Good Grub: The Healthiest Meat

Good Grub: The Healthiest Meat
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Of all animals, the bodies of insects may have the lowest saturated fat content.

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

More arginine than 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 three 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 “an endless source of protein,” but how do they taste? They are considered highly nutritious, and “also have a pleasant taste.” What exactly do they taste like? Well, 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.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Images thanks to Steve Begin and the tαttσσed tentαcle via flickr, and JENN.

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

More arginine than 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 three 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 “an endless source of protein,” but how do they taste? They are considered highly nutritious, and “also have a pleasant taste.” What exactly do they taste like? Well, 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.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Images thanks to Steve Begin and the tαttσσed tentαcle via flickr, and JENN.

Doctor's Note

A pound a day of powdered worms? There are safer and cheaper sources of vitamin B12; see Safest Source of B12, and Cheapest Source 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 (see Plant Protein Preferable), despite what the Paleo diet folks assert. As seen in today’s video, 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 our next video; see Bug Appétit: Barriers to Entomophagy.

For more context, check out my associated blog posts: 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.

54 responses to “Good Grub: The Healthiest Meat

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  1. 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.

    1. 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.

      1. 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.

  2. 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!

    1.  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.

      1. 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.

  3. 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.

    1. 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.

      1. Answering your 2nd paragraph, then according to your thinking, because many humans are considered “lower down on the food chain” they too should be condemned to being USED for whatever purpose??? Per your thinking then too the dogs and cats and birds and other ones we so much love and cater to (myself having them as beautiful companions) are also lower in the chain…..

        Interesting to me that a so called vegan person once shocked me when she ordered shrimp. When I questioned her, she said, also as you, “they are lower in the food chain”.

  4. 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.

    1. 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.

      1. 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. :)

        1. 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.

  5. 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).

  6. 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

    1. 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.

  7. 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???

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

  10. 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.

    1. 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.

  11. I could eat the less leggy ones as long as they taste decent and they were put in a familiar form like a burger patty. Why do we have to eat them in their whole form at all? I think that is what puts it off for everyone. For example I can eat crabmeat, lobster etc but I won’t touch them if they are still in their full form/shells. It would be like having a whole cow/pig to cut apart as well for the meat eaters, this would put them off.

  12. So far I cannot consider eating insects however apes and gorillas do so and likely that is the protein we were meant to eat somewhere animal meat just was easier to get so I am predicting that in the future insects will become a part of our diet. Thanks for another great video Dr. Greger!!! :)

    1. After reading all this Heart good, blood good, arthritis in my back after breaking it four different times in my life, in four different places, I guess I should be suffering a little colesterol good. I Am 72 and still going strong.. Will continue to eat my meat and potatoes, glass of milk after every meal and don’t forget eggs usually eat 6 with toast Also pasta every once in the while, and some cooked beans every once in a while. Love my peanut butter, use it for a snack by the heaping tablespoon full. My downfall is probably ice cream, I eat it a quart at a time but only about every other week. My meat is usually beef – steak, roast, and especially like prime rib. And have to add burgers, which I probably eat a couple times a week. Once in the while rabbit, which I raise myself, chicken sometimes, very little pork, but I do like ribs every once in a while. A little over weight, and something turned my blond hair to silver, not sure what that was, missing 2 teeth, would only be missing one but the dentist pulled the wrong one supposably when I was a kid so I do not visit dentists, More than likely my diet will probably kill me someday, but feel good, eat good, and am still able to do most of the things I did when I was young. Yep…. eaten all those eggs, drinking milk, eating lots of meat will probably kill me someday.

  13. Even for flesh eaters (I’m VERY VEGAN of 45 years, thank you) there should be some moral feelings about EXTENDING the torturing and murdering of animals, yes, insects ARE animals too (I know many don’t agree). I don’t want to watch this video, but . . . .

    . . . .I’m extremely disappointed that Dr. Greger is using THIS means to compare protein contents. Too bad because I was going to recommend to him my friend who has diabetes and gastritis and to whom I explained the benefits of veganism. That’s how I came to this site thinking he might have some recommendations as to this diet for a diabetic person. Goodbye…….

    1. Thanks for your question.

      One review suggests:

      “Insect nutritional composition is highly diverse in comparison with commonly consumed meats. The food category ‘insects’ contains some foods that could potentially exacerbate diet-related public health problems related to over-nutrition, but may be effective in combating under-nutrition.”

      Ethically speaking, I think the question for eating bugs is more delicate.

      Hope this answer helps.

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