Over the past 10 years, people have discovered that insects are good and reliable sources of nutrients and healthy food with high proteins, fat, vitamins, minerals, and fiber content. This has made most people seek knowledge on nutritious and non-harmful insects to feed on. Mealworms are among the insects that people are researching whether they have nutritional benefits and are of no harm to their health. However, most people are left with no answer to this question.
Mealworms are edible and safe for human beings. They are available as mealworm burgers and other forms in food stores. They improve body performance, body weight, cognitive function, and prevent malnutrition. Mealworms have an unobtrusive umami flavor which leaves a light and nutty aftertaste.
Can Humans Eat Mealworms?
Mealworms are safe and healthy for human consumption. They are available when processed as insect food items readily accessible in retail food such as insect burgers. In the past, mealworms were consumed in Southeast Asia and sold in food markets on the streets.
Also, mealworms have been recently marketed as fried and baked healthy snack foods. Notably, mealworms were recently assessed in 2017 as a novel food in Switzerland after the European Food Safety Authority approved the larvae safe for human consumption. They’re different from lesser mealworms, however.
What do mealworms taste like?
Mealworms have an unobtrusive umami flavor which leaves a light and nutty aftertaste in the mouth. Given their taste, they can be accompanied by any food of your choice since they won’t alter the overall taste by much.
Mealworm Health Benefits to Humans
Mealworms have high nutritional contents helpful to human health. The table below summarizes the nutritional contents of live and dried mealworms:
|Nutrient||Live mealworms||Dried mealworms|
Mealworms have lots of nutrients including zinc, iron, selenium, sodium, copperpotaasium and others. These nutrients are in such good amounts that they’re comparable to beef. In terms of nutrients per unit weight and the costs of breeding mealworms, they’re more economical than cattle raised for beef.
Mealworms have many health benefits including the following:
Improved Body Performance
Proteins are good energy sources for our bodies. The energy provided by proteins helps us in vital tasks such as working out. This is why bodybuilders and athletes consume high amounts of proteins rather than carbohydrates.
Protein-rich foods such as mealworms and vegetable-based proteins contain high proteins and low calories, while carb-dense foods have high energy sources but more calories. For this reason, some vegans eat bugs like mealworms while others don’t.
Maintain Body Weight
As mentioned earlier, high protein levels and low calories in mealworms can give you satiety after eating them. This helps you minimize cravings for snacks and too much junk food. This habit leads to a healthy feeding habit and a proportional body weight as you avoid eating too much junk food.
Malnutrition refers to deficiency, excess, or imbalance in the intake of nutrients and energy foods in humans. This is a common problem in most developing countries since people can’t afford high-nutrient foods economically.
Due to this problem, they end up consuming cheap food with low nutrient value and not getting nutrition benefits from the food. Hence, there is a need to get affordable nutrient-dense foods.
Mealworms can be a perfect solution to malnutrition problems in such countries. This is because they are easy to find and breed even in developing countries.
Good For Bodybuilding
Bodybuilding is where muscles gain mass. Muscle mass is gained through regular workouts combined with healthy eating habits, especially protein-rich diets. This means that high protein foods with low calories are needed, such as mealworms.
Bodybuilders can eat mealworms as an alternative to a high-protein diet. They can also be supplemented with other protein supplements, such as protein shakes that benefit bodybuilding.
Enhanced Cognitive Function
The high nutrition value in mealworms effectively improves cognitive function. This is because proteins enhance better metabolism in the body. Better metabolism means an enhanced energy supply to the brain. Protein is the best food for the brain. Therefore, the high protein content in mealworms supports the brain’s cognitive function.
Other Benefits of Mealworms
Mealworms do not only have health benefits. They also have other benefits such as:
The high preference of mealworms for consumption by humans means high demand for mealworms. The need arises for more production of mealworms through breeding.
The breeding of mealworms is simple and requires a small budget. Therefore, individuals invest in commercial mealworm breeding to meet the market’s demand in any setup. The economic activity of mealworms breeding contributes significantly to the economy’s gross domestic product.
The breeding and consumption of the cheap high-nutrient content insects provide food for individuals. This means that people will have more dietary options in harsh conditions. Since mealworms breed continuously with minimum effort, they are a staple food supply to certain regions. Some pets like cats also eat mealworms.
Increased Labor Force
An increased labor force requires high nutrition and better health conditions for individuals in a given location. The high nutrient value and enhanced benefits of mealworms come in handy. In areas where individuals consume mealworms in high amounts, they are healthier and have fewer chronic disorders. This means that there is an increased labor force in such areas.
Waste Management and Disposal
Mealworms easily degrade polystyrene found in most inorganic wastes into organic matter that can be reused. They’re quite efficient given that they degrade polystyrene at a rate of 34-39 milligrams per day. In this way, they help keep the environment clean and healthy through their decomposition activities.
Mealworms are easy to handle and raise and are thus used in various fields (physiology, immunology, evolution, biochemistry, and biology) for tests and studies.
Are Mealworms Harmful Humans?
Despite being safe and healthy for humans, mealworms can also be harmful during breeding. Adult mealworms produce a group of toxic substances called benzoquinones. These substances irritate humans, causing allergy and asthma symptoms to the breeders.
Mealworms for Human Consumption
It would be of great interest to learn how to prepare these nutritious little larvae. If you have live mealworms, dry roasting is perfect and leaves you with a perfect snack. However, it is important to learn about preparing and cooking mealworms:
Here are simple steps for preparing mealworms:
- Purging: Involves getting the mealworms and placing them in places where there is no food. They are left without food access for 2 days to ensure no food is left in their system.
- Killing: Before cooking mealworms, put them in an airtight container in the freezer. To ensure that they are completely dead, allow the container to stay in the freezer for 2-3 days. However, you can allow them to sleep for 15 minutes and then cook, depending on you and ethical factors.
- Cleaning Mealworms: You should boil the mealworms for about 3 minutes after freezing to ensure they are completely clean.
After completing the preparation stage for the larvae, you have your mealworms ready for cooking. You can deep fry, use acid and vinegar for cooking, or go with the best option which is roasting.
To roast mealworms, you need to place the larvae on greaseproof paper and bake for a couple of hours at 200°F. Afterward, they appear brown and crunchy, sprinkle some salt on them, then enjoy eating the hot meal.
Mealworms are edible by humans and are a tasty dish with nutritional benefits. The nutritious insect is affordable and easy to raise. Also, it can be a great investment for anyone looking for a suitable way to make money at a low cost. Preparation and cooking of mealworms are also simple which can also be a way to make extra income.
You can comfortably consider eating mealworms as a healthy meal or snack and enjoy their countless benefits. In addition, you can consider breeding mealworms for a supply of nutritional benefits and as a source of income.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Mealworms: An Unexpected Way to Nourish Communities Around the World.
Washington State University. Styrofoam-eating mealworms could be safe for dinner.
University of Wisconsin-Madison. Could squirmy livestock dent Africa’s protein deficit?