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Jun 7, 2007 10:37 PM

Nutritional Value of Insects?

I'm looking for information on nutritional vlaues of some specific insects - but all of my web searching is yielding results from people who raise/sell insects intended for animal consumption; the sites are making contradictory claims and many don't provide any information for how the results were obtained and whether or not the insects were "gut-loaded" (apparently feeding a specific diet to the insect to increase certain nutrients - does this make them unsafe for human consumption?).

I'm looking for protein, fat, carb, and moisture contents for crickets, mealworms, superworms, waxworms, and silkworms.

Can anyone point me in the right direction to find research papers or laboratory analysis for these insects?

Many thanks!

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  1. Here are a few papers I found, there are several more available through services such as pubmed that require payment to see the entire article.

    6 Replies
    1. re: LabRat

      You don't need to answer, but why?

      1. re: jazzlover

        Used to work at a zoo and had to formulate a nutritionally complete diet for some of our insectivorous inhabitants.

        1. re: LabRat

          Thank you - quite interesting. Actually I was wondering why ElsieDee was asking - Personally, I could never ...

          1. re: jazzlover

            JazzLover, a good question to ask *grinning*.

            Actually, the topic rose on an animal-caretaking list, about an insectivorous animal (african hedgehog) that was diagnosed with diabetes. We then started talking about finding legit nutritional information about insects in general - and then I was talking to a diabetic friend about his diet and mentioned the hedgehog/insects and he said that he'd "heard" that they were high in protein and lower in bad carbs, but only specific species and he wasn't sure which ones. And then we were joking around about adding insects to one's diet and which would be healthy and why and I started doing more reading and kind of have been obsessing on the topic.

            I'm not at all opposed to eating insects (I'm happily omniverous), but the thought doesn't make me salivate, either. But if I was going to eat insects (won't rule out the possibility), I'd want to know what I was consuming - and I don't think I'd go digging around in my backyard for them out of concern of pesticides and other contaminants.

            I am curious about the safety of consuming insects sold as animal food - I assume that they would be safer to eat if they're cooked, and I have seen canned silkworms in some Korean groceries.

            Anyway, just one of those middle-of-the-night musings that sometimes happen.

            1. re: ElsieDee

              There are places that breed "sterile" bugs. Fear Factor supposedly gets those (not sending out interns to scour the parking lot) for contestants to eat. I had learned in biology in college that we can't digest chitin so unless you pulverize the crickets, they'll go right through you but that was years ago so maybe they've learned more. Check out this site:


      2. re: LabRat

        Thank you, LabRat - that's precisely what I was looking for. I may end-up having a friend snag those "paid for" articles, as she works in a research lab and has subs. to most of the Pay-to-View sites.

      3. The original comment has been removed
          1. re: mojoeater

            Thanks for that link, mojoeater - it's perfectly on-topic and I like the citations (wheee - more reading!) at the end.

          2. We have an abundance of cicadas in our area right now if you're hungry.

            I hear they're high in protein and "taste like walnuts" but I think I'll pass. . .I like to eat, but not THAT much (i.e. going into my backyard and snacking on critters.)

            4 Replies
            1. re: chigirl71

              There was a story about this recently - in the NY Times, maybe? It said cicadas are basically land crawfish. There were recipes and everything.

              1. re: piccola

                They may be as big a crawfish, but I'm still not eating them.

                1. re: chigirl71

                  Me neither. I figure that being vegetarian lets me off the hook.

                  1. re: chigirl71

                    Ever so often when I'm eating a lobster, I think "giant cockroach", but only for a moment!!!!! And it doesn't stop me!!!

              2. One visitors day at a very woodsy, native American themed summer camp, they were serving grasshoppers deep fried in clarified butter! I had a few. Can't say I have been craving them ever since, but they were OK. They resembled shrimp or crawfish.

                I will never forget a line in a book about emergency survival strategies: "Slugs keep bears fat and healthy and will do the same for you." If it ever came to that, I guess I would be glad to remember the advice.

                1 Reply
                1. re: atheorist

                  When we lived in Charlotte last year, there was an Asian supermarket, and, in the frozen section, packaged on a styrofoam tray & wrapped in plastic wrap, they had these HUGE, frozen black beetles. They also had other interesting delicacies like pizzle and duck tongues.

                  Heather W