Curious about Angelina Jolie's snack preferences? We now know bugs are on the list. (Yep, you read that right.) In a segment that aired on BBC News this week, the Oscar-winning actress and her children noshed on tarantulas and scorpions while they were in Cambodia to promote her passion project First They Killed My Father.
"See the hard part where you have the teeth?" Jolie asked her 8-year-old twins, Knox and Vivienne, as she showed them how to prep the spiders for the skillet. "Take the fangs out."
It's clear the 41-year-old mom of six is no stranger to eating bugs: "I first had them when I was first in country," she says. "Crickets, you start with crickets. Crickets and a beer and then you kind of move up to tarantulas." (Apparently her children were big fans of the starter bugs too: “They can eat a bag of crickets like a bag of chips,” Jolie said in an interview on Good Morning America Tuesday.)
While munching on insects may not be the most appetizing idea, the crunchy critters can be quite nutritious. A study published last year in the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry found that insects can provide as much magnesium, iron, and other nutrients as steak.
The researchers reported that when compared to beef, crickets actually had higher iron solubility (the property that allows a mineral to be used by the body). And grasshoppers, mealworms, and crickets all had higher concentrations of chemically available magnesium, calcium, copper, and zinc than the sirloin.
According to nutritionist Vandana Sheth, RD, a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, bugs can be a healthy addition to your diet. "In general, insects can be high in protein (about 60 to 70%), low in carbohydrates, and provide vitamins, minerals, and fat," she wrote in an email to Health.
But that said, there are more than a thousand species of edible bugs, and not all of them are superfoods. "Because of the wide variety of edible insect species, their nutritional value is highly variable," Sheth explained. What's more, she added, some bugs come into contact with pesticides and other chemicals, so it's important to purchase them from reliable sources.
If you're interested in the nutritional benefits of bugs but aren't quite ready to swallow a spider, consider trying a product made from insect flour, like cricket chips or cricket protein bars, suggests Sheth. As a judge in our cricket-flour taste test put it, when you compare ground up crickets to what's in a hot dog, they don't seem so bad.