Also known as:

Madora (Shona), Amacimbi (Ndebele), Masonja (Venda), Phane (Tswana), Infinkubala (Bemba)

Commonly consumed in the Southern African countries especially Botswana, South African, Zimbabwe and Namibia. Mopane worms breed between August and November and are harvested from the ground, trunks and leaves of the mopane tree. (Colophospermum Mopane)

How prepared

After harvesting, the worms are degutted and spines and fluids removed. They are washed and prepared for consumption.
Most are sun dried for preservation and consequently available throughout the year.
Worms are usually soaked in water before being stir fried and served as a protein entree.
In some cities, mopane worms are a street food served fried with a generous serving hot chilies (Delish!)

Interesting Facts

  • Entomophagy is the practice of eating insects as food and  according to the Food and Agriculture Organization, ( FAO (210b) insects can be a health food if they are collected from forests, free of pesticides and clean.
  • Gram for gram, mopane worms (and other insects) contain more protein than other animal foods.
  • There has been a single documented case of Mopane worm allergy. Individual experienced itchy skin rash, facial swelling and slightly low blood pressure.

Why Mopane Worms Are TAPN APPROVED (Green Seal)

By eating 100 grams of mopane worms, a 35 year old woman can expect to get:

1032 mg potassium (22% Recommended Daily Amount), 174mg Calcium (17% Recommended Daily Amount), 543 mg Phosphorus (78% Recommended Daily Amount), 160 mg Magnesium (50% Recommended Daily Amount), 14mg  Zinc (175% Recommended Daily Amount) 31 mg Iron (172% Recommended Daily Amount for women, 115% if pregnant).  

Terrific source of protein

Mopane worms are a great source of protein and essential amino acids which aid in tissue growth and development.

Not all the protein in the worms is digestible. The protein found in the outer frame of the worm  (ex0skeleton) contains chitin, a substance that prevents the protein in that part of the worm from being absorbed. Some people living in tropical areas have developed Chitinese, an enzyme that digests chitin, increasing the amount of protein available to the body. .
Due to the overall water content,  roasted worms have almost 9% less protein than the dried ones.

Great source of fiber
Since chitin is not digested, it adds bulk to the diet and is passed out in stool.  Mopane worms are therefore a source of dietary fiber, a rarity in the animal protein realm (yes, insects are animals too).  The fiber from chitin functions as r similar to the fiber found in some fruits and vegetables and helps  increase fullness after a meal, improve blood sugar levels, control weight. It also  plays a role in the prevention of chronic disease such as diabetes, high blood pressure and even some types of cancer.

Essential Amino Acids
Most of the countries in which Mopane worms are consumed use maize (corn) as a staple. As a result, their diets are low in tryptophan and lysine, essential acids that the body needs for building protein in the cells. Since they are essential acids, the body can not make them and one can only get them from food. Mopane worms are a good source of these amino acids and can help bridge the gap in the diet.

Excellent source of Iron
Mopane worms are a rich source of iron. While everyone needs iron in the diet to reduce risk of anemia and increase work productivity, women who are or can become pregnant need adequate amounts of this nutrient. Lack of it can lead to poor pregnancy outcomes and delayed learning for the child later in life. Lack of iron is also believed to cause 20% of maternal death.

Excellent source of Zinc
100g of mopane worms contain almost double the amount of recommended zinc. 
Zinc plays a role in strengthening the immune system and low zinc levels are associated with increased frequency and duration of illness, poor growth, impaired sexual and bone development, muscle breakdown, wounds that take a long time to heal, hair loss and poor appetite

Great source of Magnesium
Mopane worms contain magnesium which helps with biochemical reactions as well as muscle and nerve function.

Great source of Calcium
Because the worm is consumed whole with its skeleton, it is a good source of calcium, a nutrient that helps in the formation of strong bones and teeth as well as plays a role in nerve function. In Africans who are unable to tolerate milk, mopane worms can be one of the best sources of this important nutrient.

Tips for better nutrition

  • Eat the whole insect to get the most nutrition
  • Rev up the nutritional content by sautéing with veggies such as bell peppers, mushrooms, onions and leafy green vegetables

Ever eaten Mopane worms? Tell us your experience in the comment section below.
Help us grow this database. Do you know Mopane worms by any other name? Please let us know in the comments below. Be sure to let us know which country the name is from. We are also interested in hearing from you if you know of any other health benefits of this popular delicacy.

 

Here’s to your health.

 

Sources:
Kwiri, R, Winini, C, Muredzi P, Tongonya, J, Gwala, W, Muuru, F, Gwala, S. Mopane Worm Utilisaton, a Potential Source of Protein in Fortified Blended Foods in Zimbabwe: A Review. Global Journal of Science Frontier Research D: Agriculture and Veterinary Volume 14:10:2014.
Okechukwu, A, Koloi, K. Letswiti , M. Mopane worm allergy in a 36 year old woman: a case report. J Med Case Rep. 2010 Feb 6;4:42. doi: 10.1186/1752-1947-4-42.
Belluco, S. Losasso, C. Maggioletti, M. Alonzi, C. Paoletti, M, Antonia, R. Edible Insects in a Food Safety and Nutritional Perspective: A Critical Review.
COMPREHENSIVE REVIEWS IN FOOD SCIENCE AND FOOD SAFETY
Volume 12, Issue 3, May 2013, Pages: 296–313,
Arnold van Huis Joost, Van Itterbeeck Harmk Klunder, Ester Mertens, Afton Halloran, Guilia Muir, Paul Vantomme. Edible Insects: Future Prospects For Food and Feed Security. FAO Forestry Paper 171