Yes, you can eat ants. Ants are highly nutritious and ant cuisines are quite popular in many Asian and South American countries. The majority of ant species are safe to eat when cooked.
Ants have been seen as a popular dish for centuries owing to their mysterious exotic flavor and high nutritional value. As per the national geographic, 100 gm of red ants contains about 14 gm of protein along with 48 gm of calcium and other nutrients. They are also superbly low in carbs.
Let’s take a deeper look at this topic.
Is it Safe to Eat Ants?
Many of the ant species in the world are edible so you can eat them without any worries. In case you have allergies to certain kinds of food, it will be wise to consult with a doctor first before you start eating ants.
In many instances, if the ant variety is not known for being too much poisonous or having too much venom, they can even be consumed in raw form. However, eating raw ants is oftentimes seen as a sanitation and hygiene-related issue rather than a food safety-related problem.
But, if you are still in two minds, then consider cooking them and making a juicy dish out of the ants instead of eating them raw as it is always safe to cook them first because cooking helps in breaking down the poisonous and inedible elements of the ant, getting rid of the harmful pathogens adhering the ant body and in making them suitable for consumption.
Some ant species can bite or sting you, so be aware of that if you’re going out collecting ants.
Read More: Do Flying Ants Bite?
What does an Ant Taste Like?
Different varieties of ants taste different. But, in general, the majority of the ants taste like vinegar i.e. they have a slightly sour taste. Depending upon the species many people find the sour taste to resemble a lemon than vinegar.
Honey ants are being known to taste bittersweet. They are one of the most sought out and popular ant species out there which are known for their incredible taste.
They are known to feed upon nectar and store that dark honey in their abdomen which when consumed tastes kind of like wild strawberries, sweet with a bit of sourness in it.
Is it OK to eat black ants? Black ants are known to have a soothing citrus flavor and are quite a popular choice for people who love eating ants. The degree of the sourness varies from species to species and each variety has got a characteristic taste of its own.
As per David George Gordon, the author of “Eat-A-Bug Cookbook”, ants taste kinda like cracked pepper and have got an exotic flavor. Alex Atala, who is the highly renowned chef of D.O.M. restaurant in Brazil, stated that when he traveled to the Amazon state, he ate edible ants that tasted like ginger.
The ant eggs don’t have a strong flavor of sourness and in fact, taste squishy. It kind of pops in the mouth and when ate individually it may taste a bit nutty.
Benefits of Eating Ants
1. They’re Rich in Protein, Vitamins, and Minerals
Any food item that tastes sour, is known to contain vitamin C. Ants are also known to be rich in a variety of other vitamins and minerals like iron and calcium. All these as a whole helps in boosting the immune system and in fighting against diseases.
Black ants are known to typically contain 44.64% of protein and hence acts as a great protein source.
2. They are Rich in Antioxidants
Insects in general are known to be rich in antioxidants which diminish the effect of free radicals in the body.
Free radicals are produced regularly in the body through numerous biochemical reactions and they can end up damaging the DNA which in turn leads to a faster aging process. With time the excessive DNA damage can also lead to improper mutations which further can escalate into tumor growth.
Antioxidants help in reducing the impact of free radicals in the body. Hence we are always advised to have more and more antioxidant-rich foods in our diet. Ants are surely one of them.
3. They are a Source of Unsaturated Fatty Acids
The South American Leafcutter ant is rich in unsaturated fatty acids which are known to prevent cholesterol. There are two kinds of fatty acids, saturated fatty acids, and unsaturated ones.
The saturated one is found in unhealthy food items including fast foods, packaged food, and desserts. The unsaturated one is found in many sea fish, plants, seeds, and insects including some varieties of ants.
Some Nations Even Eat Ants!
You can eat them raw or boiled or roasted or make a fancy dish out of them:
- Boiled Ants: In case you don’t like the sour taste or are allergic to formic acid, you can boil or bake them first which will help in neutralizing the acidity, the poison, and other contaminants.
- Colombian Tradition: In Colombia, ants are roasted with salts and are commonly ate during feasts! They prefer the queen ants for this.
- Brazilian Tradition: In Brazil, in both rural and urban regions, there is a popular tradition of eating fried queen ants. The wings of the queen are removed first and then they are fried and served hot. At times they are even dipped into chocolate and then served.
As per insect-cooking expert David George Gordon, there are literally no limits on how you can cook ants. You can freeze the ants first to get rid of inedible substances that have come with the ant. Then you can spread them out on a cookie sheet and bake them on low heat at about 225 Fahrenheit.
You can then add the ants to any recipe you want. Ants are often used as toppings for salads as well as in desserts to impart that little bit of tacky flavor.
Ants have been consumed as a popular dish for centuries in many parts of the world including Thailand, India, Cambodia, Brazil, Mexico, and many other Asian and African countries.
Ants have a spicy flavor of their own which tastes different to different people. To some people it tastes like coriander, to some, it tastes like ginger or peeper, and to others, it tastes bittersweet. Also, the taste of ants varies from species to species. It depends hugely upon their distinctive chemical composition and the quantity of formic acid they possess.
The best thing about ants is along with their crunchy taste, they offer loads of other health benefits. Ants are jam-packed with protein, calcium, iron, and other minerals. Also, they have very low amounts of carbs and are rich in antioxidants and other vitamins.
All these as a whole completely justifies the reason why they have been consumed as a delicious delicacy for centuries.