Get out your shovel: Crickets and caterpillars, gram for gram, beat chicken and steak as the best sources of protein and nutrients

By Macaela Mackenzie
Updated: March 04, 2016
Corbis Images

We're all about getting the biggest nutritional bang per bite (we see you, superfoods!), so much so that we'll consider grabbing a shovel to dig up some protein-in our backyard. According to a new study in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition caterpillars, crickets, meal worms, bees, and other bugs are more nutritious, gram for gram, than steak or chicken.

Researchers at Oxford University tested six commercially available types of insects (albeit not your usual grocery store fare) and found that across all six options, a 100 grams of bugs (roughly 200 crickets) is actually packed with more protein, energy, calcium and vitamins than a 100 gram serving of chicken, steak, or other meat (about the size of your computer mouse). Yummy. (Eating weird food that delivers a ton of nutrients shouldn't be as unimaginable as eating normal ingredients that are actually robbing you of nutrients, like these seven.)

Before you cue the gag reflex, entomophagy (the scientific term for eating bugs) is actually incredibly environmentally-friendly. While the production of cattle or poultry takes a lot of time, money, and ecological investment (livestock need 1.3 billion tons of grain every year in order to fatten up for the farmers market shelves-yikes!), insects take just days to mature and are pretty cheap to maintain. (Try these Eco-Friendly Fish Recipes for Sardines, Herring, and Other Small Fish too.)

And it may not be as weird as you think. Cooking creepy crawlies is considered normal, sometimes even a delicacy, in countries around the world: ants in Brazil, chocolate-covered locusts in Mexico, and deep-fried crickets in Thailand. In the U.S., cricket flour has been on the market for quite some time and there are even there are entire cookbooks devoted to baking bugs, like The Eat-a-Bug Cookbook, Revised: 40 Ways to Cook Crickets, Grasshoppers, Ants, Water Bugs, Spiders, Centipedes, and Their Kin, which includes recipes like White Chocolate and Wax Worm Cookies and Deep Fried Tarantulas.

Now who's up for some chocolate covered cockroaches?


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