Healthy Living

It's Healthier To Eat A Bug Than It Is To Eat A Steak

Holy cow.
10/13/2015 08:16am ET | Updated October 13, 2015

It sounds like an ancient proverb, but it's actually a scientific finding: In a battle of little insect versus big cow, insect wins.

A study published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition compared the healthfulness of edible insects with more traditional protein like beef, pork and chicken, finding that the bugs beat out the mammals in terms of nutritional value.

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Researchers at the University of Oxford used two different metrics of nutritiousness: The first, the Ofcom model, appoints a score from one to 100 based on a food's calorie, sodium, sugar and saturated fat content per 100 grams of weight. The second, Nutrient Value Scores, offers a similar score to Ofcom, but includes vitamin and mineral values.

The Ofcom test didn't show any significant differences between bugs and livestock. But when vitamins and minerals were taken into account for the NVS evaluation, crickets, palm weevils (beetles), honeybees and larvae scored much higher than chicken and beef in particular.

Bar graph showing the median values and inter-quartile range of Nutrient Value Scores (a higher score indicates a more nutritious food) for insects (light grey), meat (medium grey) and offal (dark grey). Higher scores indicate healthier foods.

While bugs have yet to make it into mainstream American cuisine, insects are often included in meals in countries like China, Mexico and Thailand. But insect-infused products like cricket protein powders and bars are starting to creep up on U.S. store shelves, too.

Insect-eating advocates say that bugs should become the millennium's preferred protein. One perspective argues that if vegans replaced plants with insects, they'd harm fewer animals. Others say that eating insects could solve world hunger, citing sustainability benefits and bugs' high protein content.

If you can get past the creepy-crawler factor (hey, lobsters were once perceived as nasty sea creatures fit only for the poor), your dinner options could become a lot more interesting -- and vitamin-packed!

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