Finger-Licking Insects

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Including insects as part of our daily diets is beneficial to our health and enviroment.

A restaurant waiter swoops down and sets down a plate filled with a variety of salted locusts served on top of sushi, chocolate-covered cockroaches, and dried caterpillars fried in termite oil in front of a customer. The psychological factor of eating insects might be hard to get one’s head wrapped around, but many people actually eat at least 500 grams per year. And not by accident. Foods like tomato soup, peanut butter, chocolate, noodles, basically any processed foods contain insects because while they’re in nature, they are also in our crops. Entomophagy, the term for eating insects, could be the future of the culinary of humans, and eating bugs comes with multiple benefits. Reducing the consumption of livestock and meat to insects is preferable for people because of its food value, and because it’s better for human health and the environment.

First of all, insect meat is high in food value, and big in protein, fat, vitamins, and calories. For one example, meeting the recommended daily calorie need of 2500 kcal would be equal to eating 500 grams of dried crickets. By doing that one would also get a whopping 305 g of protein, 70 g of fat, and 50 g of fiber. Edible insects are also one of the few animal sources that contain higher unsaturated fatty acids than saturated fatty acids which means one would be better off increasing their healthy fat intake while keeping their protein intake high by switching from beef to crickets.

It also is generally filled with nutrients that can promote human health. Eating bugs can provide essential elements necessary for brain development. This comes from the PUFA, monounsaturated and/or polyunsaturated fatty acids, that are found in many edible insects. PUFA content may be up to 70% of total fatty acids. Another example is chitin, a carbohydrate present in the exoskeleton of insects. It increases immune defense and combats inflammation and cancer. Not only that, but bugs are rich in vital micronutrients including copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorous, selenium, and zinc. They contain vitamins including riboflavin, pantothenic acid, biotin, and, in some cases, folic acid. 

And if that’s not enough points towards convincing someone we should eat insects, they are also helpful towards protecting Earth’s environment. They require significantly fewer amounts of land, water, and feed than traditional livestock. Farming and processing produce lower greenhouse gas emissions, ammonia,  and produce less waste. Their droppings are an excellent fertilizer and soil amender.

So why not eat insects? Although eating bugs may sound like an outrageous idea, with all these benefits and tastes these bugs have, we should work to change the normality of eating meat and livestock to insects in the future. Food culture does change, in fact, five hundred years ago, Italians thought tomatoes were poisonous!