Eating Mealworms: Is It Worth It? | Pros & Cons Of Eating Mealworms

They have a little… um… mealy quality to them. They are dry, slightly crunchy, not intensely flavored, and neither pleasant nor unpleasant. Salt, chili, lime, or anything else to give them a little bit of a kick would undoubtedly help. And if I was going to eat too many, definitely a beer to wash them down. Confused? Well, I am talking about edible mealworm!

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Edible mealworm

Photo Credit Humans can eat mealworms and are often used to make insect-based foods sold in grocery stores.

My stance is that I fully support entomophagy (the practice of eating bugs) as a way of life, and I have no doubt that future generations won’t bat an eye when it comes to including fats and proteins obtained from insects in their diets. However, this practice of eating insects is still widely frowned upon in today’s society, especially in the Western world.

However, the consumption of insects such as mealworms is widespread in many countries of Asia and Europe. To say that these insects are a good source of protein and fat would be an understatement. Also, mealworms have fewer negative environmental and economic impacts compared to other animal protein sources. For example, they use less feed and create less waste and carbon dioxide.

Sounds intriguing? OK, then, carry on reading! This article is all about the practical elements of preparing, cooking, and eating mealworms.

But First, What Are Mealworms?

What are mealworms?

Photo Credit Mealworms are common bugs that might invade stored food items on occasion.

Mealworms are neither their own species of animals nor are they even worms; instead, mealworms are the second stage of development in the life cycle of a particular beetle species. To be specific, mealworms are the larvae of Tenebrio molitor, a darkling beetle. 

These animals also go through the same four phases of development as other holometabolous insects, which are the egg, the larva, the pupa, and the adult stage. Mealworms can be found all around the world in damp, gloomy environments. They begin as a tiny egg, which, after a few weeks, will hatch into a small yellow-brown larva. 

This stage of its life cycle is known as mealworms. The mealworm’s feeding phase lasts for around ten weeks before it undergoes its next metamorphosis. In due time, it will transform into a beetle with wings, legs, and a shell covered in a dark covering.

Mealworms Make Great Food For Birds & Reptiles…

Many individuals choose to cultivate their own worms since it is simple and can be very fun. When mealworms are used as bait for fishing, many commercial suppliers give them a juvenile hormone that causes them to grow to abnormal sizes. This makes the worms more appealing to fish because they are larger than normal.

The most common applications for mealworms are as a source of nutrition for birds and reptiles. Mealworms are abundant in protein, which is why they are popular with reptile and bird owners. However, they are now also making their way into the menus of hotels and restaurants around the world. How? Read on to find out!

Related: Eating Crickets: Benefits, Drawbacks & Popular Cricket Recipes Around The World

Nutritional Value Of Mealworms

Nutritional Value Of Edible Mealworm

Photo Credit Mealworms and other edible insects can offer many essential nutrients to the human body.

The nutritional information for mealworms may come as a surprise to you, particularly if you have not yet had the opportunity to try them. They make a nutritious meal for a wide variety of organisms, including birds, reptiles, tiny animals, and even humans. 

Mealworms contain 20% protein, 13% fat, 2% fiber, and 62% water when alive, but just 53% protein, 28% fat, 6% fiber, and 5% water when dried. 

The low levels of fat and high levels of protein and fiber in these insects make them an excellent option for vegetarians and vegans. In addition to this, they do not carry any parasites and are an excellent source of energy. Mealworms can be obtained in dried or live form, but they must be obtained from an FDA-approved provider.

Even though mealworms might not be of an exceptionally high nutritional value, they are simple to grow and easy to harvest. Also, mealworms, frequently fed wheat bran, are not a very rich source of fiber despite their fiber-rich diet. 

Mealworms can be fed polystyrene, a resource that can be used to recycle plastics, thanks to the work of experts from Stanford University. Despite the fact that mealworms have a healthy nutritional profile, the one drawback to using this method is that you have to be extra careful not to give your animals anything that could be harmful to them. 

Moreover, powdered mealworm larvae have twice the amount of protein, fat, ash, and minerals found in live mealworms. Mealworm larvae contain more beneficial elements per calorie than the typical human diet of meat. The powdered form of larvae is a high-quality product that can be viewed as a supplement to regular meals.

What Do Mealworms Taste Like?

Taste of edible mealworm

Photo Credit Mealworms have a mild, nutty flavor that lingers on the tongue.

Since mealworms are simple to grow (even in the comfort of one’s own home) and provide a high level of nourishment, mealworms have been heralded as one of the most important insects to the entomophagy trend. From a culinary perspective, however, the mealworm presents a problem because it doesn’t have a delightful flavor. 

Mealworms don’t have an awful flavor, either. The taste is not overpowering and has a hint of nuttiness to it. A dull flavor is all that comes to mind when I think of it.

Whether you prefer to roast, fry, or sauté them, you can prepare mealworms in virtually any way you like and serve them in any way you want. This makes them a versatile addition to salads, a topping for tacos, or a standalone snack. 

Mealworms are said to have a subtle umami flavor that leaves your taste receptors tingling with a flavor that is a combination of nutty and rich flavors.

What Texture Do Mealworms Have?

To tell you the truth, I was taken aback by the mealworm’s texture. I had anticipated that they would be mushy, puffy, and gooey. However, they were tough and slick. 

To put it another way, the consistency and texture of mealworms are very much like that of Rice Krispies. The mealworm’s texture, when coupled with its taste, which can be described as being relatively bland and dull, makes it an excellent cushion for soaking up the flavor of sauces and commonly used seasonings.

Also, I feel obligated to disclose here that the mealworms I purchased were frozen and dehydrated, which may explain the texture experienced. And, to be honest, a mealworm that has just recently been harvested might be chewier and have more fat.

Related: Should You Eat Ants? The Nutrition, Benefits & Downsides Of Eating Ants!

How Do You Eat Mealworms?

How Do You Eat Mealworms?

Photo Credit

Mealworms can be found as an ingredient in a wide variety of foods, including protein powder blends, paté, sausages, burgers, bread, cakes, and even roasted or whole seasoned mealworms. Also, even though they aren’t often paired with tequila, mealworms have made their way into novelty candies with a tequila flavor.

Mealworm Protein Bars

Additionally, many people have come up with the concept of making mealworm protein bars due to their high protein content. Unfortunately, very little bug powder is actually used in many of the insect protein bars currently available on the market. 

The price has been the primary factor, but rules within the EU that cap the percentage of insect products found in baked goods between 10 and 15%. Mealworm powder, aka mealworm flour, is the most common ingredient that can be created from mealworms and can be purchased either unflavored or in various flavors. 

Mealworm Flour

It is possible to flavor practically any food with it, which will also boost the amount of protein in the dish. Trying some mealworm powder on yogurt is a simple way to get started. 

Here is how mealworms are incorporated into the meals of people all around the world:

Mealworms As A Snack

There are many companies and online businesses that sell salted and fried whole mealworms as snacks. In case you are interested in trying them out, here are some links: Larvet Snack – Tenebrio Molitor and Mealworms (Asian Magic) Party Bugs.

Mealworms In Salads

Some individuals add mealworms to their kale salads (other ingredients being green beans, spring onions, and red apples). Start by frying them in a pan with some garlic and soy sauce if you want to do it. The spongy consistency proves to be rather advantageous in this context: the mealworm sucks in the flavor like a sponge, transforming it into an intriguing alternative to soy-roasted almonds, and it works wonderfully for the kale salad. 

Some people also put them in bulgur salad for the nutty, umami flavor.

Mealworms In Soup

Edible mealworm in soup

Photo Credit Mealworm powder creates a velvety texture in an already creamy potato soup.

After snacking on a few mealworms straight from the bag, I had the bright idea of using them as a unique replacement for bacon in potato-leek soup. 

I figured the soup would benefit from the slightly nutty flavor because it would balance out the additional salty savouriness of the bacon. 

However, because of the mealworms’ consistency, the ultimate result was similar to cereal that had been sitting in milk for too long, with a distinct Rice Krispies flavor. 

The nutty flavor of the mealworm was likewise washed down in the soup.

Mealworm Marinade

It is less about actually cooking the mealworms and more about seasoning them. A little bit like you may do during the purging phase by adding cinnamon and other things like that.

Related: 50 Edible Bugs We Dare You To Try (Some Might Surpise You)

Is Eating Mealworms Good For You?

Is Eating Mealworms Good For You?

Photo Credit Mealworms’ high nutrient content has been found to enhance cognitive performance significantly.

Mealworms are an excellent source of protein and a wide variety of essential elements. A single serving of mealworm powder has more iron than sirloin beef, has all of the essential amino and fatty acids, and comprises 55 percent protein. 

Here are the benefits of eating mealworms described in detail:

Micronutrients

Micronutrients found in mealworms consist of several minerals and vitamins. Minerals such as magnesium, zinc, copper, iron, manganese, sodium, and potassium have been found in mealworms. Some of the vitamins found in mealworms are B5, B12, and B2.

Fiber

The fiber found in mealworms is a type of complex carbohydrate. The consumption of this dietary fiber lowers the likelihood that you will experience constipation, brings about a reduction in cholesterol levels, and brings about the regulation of blood glucose levels.

Fat

The use of mealworm fat guarantees a continuous intake of unsaturated fats that are beneficial to health. Mealworms have a high concentration of monounsaturated fats, regarded as among the healthiest of unsaturated fats.

Carbohydrates

The carbohydrates found in mealworms are a source of energy for the body. Carbohydrates guarantee that you will have enough fuel for an active day. They cause an increase in glucose levels, which in turn causes your energy storage reserves to be replenished.

Protein

The protein in mealworms is an essential component for growing muscle. Protein improves your body’s ability to repair and renew cells, which in turn speeds up the healing process after an injury. Additionally, it is an essential component in the synthesis of antibodies.

Eating Mealworms Improves Cognitive Function

Eating Mealworms Improves Cognitive Function

Photo Credit No other type of food benefits the brain as much as protein.

Mealworms have a high nutritional value, which has been shown to improve cognitive performance substantially. The reason for this is that protein helps our body’s metabolism function better. The improved metabolism results in an increased supply of energy for the brain. There is no other food that is better for the brain than protein.

Mealworms Can Help Maintain Weight

As discussed before, mealworms’ high protein content and low-calorie count can help you feel satisfied adequately after eating them. You won’t have as much desire for snacks if you approach it this way. This practice helps you maintain a healthy weight and eating routine by preventing you from eating excessive junk food, which leads to a proportional weight.

Eating Mealworms Is Good For The Environment

Mealworms use 2,000 fewer gallons of water and less than 20 percent of the land that is needed to produce equal amounts of edible protein as beef does. 

Farming mealworms also takes less space. Mealworms may survive in just a square foot box tucked away in the corner of a room, unlike cattle, which need a farm or ranch to thrive. 

With all of these advantages, it is evident that mealworms, which are benign to the environment, might help feed the world’s rising population.

Famous Mealworm Dishes Around The World

Mealworm dishes

Photo Credit Insects are a sustainable alternative to meat and a protein source similar to meat, fish, and soybeans.

Who eats mealworms, or any other bug, is heavily influenced by cultural norms. For instance, whereas most countries in Western Europe do not consume them, insects are a significant part of the diet in many other parts of the world. The following is a list of some of the most famous mealworm dishes that can be found all over the world:

Gluten-Free Mealworm Blueberry Crumble

This gluten-free mealworm blueberry crumble is the ideal method for easing people into the concept of eating edible insects. This recipe for this gateway bug is excellent for making for yourself and the people you care about since it is quick, simple, and delicious. 

A dessert of mealworms and crickets, sometimes known as the “ultimate uncomfortable comfort food.” This meal can be served warm as a nutrient brunch over yogurt or as a pudding topped with ice cream. Both options are delicious!

Mealworm Fried Rice

Fried rice is one of those wonderful Asian recipes that checks off all of the boxes: it can be made quickly, it is foolproof in the kitchen, and you can add such a broad variety of ingredients that you can adapt it to suit the preferences of anybody you are serving.

However, we challenge you to take this well-known dish to the next level by including another Asian delicacy, the mealworms, and then serve it to your guests.

Mushroom Salad With Mealworms

This is not some kind of joke. The nutty flavor and pleasant crunch of these edible insects, including crickets, grasshoppers, and mealworms, combine nicely with the salad of thin slices of mushrooms, lime, and olive oil dressing. 

There is no complex formula involved in this. Mealworms are also delicious when combined with lettuce, banana peels, celery, potato peels, apples, and even dragon fruit.

How To Harvest Your Own Mealworms?

How To Harvest Your Own Edible Mealworms?

Photo Credit Mealworms are easy to grow, and you can do it even in your home.

If you want to try eating mealworms but are not sure about the safety and cleanliness of mealworm products available on the market, you can farm your own mealworms. It is simple and straightforward, and here is how you can do it:

Find A Container

You will need to locate a suitable container in which to cultivate your mealworms before you can get your mealworm farm up and running. You can use any of the following: an old aquarium, a plastic storage tote, or another object of a similar nature. 

In addition, the selected container will need a lid or a screen mesh cover to go over the top of it. The lid must have air holes in order to allow air to flow through the container.

Prepare The Container

At this stage, you are also going to need to locate the most suitable spot for your container. Mealworms should not be exposed to direct sunlight at any time. 

They won’t mind being in the shadows all day or even in a dark closet as long as they have some privacy. After you have your container and have placed it in the best possible location, the next step is to load it up with mealworm food, also known as substrate. 

The precise quantity required is determined by the depth of the container, which should be between two and three inches.

Add Mealworms To Your Farm

Now that you have your mealworm setup all planned out, it’s time to order some live mealworms to put it all to use! If you want to start a healthy colony as soon as possible, you should place an order for at least 1,500 mealworms. 

You should immediately provide your mealworms with food once they arrive. Place a layer of dried food that is two to three inches thick, then drop them in.

Let Them Grow

It is now only necessary for you to feed your mealworms and wait for them to mature and reproduce. You can feed them as much as you want, but keep in mind that the more food you give them, the more they will multiply. On the other hand, you should avoid feeding your mealworms that are drenched in liquid, since this can encourage mold growth.

Harvest Your Mealworms

It will take a few months before you can harvest them, depending on the circumstances you have provided for your larvae. The most efficient method for gathering them is to use a scoop and strainer, and then remove them by hand from the strainer. 

You could also use a vegetable like a carrot, set it in your container, and then wait for around five minutes before removing it. Larvae of the worms will attach to the carrot, at which point the carrot can be shaken over another empty container to harvest the mealworms.

Final Thoughts

Whether baked or fried, Mealworms have only recently been recognized as a viable option for nutritious snack food in Western culture. Despite this, the farming of mealworms and their consumption date back hundreds of years. 

In the past, mealworms were a common source of nutrition in many Asian countries, particularly in Southeast Asia. They are one of the many edible insects that can be found at food stores and can also be purchased as a snack on the street. 

Because they are so simple to cultivate, mealworms have gained widespread popularity throughout most of Southeast Asia. Growing mealworms in captivity require only a minimal amount of room and effort, and you can do it even at your home.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Can you get sick from eating mealworms?

Humans can eat mealworms without any problem. Yellow mealworms do not pose any health risks to humans, according to the European Union’s Food Safety Agency. For the most part, eating maggots poses no health risks to humans or other animals. Drink a glass of wine if you just ate them. They will die from the wine and acid in your stomach.

What happens if you eat mealworms?

Besides getting a fast dose of protein, eating mealworms wouldn’t have any noticeable effects. Mealworm protein builds muscle. Protein also speeds wound healing by repairing and regenerating cells. Mealworms can be consumed in several different ways, including raw and alive, pan-fried, and dry-roasted, which is often the most delicious and least recognized.

Why do people eat mealworms?

While the idea of eating mealworms may be foreign to you, in most of the world, it is a common habit. Mealworms are consumed or recommended by many since they are nutritional powerhouses and a much more eco-friendly alternative to meat. 

For instance, mealworm powder has more iron than sirloin beef, has 55 percent protein, and contains all essential amino and fatty acids.

Are mealworms actually worms?

The fact that a mealworm is not technically a worm at all is the first interesting fact about mealworms that you should know. The darkling beetle, also known by its scientific name, Tenebrio molitor, goes through four distinct stages of its life cycle, and mealworm is just one of those stages. Many reptiles, amphibians, rodents, birds, and other tiny creatures rely on commercially-raised mealworms for nutrition.

Can I eat raw mealworms?

Mealworms can be eaten raw, and while they are still alive, they can also be pan-fried, but dry-roasting is typically the most delicious way to eat them and makes them less noticeable. Additionally, mealworms are processed into various insect foods sold in food retail. Mealworm flour is by far the most popular end product of the edible-insect business.

Sources for Further Reading

Styrofoam-eating mealworms could be safe for dinner – WSU Insider. (2020). Retrieved 28 September 2022, from https://news.wsu.edu/news/2020/08/25/styrofoam-eating-mealworms-safe-dinner/

Mealworms provide plastic solutions | Stanford News. Retrieved 28 September 2022, from https://news.stanford.edu/2019/12/19/mealworms-provide-plastic-solution/

Can You (& Should You) Eat Mealworms? (2022). Retrieved 28 September 2022, from https://draxe.com/nutrition/eating-mealworms/

Student Researchers Studying Styrofoam-Eating Mealworms. (2016). Retrieved 28 September 2022, from https://cal.msu.edu/news/student-researchers-studying-styrofoam-eating-mealworms/

Cooking mealworms into a tasty, healthy, ‘meat-like’ seasoning – American Chemical Society. (2022). Retrieved 28 September 2022, from https://www.acs.org/content/acs/en/pressroom/newsreleases/2022/august/cooking-up-mealworms-into-tasty-healthful-meat-like-seasoning.html

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