Turn your Arachnophobia into the sustainable lean protein your body needs!
By: Ashley Vangel
If insects are eaten in 80% of the world’s nations, why do we as Americans find it so appalling? Many parts of the world eat insects. Just ask those people living in North, Central, and South America, Africa, Asia, Australia, and New Zealand. In fact, humans have actually been eating all kinds of bugs, like eggs, larvae, pupae, and adults, since prehistoric times. Entomophagy, which is the term used to describe the human use of insects as food, is actually pretty common.
Insects contain a great deal of nutritional benefits. The most apparent being protein. Over half of each insect if made up of protein by dry weight. This means that insects are very comparable to animal protein sources, without the need to factory farm them. The protein found in insects is actually lean protein, meaning it contains low amounts of fat. This is a perfect protein addition for anyone trying to live a healthy lifestyle. Though Western cultures prefer protein neatly packaged in plastic and cartons, if you go to any market in sub-Saharan Africa or southeast Asia you can find edible insects as common as hot dogs in a baseball stadium.
Not only does insect-eating have nutritious benefits, it is also great for food security, the environment, and the economy. While animal protein can be expensive to purchase in a grocery store, eating insects provides an inexpensive, natural source of essential carbs, proteins, fats, and micronutrients, like many vitamins and minerals. From an environmental standpoint, more than 10 times as much plant food is needed to produce one kilogram of meat compared to one kilogram of insects. On top of that, farming insects needs only a fraction of the space and water to produce the same mass of food compared to cattle farming. In Mexico, by capturing and eating grasshoppers, farmers save thousands of dollars because of decreased need and use of pesticide.
Now that you know how great insects can be to include in your diet, you might be wondering just how well they taste… Well, most actually say they taste pretty good! Why else would so many people from all around the world be eating them? Try getting your hands on some cricket or mealworm flour, which is basically whole insects ground into a fine powder. The powder tastes like as if someone ground up a toasted slices of bread. The flour has a roasted, nutty flavor. Doesn’t sound too bad now, does it? Don’t think of eating bugs in their raw form, most often you’ll find them at a health food store as a flour or cooked and roasted. The most commons bugs you might run into are ants, crickets and locusts, beetles, and grubs, like mealworms.
In May, I plan to attend an edible insect cooking class at a small Austin market. If you’re curious about how to incorporate more entomophagy into your life, look for local event in your area and ask your local health food stores if they carry any buggy foods.
If you’ve already tasted some insects, leave us a comment below to share your experience!
Ashley is a registered dietitian and a licensed dietitian in the state of Texas. She graduated from Framingham State University, majoring in nutrition and dietetics and she completed her dietetic internship at the University of Connecticut. (more)