Are you ready to take your diet in a new direction? Then consider the impact of adding edible insects to the menu. While the idea might trigger revulsion at first, there’s a strong case to be made that the world would be a healthier, more sustainable place if we all stopped turning our noses up to bugs and found ways to incorporate them into our meals.
Two billion people already enjoy insects each day, so why not add yourself to the list? If you’re ready to explore the idea, keep reading to learn the top reasons to consider introducing insects to your diet.
1. More Sustainable than Standard Meat
It’s no secret these days that our modern diets are dangerous for the environment. A simple steak dinner requires over 2,000 gallons of fresh water to land on your plate, and that’s not including the irrigation needs for the veggies on the side. Much of this waste comes from the millions of acres of grains grown as animal feed- an inefficient process that contributes to the almost 18 percent of total greenhouse gas emissions in the United States. There’s never been a more crucial time to change your diet, as the World Bank expects that we will need to produce up to 50 percent more food to feed the expanding global population by 2050.
Eating insects is better for the environment. This is because they require less land for cultivation, we can eat their entire bodies (consequently leading to less waste), and they are cold-blooded. This means that they need to eat less food for their body weight than warm-blooded animals. In other words, the greenhouse emissions generated to produce a serving of insects are only a fraction of what it takes to put meat on your plate.
2. Stellar Protein Source
Pound for pound, eating insects provides you with more fat and protein than conventional animal products. Pork and crickets both have the same amount of protein, meaning that incorporating insects into your diet won’t leave you hungrier than before.
3. Filled with Nutrients
When you eat pork, beef, or chicken, you aren’t eating the whole animal. Instead, only the nutrients within their muscles land on your plate. Most insects, in contrast, are eaten whole or ground into a powder, and their exoskeletons often contain impressive amounts of calcium, zinc, iron, and even vitamin B12, a compound rarely found in animal products.
Compared by the ounce, bugs tend to have more calories than standard livestock. 3.5 ounces of mealworms, for instance, have 247 calories, compared to 152 for the same amount of chicken. Likewise, bee larva has 850% more iron than beef by weight.
4. A More Ethical form of Meat
Many people who choose to avoid eating meat do so because they don’t want to cause pain and suffering to animals. Eating insects might be an exception, as some reports show that the structure of their nervous system means that they don’t feel pain. Turning to bugs as an ethical food source might reduce the number of other forms of livestock that are butchered for food.
5. Can Counteract Malnutrition
In many parts of the world, protein deficiencies are a significant concern because of inaccessibility to quality animal products. Raising insects can combat this problem, as they are nutrient dense, filled with healthy fats, and cheap and efficient to take care of at a household scale.
As many kinds of insects are nutrient dense and filled with healthy fats, they are considered by many to be a promising food source for societies that struggle with malnutrition. According to research from Time.com, bee larva ranks the highest, even when compared to standard meat products.
6. You Can Raise Them Yourself
If you want to find ways to take control of your food supply but don’t have the space for traditional livestock, raising insects can be a stellar solution. It’s simple to start a bug farm- all you need is a ventilated container and a warm space for raising them. You can even buy your starter population online. When it’s time to cull the herd, stick your worms in the freezer for a few hours before cooking them.
7. Eating Bugs Could Combat Obesity
Thanks to their impressive levels of protein and healthy fats, insects are a smart snack if you’re striving to lose weight. As they are low in carbohydrates while remaining filling, insects are considered more nutritious than beef or pork, making them a smart meal substitution for those who are watching their calorie consumption.
8. Disgust Over Insects is a Cultural Construct
While it might turn your stomach to think about eating insects today, this response of disgust isn’t typical in every culture. Across the planet, billions of people eat insects each day, and foods you might not think twice about (like beef) are considered taboo in other places. This means that your aversion to insects on your plate isn’t rooted in biology, and you can overcome your negative first response by maintaining an open mind. As an example, raw fish was once considered repugnant in America, but sushi made it popular. If you’re still working on your mental blocks, keep in mind that crickets are closely related to shrimp.
9. Naturally Mild Flavor
While it’s common to think that insects must have a strong flavor profile, in truth their flavor is considered mild. Like tofu, most insects will take on the characteristics of what they’re cooked with, and fried insects are known for tasting like salted sunflower seeds. This makes it easy to pop a handful of grasshoppers into your trail mix or mix cricket flour into your pancake recipes.
10. Processed Foods Already Contain Insects
If you think you’ve avoided eating insects until this point, it’s time to take a closer look at your pantry. Almost all processed foods contain insect parts. 100 grams of chocolate contains on average of over 60 insect fragments, and the same amount of broccoli might have upwards of 60 aphids. Over the course of a year, many experts estimate you eat one or two pounds of insect parts with your food. The FDA doesn’t have a problem with these levels, which is further proof that eating insects isn’t such a strange idea.
How To Get Started With Edible Insects
If you’re convinced to give insects a try culinarily, where should you start?
There are over 2,000 known edible bugs in the world, so feel free to try several varieties until you learn what your personal taste preference is.
Many insect aficionados advocate for sourcing the freshest bugs you can. Fresh honeybee larva is considered to be a creamy treat, so consider asking your local beekeeper if they can set you up with a supply.
Depending on where you live, a local market might prove to have a quality supply of insects for consumption. Hispanic and Asian markets tend to have the best selection, so shop around.
Amazon is always a good option for purchasing edible insects. They offer a wide variety of options, from crickets, to worms to tarantulas.
Eating wise, some people prefer to substitute insects for salty snacks like chips or nuts, while others prefer to incorporate them into regular meals for an extra boost of protein. You can add mealworms to your veggie stir-fry, or bake bread with cricket-infused flour. To keep things simple, consider trying a protein bar infused with insect powder.
So long as you’re open to experimentation, you’re likely to find a combination that suits you. And once you become a fan of feasting on bugs – spread the word to your friends or add a bowl of edible crickets to your next gathering! We can all do our part to live lighter on the environment.