Lizards are a type of reptile. There are more than 6,000 species of lizard across the world.
They can vary in size, from a few centimeters to as long as several meters.
People in many parts of the world consider them a delicacy, including in the United States.
However, certain health risks come with hunting and killing wild lizards yourself than with buying lizard meat from an exotic butcher. Wild lizards may carry disease-causing bacteria. They also have sharp teeth and claws that can harm you and cause a serious infection (
This article reviews whether lizards are safe to eat, as well as the possible health benefits and risks of eating them.
Yes. In fact, people around the world enjoy eating them in many different dishes.
Lizards are a cheap and accessible dish in some places, such as parts of Asia, Africa, Australia, South America, and even throughout North and Central America.
For example, in Florida, people consider lizards like the green iguana to be an invasive species, so it’s legal to hunt and humanely kill them. This makes it easier to buy iguana meat in Florida, and in states with similar laws, than in other parts of the United States.
To find out whether hunting and killing lizards is legal in a particular area, check the laws for your region.
People in Western countries do not commonly eat lizards because they are more difficult to hunt, farm, and prepare than popular meats, such as chicken, beef, pork, and fish.
In general, most lizards are edible. The most common types that people eat include:
- green iguana
- black iguana
- green anole
- brown anole
Aside from lizards, other popular reptiles that people eat include:
Lizards are a popular delicacy in many parts of the world. They are generally safe to eat when cooked properly. The types of lizards that people most commonly eat are the green iguana, black iguana, gecko, green anole, brown anole, and skinks.
In general, lizards are safe to eat if cooked thoroughly. There are not many official guidelines on temperature for cooking reptile meat, but FoodSafety.gov recommends cooking poultry until its internal temperature reaches 165°F (74°C) (2).
If you purchase lizard meat from an exotic butcher, ask them for guidance on safe handling, cooking methods, and temperature.
If not cooked enough, lizards and other reptiles can pose serious health concerns (
These bacteria can cause a foodborne illness, or food poisoning. Common signs of food poisoning include nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.
These symptoms may occur within 30 minutes to several days after consuming the meat (
These types of bacteria can also be present in more common meats, like chicken. However, lizards and other reptiles are more likely to carry them, along with a variety of other disease-causing bacteria (
Additionally, hunting and killing wild lizards yourself has more health risks than purchasing lizard meat from an exotic butcher.
Not only are wild lizards more likely to carry harmful bacteria, but they have sharp teeth and claws that may cause harm by spreading germs and other toxic substances from their mouth to a wound (
The same cautions also apply to handling lizards.
Lizards may carry various disease-causing bacteria, such as Salmonella, and can spread them to humans by contact.
If you are handling a live or recently killed lizard, make sure to wash your hands thoroughly immediately afterward — even if the lizard appears to be healthy and clean. Washing your hands can lower the risk of developing an infection (
If a lizard bites you, wash the wound thoroughly with soapy water. If the lizard appears to be sick, or if the wound seems serious or inflamed, seek medical attention immediately (
Lizards may carry various disease-causing bacteria, so it’s important to cook them thoroughly to prevent food poisoning. Additionally, make sure to wash your hands thoroughly when handling lizards to prevent an infection.
Just like other types of meat, lizards are packed with nutrients that may offer health benefits.
However, it’s important to note that there is little research available on the health benefits of eating lizards. That is why the following possible health benefits are based on studies of the nutrients found in lizards rather than studies on consuming lizards.
High in several nutrients
Lizards are high in various nutrients that are important for your health.
- Calories: 119
- Protein: 20.8 grams
- Fat: 3.5 grams
- Carbs: 1.2 grams
- Zinc: 23% of the Daily Value (DV)
- Iron: 11% of the DV
- Potassium: 6% of the DV
- Magnesium: 5% of the DV
Green iguana meat also contains small amounts of calcium, phosphorus, copper, and manganese (
Keep in mind that this nutritional information is specific for green iguana meat, as the green iguana is one of the most commonly eaten lizards in the world. The nutritional content of other lizards may vary.
High in protein
Lizards like the green iguana are high in protein, which is great for your health.
For one, protein can help keep you fuller for longer by curbing your appetite. That is because protein reduces the level of hunger hormones, like ghrelin, and raises the levels of hormones that keep you full, like peptide YY (
Not to mention, protein has numerous other benefits for your health and can help you put on muscle mass, reduce the muscle loss that happens naturally with age, strengthen your bones, and help you recover faster (
Rich source of zinc
Lizards like iguanas are high in zinc, an important mineral for your health.
Zinc also acts as an antioxidant inside the body, which means it helps protect your cells against damage, inflammation, and a process called oxidative stress.
Lastly, studies have shown that zinc can help treat wounds and help them recover faster. This is likely because zinc helps the body make collagen and aids your immune cells (
Good source of iron
Lizards like iguanas are a good source of iron, which is important for your health.
That is because iron helps transport oxygen from your lungs to other tissues in your body (
Lizards like green iguanas are high in protein and low in calories. They are also high in various nutrients, including zinc and iron, which studies have found are linked to numerous health benefits.
If you want to try lizards, there are different ways you can do it.
For example, you can purchase lizard meat deboned in exotic meat stores online and in certain parts of the United States. Typically, the most common type of lizard meat you can find is green iguana.
Many people choose to hunt and kill lizards rather than purchasing the meat from a store.
In some states, such as Florida, lizards like the green iguana are considered invasive species and are not protected. That means it’s legal to hunt and humanely kill them.
If you are going to prepare lizard meat, handle it with care, as lizards may carry various types of bacteria. Make sure to wash your hands thoroughly before and after handling lizards, as well as all the utensils you use during preparation.
Many people that cook with lizard meat recommend first removing the skin, head, and guts. You can find most of the meat on the legs, along the spine, and on the tail. Boiling lizard meat before cooking it can help sterilize it and kill harmful bacteria.
People sometimes call iguana the “chicken of the trees,” as it has a similar taste to chicken. However, anecdotal sources report that iguana meat can be tougher than chicken.
You can cook iguana meat in various ways, including frying, stewing, roasting, and grilling. Its taste and texture go well in dishes that include curries, stews, and gumbo.
You can purchase lizard meat from exotic meat stores in certain parts of the United States. Florida and some other states allow people to humanely hunt and kill certain lizards like the green iguana. Lizard meat has a similar taste to chicken.
Lizards are considered a delicacy in many parts of the world. The green iguana is one type people commonly eat.
In general, lizards are safe to eat if you heat them thoroughly during cooking. Although they may contain disease-causing bacteria, such as Salmonella, E. coli, Campylobacter, and S. aureus, heat kills these bacteria during the cooking process.
Lizards like the green iguana are high in protein, low in calories, and high in nutrients, including zinc and iron. Studies have found that consuming these nutrients is linked to health benefits, such as improved immunity and recovery.
If you are looking to try lizard meat, you can purchase it from exotic meat stores in the United States. Alternatively, you can hunt lizards yourself. It is legal to hunt and humanely kill certain lizards, like the green iguana, in certain states.
If you are going to eat lizards you hunt yourself, make sure to properly handle and prepare them to avoid food poisoning.