Eating bugs is no longer reserved for Fear Factor and Survivor—insect protein is going mainstream (that doesn't count the bugs you've eaten by mistake while running). But the latest in bug-based food is a little squirm-worthy: mealworm margarine.
Dutch researchers are figuring out how to use mealworms (aka the larva of a darkling beetle) as a source of a liquid and solid fats in food, according to their report published this summer in Inform Magazine.
There are plenty of other fat sources in the world—so why dig into mealworms? For one, they're sustainable, according to the researchers. Mealworms don't need any drinking water; they grow on vegetable waste stems, produce low amounts of greenhouse gases, and have efficient feed conversion rates. Plus, the fat derived from them is relatively healthy: neither the solid nor liquid form contain any trans fats, and the solid is low in saturated fat. Insect oils and fats are already used in animal feed—so what's stopping us from eating them ourselves?
Well, for one, experts still need to do a bit more research to understand the fatty acid profile and structure of the liquid vs. solid mealworm fat. And it would take a lot of worms to match the production of some other common oils, according to the Washington Post. And while this next one won't make or break the use of mealworm fat, it isn't rich in healthy omega-3 fatty acids. (Grab those from oily fish and flaxseeds instead.)
This isn't the first insect fat that's being investigated for human consumption; the mealworm researchers experimented with using fat from black soldier flies in cupcakes, and fed them to students alongside cupcakes made with traditional butter, according to the Washington Post. The result? People couldn't tell the difference.
The image of mealworms isn't exactly appetizing. But you know what is? Cupcakes. We'll file this ingredient under the "don't ask, don't tell" tab when it comes to healthy cooking (like these delicious desserts with hidden health foods).