A new trend for low cost and nutrition
Stemming from ancient times, entomophagy is the practice of humans eating bugs and arachnids for nutrition. But in the United States, you are more likely to see bugs served as food on a reality television show than on most dinner tables. Still, people around the world today eat insects regularly as part of their diet. Grasshoppers and beetles and all kinds of creepy-crawlies are a cheap, readily available and nutritious alternative for our rapidly-expanding human population.
There are around 1,900 known species of bugs currently used as food. The most popular edible bug is the beetle, followed by caterpillars, bees, wasps, ants, grasshoppers, locusts and crickets.
Eating bugs has significant benefits for the earth and your health. They require an extremely small amount of food compared to any other creature that we consume. In fact, bugs can sometimes be raised off of a by-product such as organic waste.
Insects also are healthier for our environment than many other foods because they don’t produce environmental toxins. Plus, bugs are free of problematic hormones, which is healthier for our bodies.
Entomophagy benefits the billions of starving and food insecure people in the world. High-protein bugs that are free or cheap to obtain can be a powerful tool against hunger.
Yet, most Americans simply don’t want to eat bugs. While scientists work to develop tastier varieties and highlight the environmental benefits, the idea that the pests on our porch can be dinner is still a reach for many of us. Yet another common pest – the snail – is also an ancient food source that’s a delicacy in parts of Western Europe and on certain American tables and upscale restaurants. So, perhaps bugs are next.
Bug nutrition facts
A Food and Agriculture (FAO) report notes that many insects are packed with nutrients and protein. In fact, the FAO views insects as a possible superfood.
For instance, crickets are a popular choice that contain 121 calories, 12.9 grams of protein and just over five grams each of fat and carbohydrates. This crunchy mouthful is considered a whole food because of its nutrition profile.
The omega-3 and omega-six fatty acids in mealworms inches up close to the content of some fish. And, mealworms’ protein, vitamin and mineral content approaches what’s found in fish and meat.
Of course, mealworms are…worms, so some hesitation is understandable. But if you’d like to watch someone else go first, actress and bug eating enthusiast Nicole Kidman enjoys her mealworms – not only raw, but live and wiggling!
How to eat bugs
In South America, Africa, and Asia many people eat the lowly stink bug, which contain iron, protein, antioxidants and more healthy properties. Stink bugs are not eaten raw but roasted to remove the unpleasant odor they produce when threatened.
In certain areas of Mexico, people commonly eat chapulines – or grasshoppers – in tacos. The grasshoppers, which taste like smoked bacon, are roasted with many spices and placed whole into corn tortillas. Chapulines are high in protein and contain a plethora of nutrients such as selenium, iodine and magnesium.
Asia and India also serve grasshoppers in restaurants and street markets. You can find bowls of roasted and salted grasshoppers and crickets. Asian countries also use red ants to make a popular red ant stew. Children learn from a young age how to hunt and pluck red ants from the ground to be made into spicy soup.
Despite the reluctance of most American consumers, entomophagy is slowly catching on in the US. Companies are capitalizing on the growing demand for these nutrient-packed, environmentally friendly foods – making a variety of products, including desserts and powders available.
If you’re interested, you can find bugs dipped in chocolate, honey ants that taste just like – you guessed it – honey! New protein powders are made up of ground crickets and grasshoppers. Try one of these nutrient-packed supplements, and you may find yourself chirping a new song after your morning smoothie.
If you do decide to take a whirl at insect-eating, it’s not recommended to collect bugs from your backyard or local areas. Pesticides are all-too-common, and even if you don’t use them yourself, they can blow in on the wind. So, be sure to research your sources wisely.