One bug, two bugs, three bugs, four.
Crickets, ants, and mealworms, galore!
Would you eat a couple more?
That’s right, I’m talking about the insect eating trend that’s scuttling its way on to everyone’s radars: entomophagy, the practice of eating insects.
Entomophagy as a Sustainable Solution
“Ew, that’s gross!” – You’re not the only one who is thinking that. However, insects have been an excellent source of sustenance for thousands of years, across different cultures, throughout the world. So, not to disappoint you, entomophagy is not going away. In fact, it may be gaining more popularity as a very likely and sustainable solution to feeding the 9 billion people to inhabit our Earth by 2050.
“Why bugs?” – Contrary to Western stigma that insects are dirty, gross, and need to be squished immediately, insects are a safe and popular treat and staple food in many cultures in over 13 countries, and for a good reason. Insects are highly nutritional: high in protein, low in carbohydrates, low in saturated fat (the “bad” kind), rich in unsaturated fats (the “good” kind), with considerable amounts of micro-nutrients, minerals, and significant amounts of fiber. Let’s be honest, it sounds a lot like the ideal health food.
Of course, the stage of life of the insect or how the insect is prepared may affect the amount of nutritional value it can provide. A study by Bukkens showed that a dry-roasted Mopane caterpillar contains 48% protein compared to 57% protein when dried. Given the benefits of entomophagy, the FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization) report “Nutritional value of insects for human consumption” even suggests insects as an emergency food to alleviate childhood malnutrition, sharing the same nutritional potential with our favorite Moringa (read about it here).
Are Bugs Vegetarian?
“Well, I don’t think I can eat bugs, I’m …[insert diet type here]!” – Well, think again. Depending on the person’s specific definition, insects can loosely be defined as vegetarian; it technically has nothing to do with animal meats. And vegans fret not, insects aren’t animals and therefore free of animal harm and suffering. Gluten free? Definitely. Bugs are neither barley, rye, nor wheat. For those who swear by organic, rejoice because insects are certifiably organic. Crickets, for example, qualify as organic after feeding on whole grain oats, organic fruits, or veggies after three days. And housing for insects requires considerably less space with more efficient feed-to-meat ratios.
For those who are keeping it kosher, for sure! The passage from the book The Diet of John the Baptist allows eating four different kinds of crickets and grasshoppers; read more about it here. And insects are, most definitely, paleo; it’s as “true paleo” as you can get, minus the gathering basket in hand. Even our closest primate cousins starting from 60 million years ago consumed insects as a large part of their diet.
What about the Taste?
“Who actually eats insects?? It can’t possibly taste very good.” – The most common first taste reaction is that insects taste nutty. But of course, like all foods, different bugs will taste differently ranging from no flavor to fruity and flowery depending on how they are cooked. In Ghana, termites are often fried, roasted, and made into bread. In Asian countries, scorpions, crickets, and grasshoppers are often skewered and fried on a stick. Fried tarantula is a specialty, popular among tourists visiting Cambodia.
The sheep milk cheese delicacy, Casu Marzu from Italy, is consumed often with (and sometimes without) the cheese fly larvae necessary to digest and ferment this cheese. The Aboriginal people of the Australian Outback seek honeypot ants as a sweet delicacy. Mealworms are popular in many cultures baked, fried, or even in a shot of tequila. Simba even slurps them up raw- Hakuna Matata! And even here on our home-front, some companies are incorporating cricket flour into protein bars and baked goods.
Insects have been around for ages and insect eating for billions of years. It’s oBEEious that insect eating is here to stay and finally creeping its way into the Western world.
So, what’s bugging you?