fish, then rub with salt and sun-dry until thoroughly dried. These dried tawilis can be fried before consumption or added to dishes for flavor.
  3. Tawilis Fillet:
    • Fillet and Grill: Remove the bones and prepare fillets. Marinate and grill the fillets, or use them in recipes like fish tacos or salads.
  4. Canned or Bottled Tawilis:
    • Tinned in Oil: Tawilis are often canned in oil, and you can drain the oil and enjoy it as is or use it in salads and pasta dishes.
    • Tinned in Sauce: Tawilis can also be canned in various sauces, like tomato sauce or adobo sauce, which adds flavor to the fish.
  5. Fermented Tawilis:
    • Bagoong: Tawilis can be fermented to make a Filipino condiment called “bagoong.” The fish is salted and allowed to ferment, resulting in a salty and savory product often used as a dipping sauce or ingredient in Filipino dishes.

Remember to adjust seasonings and cooking times based on your taste preferences and your specific cooking method. Always ensure that the fish is cooked thoroughly before consuming it. Additionally, local culinary traditions and personal preferences might result in various creative ways of preparing tawilis, so don’t hesitate to experiment and try new recipes!

Conservation Status of Tawilis

In 2019, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) listed the tawilis as endangered. This means that the population of tawilis has declined by at least 50% over the past ten years. The main threats to the tawilis are overfishing, illegal fishing, pollution, and habitat degradation.

Overfishing is the biggest threat to the tawilis. Fish are caught using various methods, including nets, traps, and spears. The use of illegal fishing gear, such as motorized push nets and ring nets, is also a problem. These nets can catch large numbers of fish, including young fish that have not yet had a chance to reproduce.

Another threat to the tawilis is pollution. The lake is polluted by agricultural runoff, industrial waste, and sewage. This pollution can kill fish and make the lake less hospitable to them.

Habitat degradation is also a threat to the tawilis. The lake’s water levels have been declining due to climate change and water extraction, reducing the amount of habitat available for the fish.

Several things can be done to help conserve the tawilis. These include:

  1. Reducing fishing pressure. This can be done by setting limits on the number of fish caught and enforcing fishing regulations.
  2. Eliminating illegal fishing can be achieved by increasing law enforcement and educating fishermen about the importance of sustainable fishing practices.
  3. Reducing pollution. This can be done by reducing agricultural runoff, industrial waste, and sewage.
  4. Protecting the lake’s habitat. This can be done by reducing water extraction and restoring the lake’s degraded areas.

The tails are an important part of the Philippine culture and economy. By taking steps to conserve them, we can ensure that this fish will continue to be a part of our lives for generations to come.


Tawilis is a unique and delicious fish that offers numerous health benefits. Its high protein content and essential vitamins and minerals make it an excellent choice for maintaining overall health. Whether consumed fresh or in various prepared forms, Tawilis can be a nutritious addition to your diet.

However, as with any food, moderation is key. While Tawilis has many advantages, excessive consumption may lead to mercury accumulation in your body due to its habitat. Therefore, it’s recommended that you consume Tawilis in moderation and ensure you source it from reputable suppliers.

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