You might not want to know this: bugs beat mammals when it comes to nutritional value. Yes, according to researcher Gladys Latunde-Dada of King's College London, insects are a much more viable source of iron than cows.
That's right, insects.
Latunde-Dada and her team compared the nutritional benefits of insects -- crickets, grasshoppers, and buffalo worms (beetle larvae) -- to those of beef sirloin. As meat provides our bodies with proteins and minerals such as iron and calcium, the study was created to find out if insects, which are high in protein and low in fat, can be a replacement for meat. Testing involved a solution of simulated stomach juices that helped mimic how a human stomach dissolves minerals like calcium, iron, and zinc. Also, because how we obtain iron varies based on how it's packaged in different forms in plant and animal tissue, researchers also tested how well our bodies could extract iron from insects via intestinal cells grown in a lab as a proxy.
Of the insects chosen for the study, buffalo worms were found to best sirloin beef in iron uptake by approximately one third. Grasshoppers and mealworms had an iron uptake that was about three-quarters that of beef. Further testing showed crickets have about three times as much soluble iron as sirloin, while mealworms recorded the most soluble magnesium and grasshoppers the most zinc.
The very thought of eating crickets or grasshoppers may make you shudder but edible insects aren't a new thing. They have long been a street food staple in various cities around the globe. More recently you may have seen stalls at state fairs that sell crickets or grasshoppers, often covered in chocolate. In the Netherlands, supermarket chain Jumbo has been stock products made from meal-worms, buffalo worms, and moth larvae for over a year.
It will take some time for the idea of snacking on grasshoppers rather than potato chips or dining on crickets rather than a steak to catch on. If you are ready to make the switch, the transition will be easier with a handy manual like this Insect Cookbook.