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Good Grub: The Healthiest Meat

Of all animals, the bodies of insects may have the lowest saturated fat content.

October 12, 2012 |
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Transcript

Thanks to the Chinese space program, scientists in Beijing recently published a formal nutritional analysis of what may be the healthiest animal to eat. ““the nutritional value of insects for human consumption during deep space flights.”

More arginine that soybeans. More zinc than pumpkin seeds. More protein than even snail meat. The selling point, though, is their low saturated fat content. Especially when they're baked, not fried. And one pound of powdered worms gets you all the vitamin B12 you need for the day.

“Could an african caterpillar be the new beefsteak? “Just 3 and a half ounces of caterpillars can provide all of an adult’s recommended daily protein, along with iron, B vitamins, and other essential nutrients.” And they’re efficient. Whereas we waste about 90% of nutrients when we feed grains to cows, less than half the nutrition of edible plants is wasted when we route them through bugs.

Described as a “an endless source of protein,” but how do they taste? They are considered highly nutritious and also have a quote unquote pleasant taste. What exactly so they taste like? “people have said that the taste of the beetles is varied; just to compare it something everyone’s familiar with they reported their similarity to octopus.”

To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring watch the above video. This is just an approximation of the audio contributed by Kerry Skinner.

To help out on the site please email volunteer@nutritionfacts.org

Dr. Michael Greger

Doctor's Note

A pound a day of powdered worms? There are safer and cheapersources of vitamin B12. What about arginine? Worms, whales, pork rinds and what else? See Fat Burning Via Arginine. Sourcing protein from plants may still be preferable, despite what the paleo diet folks assert. That appears to be thedirection the American space program is going. What are the downsides to eating insects, though? That's the subject of Monday's video-of-the-day Bug Appétit: Barriers to Entomophagy.

For more context, check out my associated blog post: Adding FDA-Approved Viruses to Meat and  What Is the Healthiest Meat?

If you haven't yet, you can subscribe to my videos for free by clicking here.

  • http://nutritionfacts.org/ Michael Greger M.D.

    A pound a day of powdered worms? There are safer and cheaper sources of vitamin B12. What about arginine? Worms, whales, pork rinds and what else? See Fat Burning Via Arginine. Sourcing protein from plants may still be preferable, despite what the paleo diet folks assert. That appears to be the direction the American space program is going. What are the downsides to eating insects, though? That’s the subject of Monday’s video-of-the-day Bug Appétit: Barriers to Entomophagy.

    If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my videos for free by clicking here.

  • Elpoo

    Not. Going. To. Happen.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=670735069 Tan Truong

      If you were raised from birth to eat X foods, I bet you could raise children to eat Y foods, which are shown here to be more healthy. There’s a slow momentum pushing for insect-eating now because it’s more nutritious and sustainable.

      • http://poxacuatl.wordpress.com/ Strix

        Agreed. And in that vein, some “foods” are rejected because one was not reared on them. 
        The sustainablity argument is what will probably take hold the most –  it’s a good angle/justification for people to use.

        Pretty soon you’ll find insect pills — it’s a much nicer way to consume all the nutrition.
        I bet the only way you’d get people to eat this stuff right now would be to claim it will make you drop 20 lbs in a week without having to exercise. Highly-processing it would be a bonus.

  • BPCveg

    Dr. Greger,

    Has your definition of healthy changed recently? Does healthy no longer refer to those foods with the highest antioxidant content?

    I ask because you didn’t state the antioxidant content of insects in this video and that was your previous basis for comparison of all foods. 

    Just looking for consistency!

    • Guest

       I think Dr. Greger is using a common idea that something high in protein is heathy- of course, we know for the last series of videos on IGF-1 that it isn’t, and so, I take Dr. Greger’s comments in this video to be an expression of his unique sense of humor. Once in a while he intersperses his educational videos with a good dose of humor by reporting on the unusual side of nutritional science. I’m sure he’s not seriously suggesting that we eat powdered bugs.

      • JamesKB

        lol. Of course he’s not. Unless you’re in space perhaps. Anyone taking a visit? He’s saying it’s healthiest meat, not healthy necessarily.

        Plants good. Meat bad. Bugs better than regular meat.

    • Guest

      …or oven-baked tarantula.

    • BPCveg

      Guest: I am not as sure as you that bugs are off the menu.

      Entomophagy is a serious business:

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eating_insects

      • Shawn

        Perhaps not all bugs are off the menu.
        Read Leviticus 11:20-25
        Yum… crunch, crunch!

  • Thea

    eewwww.

    You have made your point with me!  (If people think that eating animal foods is so good, why don’t they actually eat the healthiest animal foods.  Let’s put this animal “food” into perspective…)

    Alas, it sounds like eating those insects is still not going to come close to the health benefits of a plant-based diet.  Another point of the video.  As BCveg pointed out, where are the antioxidants?   (Unless argenine is an antioxidant?)  And of course, by definition, those insects would not be supplying all those vital phytonutrients.  Etc.  Those silly researchers/study that the video was quoting from seem to be focusing on the wrong aspects of health.  And they are thinking of sending people into space with that…

    I don’t know about anyone else, but I’m not interested in eating a POUND of worm powder a day to get my B12 allowance.  Did you notice how he sneaked that in there?

    I think I’ll stick around on this planet and eat the plants thank you very much.

    • BPCveg

      As suggested by “Guest”, Dr. Greger was obvioiusly being facetious with this whole video.  Though this is highly culture-specific humor. Whereas in our culture eating insects is a taboo topic, in many other cultures and at many other times, entomophagy has been considered a valuable source of nutrition.

      Funny that from an environmental and health perspective is probably better to eat insects than to eat the non-human mammals that humans normally consume, since insects are lower down on the food chain.

  • Geoffreylevens

    Tastes like chicken! Ever smell or taste powdered earthworms?  Used in Traditional Chinese herbology so we had it in my school clinic. All I can say is, “NASTY!!!!”  Maybe some others taste good I don’t know. I have had the random bug get chomped in my mouth accidentally while running or biking and they generally are pretty bitter and unpleasant. I think I will stick to kale and beans for now thank you.

  • Guest
    • Mike Quinoa

      Interesting. Are you aware of any studies where people have had the severity of their CHD reduced by adopting a high-saturated-fat animal foods diet? There are studies that seem to indicate a plant-based diet is capable of this regression of CHD.

      • Guest

        I don’t think a high saturated fat diet is taking a moderate approach to nutrition. I do however know of studies showing reduced CHD through weight resistance training on a high protein diet while in a caloric deficit. :)

        • JamesKB

          Not all saturated fats are equal. This could partly explain why saturated fat isn’t always linked with heart disease.

          Among the SFAs, stearic acid (18:0) appears to have a neutral effect on LDL-C, while
          lauric (12:0), myristic (14:0), and palmitic (16:0) acids are considered to be hypercholesterolemic.
          http://jn.nutrition.org/content/135/9/2075.full

          I think it’s better to use a holistic approach and look at meat and dairy instead of isolating nutrients. Animal protein, cholesterol, nitrosamines, endotoxins, and saturated fat all play a role in ill health. This can sometimes be difficult to prove in short term controlled studies and long term studies based on questionaires aren’t perfect either.

          Fibre, antioxidant and phytosterol intake can mask the effects of saturated fat.

          Even if it’s not that bad, which it likely is, you can do better.

        • Toxins

          The paleo diet is thoroughly covered here by Dr. Greger
          http://atkinsexposed.org/

          High protein diets are not healthful

    • Kate S

      The evidence of the link between saturated fats, LDL and coronary heart disease is overwhelming, despite what a few hand picked studies might suggest. A good review of this is in the video series at http://www.plantpositive.com 

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=670735069 Tan Truong

         Plant Positive digs very deep exposing the truth.

  • Nomeat6

    So Mike, are you giving us the “ok” to induulge in BBQ spiders or should we stick to a meatless diet?

  • Mike Quinoa

    Strangely, I haven’t seen a lot of proponents of Paleo promoting insect consumption…hmm. Guess it grosses them out to much. I can’t believe that insects didn’t play some role in the human diet at that time. I like to season my insects with a little Raid (just kidding).

  • Anders

    Dr Greger,

    Thank you for being and endless source of inspiration.

    Wanted to ask you something. I like to put peanuts in my morning smoothies. Would raw, soaked and/or roasted peanuts be the best option? I realize roasting would probably get rid of some anti-nutrients, but also (I suspect) destroy some EFA:s?

    Keep up the amazing work!

    Anders

    • Toxins

      Cooking would not significantly affect the essential fatty acids but keep in mind peanuts have too much omega 6 and hardly any omega 3. People are getting too much omega 6 which does not allow omega 3 to synthesize to DHA and EPA. I would recommend putting walnuts, or ground flax seed in your smoothies instead.

      Keep the ratio of omega 6:3 at 4:1 or better. Peanuts have a ratio of 4400:1 which is way off the charts.

  • Geoffreylevens

    Hilarious synchronicity:  Yesterday after watching this video, I went to my coop to buy food. They had opened and were asking member opinion on a new “energy bar”. It was primarily peanuts and dates and tasted like that BUT it contained, “Cricket flour for protein.”  No noticeable flavor from the crickets though.  Wonder what whole a cricket dipped in melted chocolate would taste like???

  • http://poxacuatl.wordpress.com/ Strix

    Ah, thanks for roaching this subject :^) Timely, too! Maybe they’d be a good treat — or perhaps a trick — for the  goblins who will be darkening my door soon.

      Good info on the nutritional content; looking forward to more of the downfalls. Good stuff to know when an entomophagist asks, “So how much protein should I be getting, then?”

    I love how people are grossed out by bugs, yet don’t give a thought about consuming chickens waste  products, pus, mucous, various internal organs, eyes, veins, etc. of other animals; how consuming little kitties is “horrific,” yet a baby calf is yum!

    I’ve told some meat eaters (who like to argue that we need meat/protein) that if that’s really their concern, they should/would be eating insects. Yet, for some reason, that doesn’t go over too well.

  • CarolineVBurton

    I get enough insect protein from those stubborn enough to stay on the veggies out of my garden…

  • JamesKB

    Look out bugs. The freegans are out to get you

  • KINERETSCHNEIDER

    sINCE DO VEGANS CONSUME ANY ANIMAL LIFE?

    • Veganrunner

      I believe this is tongue in cheek. 

  • Steamroller714

    Yum, Yum Renfield!

  • Thinkaboudit

    Hmmm . . . different cultures view the eating of insects differently. I guess that explains why when I eat at a Chinese restaurant and I point out the fact that there are bugs in my food, the waiters react with disdain for me for reporting it.

  • Jball

    Yuk! 

  • Rainbowocean

    When my dedicated Veg’n friends say that all the other Primate animals are vegetarian.  But we know that all the herbivore animals probably get a lot of bugs in their mouth while chomping on the plants.  Thry certainly can’t wash the fruits and veggies. 
    The Chimpanzees have created tools so that they can get to bugs.  So maybe I should start eating bugs the way my primate ancestors did.

  • Guy Zvi

    Hey, Thats great, but is there also a Kosher (non bugs) source of Iron? maybe the #2 or #3 on the list? Is there a list? Thanks. Guy

    • Toxins

      Whole grains and dark leafy vegetables will be the best sources of iron. Check out this video on mineral enhancement http://nutritionfacts.org/video/new-mineral-absorption-enhancers-found/

    • Arjan den Hollander.

      Bugs bred for comsumption will never have crawled the earth anyway since they will have come from breeding containers.
      So this superstition driven arguementation needn’t be let loose on bugs in packets.

      In any case you will probably have eaten more (non kosher) crawling insects/bugs by unnoticed ingestion than you’ve eaten meals in your life.
      Happy dreams.

  • Steve Mayer

    And just if you wondered….http://www.sixfoods.com/

  • Zostar

    Not sure why you would suggest that eating another being is acceptable.