Assessing the nutritional value of huhu larvae — ScienceDaily

Huhu larvae have long been considered a traditional food source and their nutritional value has just been analyzed for the first time by researchers at the University of Otago.

The study of the mineral and macronutrient composition of huhu larvae (Prionoplus reticularis larvae) was undertaken by Ruchita Rao Kavle, a doctoral student in food science, and the results were recently published in the International Journal of Food Science and Technology.

Miss Rao Kavle says the analysis revealed that the huhu larvae had a high fat content – for which they were traditionally known – but it was the high levels of protein that really stood out.

“During the four developmental stages of huhu, protein ranged from 26.2% to 30.5%, which is high compared to other common protein sources such as beef (21%), lamb (20.3 percent), chicken (17.4 percent), soybeans (13 percent) and chickpeas (20.5 percent).

“We also found that the larvae were rich in essential minerals which all play a vital role in human health and nutrition, the most abundant being manganese, magnesium, phosphorus, iron, copper and zinc,” she says.

The analysis was undertaken on wild huhu larvae during four different developmental stages of their life cycle, which were collected from a pine woodland site in Dunedin.

According to Miss Rao Kavle, according to the results, a person weighing 60 kg would need about 170 g of huhu, or about 75 huhu larvae, to meet the same daily protein requirement that could come from 230 g of beef.

“Compared to beef, a smaller amount of huhu needs to be eaten, but some people would find it off-putting to eat 75 larvae.”

Miss Rao Kavle’s research is also investigating options for processing larvae into more presentable forms such as flour and meals.

Study supervisor and co-author Dr. Dominic Agyei says this pioneering study provides scientific evidence to highlight the nutritional value of the traditional food source.

He says that although huhu larvae are not commercially available in New Zealand, there is ever-increasing interest in the sustainability of food production, alternative proteins and the need to diversify food sources.

“The focus is on indigenous foods, particularly their unique nutritional and health properties, and on alternative proteins. This study on huhu follows other research we have also undertaken on the larvae of several edible insects. such as mealworms and black soldier flies,” says Dr. Agyei.

The research concluded that wild-harvested huhu in New Zealand is nutritious and safe to eat, but the authors stress that, as with most foods, moderate consumption is recommended and the importance of a varied and balanced diet can not be ignored.

Source of the story:

Material provided by University of Otago. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

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