You may not want to munch on earthworms straight from your backyard, but it’s fairly common to eat other types of worms in various cultures across the globe.

In fact, edible insects, including worms, have gained popularity in the West, too, as a potential protein source (1, 2, 3).

Insect-based protein is reported to be more sustainable than meat due to its low greenhouse gas emissions, low land and water use, and insects’ rapid growth rates (1, 3).

The European Commission’s Farm to Fork Strategy even recommends insect-based proteins as part of the transition to sustainable food systems (4).

However, the consumption of worms and other insects alike is often met with hesitancy or even disgust in Western culture (3, 5).

This article explains everything you need to know about eating worms, including nutrients and safety.

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Vera Lair/Stocksy United

Although people in Western cultures generally avoid eating insects, it’s far from a new or unknown practice.

Entomophagy, or the consumption of insects as food, is believed to have originated in early human development and remains common throughout certain cultures in Asia, Africa, Latin America, and Australia. Over 2,300 insect species are traditionally consumed (3, 6).

Plus, the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization recognizes nearly 500 edible insect species (7).

Common edible worms include the larvae of grasshoppers, true bugs (Hemiptera), beetles (Coleoptera), termites, and butterflies and moths (Lepidoptera) (3).

These worms are often fried or even added to alcoholic drinks like mezcal con gusano.

A recent study demonstrated that Europeans who hesitated to eat unprocessed insects and worms remained willing to try processed foods with powdered insects, such as bread and biscuits (5).


Although it tends to be taboo to eat insects in Western cultures, this practice is common throughout certain cultures in Asia, Africa, Latin America, and Australia.

Food composition studies of edible insects, including worms, reveal that they’re a good source of protein, healthy fats, vitamins, and minerals — even comparable or superior to animal protein (2, 3, 6, 7, 8).

For instance, the mopane worm (Gonimbrasia belina) contains 84 times the amount of iron and 7 times the amount of zinc as the same serving size of beef (3).

Despite this high protein content, most edible worms offer only two of the nine essential amino acids — tryptophan and lysine — although they’re digested as easily as animal protein (3).

Worms are also high in heart-friendly monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, and they’re lower in saturated fats than animal protein (3, 9).

Per 3.5 ounces (100 grams), beetle larvae may provide up to (3):

  • Calories: 155
  • Protein: 21 grams
  • Fat: 19 grams
  • Carbs: 3 grams
  • Fiber: 25% of the daily value (DV)
  • Iron: 133% of the DV
  • Zinc: 55% of the DV
  • Riboflavin: 269% of the DV

As you can see, these worms are extremely rich in iron and riboflavin (vitamin B2).

Research on entomotherapy — or the benefits of insect-based foods for human health — is ongoing (8).


Worms have been shown to be a good source of protein, healthy fats, and vitamins and minerals like iron, zinc, and riboflavin.

Generally, studies show that it’s safe to eat most commonly consumed species of worms and other insects (3).

However, some species, such as dragonflies and their larvae, are risky because of the potential for mercury accumulation (3).

Furthermore, arthropods like crickets may induce allergic reactions in people with shellfish allergies, due to their exoskeleton — although it’s unclear whether cricket larvae have the same effects (3).

Although some insects are carriers of harmful viruses, no evidence indicates that these viruses are present in commonly edible species (3).

In fact, worms and other edible insects raised for food may be particularly safe to eat due to methods like feed control and hygienic rearing practices (6).

As interest in edible worms and insect-based protein grows in the West, more rigorous studies may be needed, particularly to inform legislation on food safety (1, 6).


Although it’s generally safe to eat worms and other common edible insects, some may harbor heavy metals or cause allergic reactions in people with shellfish allergies.

Though you shouldn’t eat just any worm you find lying on the ground, countless worm species are eaten in various cultures across the globe.

Interest is even growing in the West as insect-based protein has risen in popularity as a sustainable food source.

Worms have been shown to be a good source of protein, certain fats, and micronutrients like iron and zinc. Beetle larvae in particular are loaded with riboflavin.

Although edible worms are largely safe to eat, more rigorous research will likely be needed before you start seeing worm protein on U.S. supermarket shelves.

Just one thing

Try this today: Much like worms, crickets are high in protein and essential nutrients. They’re also a delicacy in many cultures.

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