If you like seafood, chances are you like insects too. Find out why grasshoppers are the new shrimp and what insect you can eat next.
Yes, not very nice and appetizing at first sight. But some critters are good sources of protein and healthy unsaturated fats. No wonder they are staples of non-Western diets.
Could you eat something that’s already crawled on the floor or buzzed in your ear?
The idea of stinging insects may seem strange to Westerners, but “entomophagy” – or the practice of eating insects – is anything but new in Asia, Africa and Latin America. Many cultures have incorporated insects into their diets for centuries. At the same time, “it is the food of the future”. We will need alternative foods that can be grown in small environments and are easy to raise. Insects respond to this call.
Health-wise, insects tick several nutritional boxes. Think of an insect. It’s so small, but imagine a flying bee or a jumping grasshopper. They need a lot of muscle and energy to do these things. You will benefit from them when you eat them. In general, insects are high in protein, low in carbohydrates and contain essential minerals including iron, zinc, calcium and magnesium.
According to a study published in August 2019 in Food Science of Animal Resources, the protein content of edible insects ranges from 35-60% of dry weight (after processing) or 10-25% of fresh weight. Which is superior to vegetable protein sources. Especially cereals, soy and lentils. This content can sometimes be higher than meat and eggs. Their fat content varies greatly, from 10 to 60%, and it is mostly healthy and unsaturated fats.
Environmental benefits: much less water and no agricultural land used
The environmental benefits of eating insects are also significant. Eating insects could potentially help solve food access, cost and environmental issues. Already in 2013, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations published a report projecting towards 2050, when the world population will be estimated at 9 billion. Insects are a more sustainable option to help alleviate food scarcity due to lack of agricultural land, overfishing in the oceans, and the effects of climate change and water shortages. Raising insects requires much less water, land and food than raising traditional animals like cattle.
2000 species of insects already consumed in the world
There are nearly 2,000 species of insects eaten around the world. Promoting edible insects doesn’t mean looking for them in your garden. It’s about raising them in really clean environments. Insects should eat organic food. If they feasted on foods high in pesticides, they would die. Today you can buy products in which insects have been processed into flours. You can use it in everyday cooking and baking or combined with familiar flavors or are prepared like familiar foods (like bars or cookies). If you’ve never considered eating bugs, that’s okay. But don’t neglect them: they are a staple in many cultures! Do you eat crabs, lobsters and shrimps? They are first cousins of insects.
Here are four bugs to add to your plate
1 The cricket: an excellent insect rich in probiotics
If you’re not ready to eat a whole, crunchy bug and all, then a good starter is cricket flour. For 2 tablespoons of cricket flour, there are 50 calories, 6 grams (g) of protein, 2.5 g of fat (0.5 saturated), and less than one gram of carbohydrates. There is also preliminary evidence that crickets promote gut health, as their consumption stimulates the growth of certain health-promoting probiotics, according to a small study published in July 2018 in Scientific Reports.
2 Mealworms, a versatile ingredient
You can dry, grill, roast, pan-fry, fry, boil, steam or microwave mealworms. They are safe to eat, according to a study published in March 2019 in the journal Foods. The study analyzes mealworms as a food source, and the authors note that grilling them gives them a smell of cooked corn. After drying and processing, mealworm larvae contain 50% protein and 30% fat. This amount of fat is similar to whole milk powder, the researchers note. Which makes them not the leanest choice.
3 Termites: manganese and bone strength
Nobody wants to find them alive in your home, because they can cause massive destruction. But the cultures of Africa and Asia feed on termites with relish. Termites are extremely high in manganese, a mineral that plays an essential role in metabolism for bone strength and immune function. Termites contain up to 100 times more manganese than other insects. In fact, they may contain more than the safe limit of manganese when eaten whole.
4 Grasshoppers: more antioxidants than in fresh orange juice
Do you like prawns? Grasshoppers taste similar to this beloved seafood. To make them edible, their wings and legs are removed. They are high in protein and fat, but low in carbohydrates. In Japan, people eat them fried with soy sauce. You can include them in a healthy diet. Grasshoppers are among the most antioxidant-rich insects. They contain five times more antioxidants than fresh orange juice.
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