The French have always been a little more adventurous than the rest of Europe when it comes to their diets and there’s no better example of this than ‘escargot’. Escargot are ‘snails’ in French and are eaten out of the shells with tiny forks after being covered in garlic butter. I can vouch for them being really rather delicious, but are they good for you?
Spoiler: the short answer is yes…
Health Benefits of Snails
Like many other creepy-crawlies, snails are actually very high in protein while being low in carbohydrates. A 100-gram serving of snails will give you an impressive 16.5 grams of protein (around 9 less compared with chicken) and only 90 calories (less than half the amount of chicken).
Better yet, snails contain only two grams of carbohydrates – even when you take the butter into account seeing as it doesn’t add any! Snails don’t contain much fat either with only 1.4 grams being the average (discounting the butter in this case). They are quite high in cholesterol, but remember that cholesterol isn’t actually bad for you per-say when consumed in the correct quantities.
Vitamins and Minerals
The benefits of snails don’t stop there though. As well as being high in protein, snails are also high in a number of vitamins and minerals.
At 3.5 milligrams per 100g, snails are actually higher in iron than beef and provide nearly half of your RDA. Also like beef, snails are high in potassium (382 milligrams) and high in magnesium (250 milligrams) even when compared with chicken, pork, beef or fish.
Despite all of the benefits of snails, it’s important to remember that they’re also quite dirty and that their intestines are commonly prone to containing toxins. You can’t just go into your garden and scoop up a bunch of snails then…
Instead you need to first purge the intestines of the snails for around 10 days which you do by keeping them in a box and feeding them only plain lettuce and then starve them for two days prior to cooking (yes it feels a little cruel). Keep an eye on them during this process as they’re cannier than their slow pace might lead you to believe! You’ll know when your snails are purged because they’ll curl up in their shells and protect themselves with a thin membrane. You should also wash them both before and after the purging process.
It’s also a good idea to buy your snails from a commercial source, rather than to find them yourself. If you are feeling brave though then you can take the risk and you’re likely to find them in the darker and damper corners of your garden during spring.
Now you just need to fry your snails in a little oil and present them with your garlic butter (Gordon Ramsey suggests sautéing them with sage). They’re a great healthy snack and a great way to freak out guests!