Although eating insects has long been common in other cultures, it has only recently become popular in the United States and the United Kingdom. However, it is still far from becoming a menu staple.
In a report released in 2013, the UN estimated that two billion people consume insects as part of their diets worldwide and urged cultures to begin eating insects to help increase the security of the global food supply. (1) Learn more about the potential benefits of edible insects for human consumption in this article.
Insect Protein For Human Consumption
Bugs, insects, and even arachnids contain more protein than most conventional meat sources. The researchers discovered that the dietary modifications encouraged the growth of probiotic bacteria and decreased a type of plasma linked to harmful inflammation, noting that crickets contain high levels of protein and fiber. Although there were only 20 participants in the study, the researchers concluded that additional research could support their initial findings that “eating crickets may improve gut health and reduce systemic inflammation.” (2)
Humans can benefit from high-quality protein, vitamins, and amino acids found in edible insects. Crickets require six times less feed than cattle, four times less than sheep, and twice as little as pigs and broiler chickens to produce the same amount of protein, demonstrating insect’s high food conversion rates. Additionally, compared to conventional livestock, they produce less ammonia and greenhouse gases. Organic waste can be used to grow insects. As a result, insects are a potential source for conventional protein production (mini-livestock), either directly for human consumption or indirectly in recomposed foods (with extracted protein from insects); and as a source of protein into feedstock mixtures.
Bugs Protein of the Future
Eating edible insects could help end world famine because they are calorie-dense and incredibly nutritious. Edible insects are a major future food source due to their high-quality protein content, diversity of micronutrients, and potential environmental and economic advantages.
One of the praised insects that are gaining popularity as food for humans and livestock is edible crickets. They also have the potential to improve food security and reduce malnutrition Due to a lack of data on the number of edible crickets, the nation where they are consumed, and the developmental stages eaten, the sustainable use of crickets as food or feed is disabled globally.
Crickets are nutrient-dense, with proteins making up 55 to 73 percent of their dry matter and lipids making up 4.30 to 33.44 percent. A reported 58 percent of all fatty acids are polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA). The macro- and micro-mineral elements calcium, potassium, magnesium, phosphorus, sodium, iron, zinc, manganese, and copper are all present in significant amounts in edible crickets. Crickets are also high in B vitamins and vitamins A, C, D, E, and K. The crickets have medical and social benefits and play significant roles in many nations’ economies and way of life. (3)
Iron, protein, and vitamin B12 are all available in adequate amounts in adult crickets. They are probably least noticeable in powdered form when added to flour, and protein shakes. “Cricket flour” is already present in one brand of chips sold in America. (4)
Many cultures around the world consume ants as food. Both brood and adult ants are sought after for traditional meals because they are widely available and easy to find. The Asian weaver ant Oecophylla smaragdina, for example, is one of the most popular edible insects in Thailand and Laos. A salad of queen brood, worker ants, mint leaves, spring onions, chili, and fish sauce is one of the most well-liked ant dishes in this region of the world. In local and urban markets, worker and brood ants are being sold for a higher price than meat. There are also canned ant species in Thailand.
In Mexico, the brood of Liometopum spp. is harvested from the roots of agave plants and devoured as the delicacy escamoles. This food was dubbed Mexican caviar by the Spanish conquistadores.
Australian Aborigines dig out honey pot ant nests, such as Camponotus inflatus, in search of sweet treats to consume repletes bloated with sweet plant juices. These are just a few examples of how human cultures use ants in food. The plentiful and all-pervasive ants continue to provide a tasty nutritional resource for people worldwide. (5)
Insect Protein Powder
A beneficial probiotic known as Bifidobacterium animalis was more prevalent in people who consumed insect powder, even for a short time. These bacteria can prevent diarrhea and enhance digestive processes. According to the study, insect powder may function as a prebiotic, providing food for additional probiotics to grow in a healthy person’s gut. (6)
Edible Insect Benefits
Due to their high concentrations of vitamin B12, iron, zinc, fiber, essential amino acids, omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, and antioxidants, edible insects may provide superior health benefits. The environmental and nutritional benefits could result from adding edible insects like crickets to human diets. It includes a general decrease in greenhouse gas emissions, reduced agricultural land and water use, improved prevention and management of chronic diseases like diabetes, cancer, and cardiovascular disease, and even improved immune function. Lastly, insects may be used as meat substitutes or dietary supplements, benefiting both human health and the environment. (7)
No matter how simple it sounds, picking your own insects is not a wise idea. They require proper processing and storage. The process of preparing them is similar to that of most types of food once you have purchased them from an authorized seller. Be careful to cook and clean them properly. Stink bugs, for instance, should only be immersed in warm water; hot water will instantly kill the bugs and prevent them from removing their toxins.
Edible insects are high in micro- and macronutrients and essential for human health. So you might find it beneficial to start including some edible insects in your diet. You could eat some edible insects in place of the steak to get more lean protein, essential fatty acids, and even fiber.
Disclaimer: This article is only a guide. It does not substitute the advice given by your own healthcare professional. Before making any health-related decision, consult your healthcare professional.
Editorial References And Fact-Checking
- Stull, V. J., Finer, E., Bergmans, R. S., Febvre, H. P., Longhurst, C., Manter, D. K., Patz, J. A., & Weir, T. L. (2018). Impact of Edible Cricket Consumption on Gut Microbiota in Healthy Adults, a Double-blind, Randomized Crossover Trial. Scientific reports, 8(1), 10762. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-018-29032-2
- Nowakowski, A. C., Miller, A. C., Miller, M. E., Xiao, H., & Wu, X. (2022). Potential health benefits of edible insects. Critical reviews in food science and nutrition, 62(13), 3499–3508. https://doi.org/10.1080/10408398.2020.1867053
- Magara, H., Niassy, S., Ayieko, M. A., Mukundamago, M., Egonyu, J. P., Tanga, C. M., Kimathi, E. K., Ongere, J. O., Fiaboe, K., Hugel, S., Orinda, M. A., Roos, N., & Ekesi, S. (2021). Edible Crickets (Orthoptera) Around the World: Distribution, Nutritional Value, and Other Benefits-A Review. Frontiers in nutrition, 7, 537915. https://doi.org/10.3389/fnut.2020.537915
- Alagappan, S., Chaliha, M., Sultanbawa, Y., Fuller, S., Hoffman, L., Netzel, G., Weber, N., Rychlik, M., Cozzolino, D., Smyth, H., & Olarte Mantilla, S. (2021, June). Nutritional analysis, volatile composition, antimicrobial and antioxidant properties of Australian green ants (Oecophylla smaragdina). Future Foods, 3, 100007. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.fufo.2020.100007