Eating Insects --- Is It Healthy for You?
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November 22, 2016
By Louise Carr, Associate Editor and Featured Columnist

Whenever Bugs, critters, insects, creepy crawlies; you may
spend most of your time trying to avoid them. It’s normal
to get out the bug spray, but how likely are you to get out
the frying pan and cook up some tasty bugs? Not very
likely, if you live in the West.

But a recent report from the UN says: Eat More Insects. Not
only do edible insects make up the diet of millions of people
in the world, they are also amazingly good for us.

Still not convinced that crawling creatures belong on the
plate? Take a look at why edible insects can solve health
and food problems around the world – and make a
difference to your wellbeing.

The UN's Advice -- Eat More Insects

A 2013 report from the Food and Agriculture Organization
goes into immense detail about edible insects and the
conclusion is, we should all consider insects as part of our
diet. The UN says there are more than 1,900 species of
edible insect on earth. Hundreds of insects are already part
of the diet of many different countries. In fact, nearly two
billion people eat insects on a regular basis. Cooked and
raw. It’s only in the US and other Western countries where
edible insects make us squeamish.

But is running away from or battling the bugs the right
attitude? For a start, insects are full of essential nutrients
like protein, healthy fats, minerals, fiber, and more good

Eating many insects can really pack a nutritional punch.
Plus, with the global population set to reach nine billion in
2050, it’s clear the world needs a solution to food

Insects provide nutritional food at a low cost to the
environment and to the pocket. But these benefits are
largely unknown, or overlooked, by the majority of the

Insects --- Who Eats What?

The consumption of insects for food is called

Experts say 36 countries in Africa are entomophagous, as
are 23 in the Americas, 29 countries in Asia, and –
surprisingly – 11 in Europe.

The most commonly eaten insects around the world are,
according to the UN’s 2013 report, beetles (31 percent),
caterpillars (18 percent) and bees, wasps and ants (14

After these are grasshoppers, locusts and crickets (13
percent), cicadas, leafhoppers, planthoppers, scale insects
and true bugs (10 percent), termites (3 percent),
dragonflies (3 percent), flies (2 percent) and other insects
(5 percent).

What Are the Nutritional Benefits of Eating Insects?

Since it’s not common to consume any of these insects in
the US, you may be surprised to learn that edible insects
are a highly nutritious food source.

Of course, the nutritional value of insects varies depending
on the species but big-hitting nutrients include high levels
of healthy fats, protein, vitamins, and

For example, mealworms contain similar levels of
unsaturated omega-3 and fatty acids to fish, and higher
levels than are found in meat.

A 2016 study from the School of Marine Sciences, at
Ningbo University in China, and King's College London, in
the United Kingdom, analyzed the nutritional profiles of
crickets, grasshoppers, buffalo worms, and mealworms.

The results were surprising. Crickets, for example,
contained more iron than beef. And the nutrients copper,
zinc, manganese, magnesium, and calcium in crickets,
grasshoppers, and mealworms were more easily absorbed
than the nutrients in beef.

Edible Insects Contain Important Levels of Protein

There is a large variation in protein content within different
insect groups, according to Xiaoming et al. (2010). But
many insects compare favorably with animals in terms of
how much protein they deliver.

One of the insects with the highest levels of protein is the
beetle. People in the Amazon basin and African countries
regularly eat june beetles, dung beetles, and more.

These bugs are also adept at changing cellulose from trees
into digestible fat for human consumption. Plus, 100g of
red ants give you around 14g of protein, which is more
than eggs.

Amino Acids in Edible Insects

Some insects are remarkably high in amino acids – for
example, palm weevil larvae and aquatic insects are
particularly rich in amino acids.

Get Healthy Fats from Insects

One of the insects with the highest fat content is the
witchetty grub from Australia. This bug is high in oleic acid,
which is an important omega-9 mono-unsaturated fatty

Other edible insects are rich in polyunsaturated fatty acids
and essential linoleic acid. A 2016 study from Wageningen
University says that insect oil is a good source of healthy
omega-3 fatty acids, which can be made economically and

Getting Energy from Insects

Many edible insects provide energy as they also deliver
minimal fat. Ramos Elorduy et al. (1997) looked at the
caloric content of 78 insect species from Oaxaca State,
Mexico, and found that the range was between 293–762
kilocalories per 100 g of dry matter.

Iron and Minerals from Insects

The mopane caterpillar is an excellent source of iron; 100g
of dry caterpillars provides almost 4 times the
recommended daily intake of iron.

In fact, most edible insects provide more iron than beef,
according to the UN report. Butterflies and moths are full of
iron, and can effectively supplement the diet to ward
against anemia.

The United Nations says that including insects in the daily
diet could help prevent anemia across developing and
developed countries. The palm weevil larva contains more
zinc than beef. Ants are high in calcium – 100g of red ants
provide 48g of calcium.

How to Eat Your Bugs

If you’re still not convinced about the actual reality of
eating bugs, think again –  you may actually be eating
insects right now, without even knowing it.

According to the Defect Levels Handbook from the U.S.
Food and Drug Administration (FDA), it is acceptable for
100g of chocolate to contain up to 60 insect fragments
within six 100-gram samples, while peanut butter can
contain up to 30 insect fragments per 100 grams.

You could try adding insects to your diet in the form of
flour - cricket flour can be used for increasing protein in
baked dishes, or pop some in a protein smoothie shake.
Mealworms are good fried for a snack or used in burger
patties. Ants are good roasted. In Columbia ants are
roasted with salt. You can even get Anty Gin - an alcoholic
drink infused with red wood ants, which apparently give
the bottle a tart and lemony flavor.

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Toasts, topped with strawberries, kiwis and pears, are packed
with anti-oxidants which boost your immune system's white
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the spread underneath but  reduced-calorie butter or olive-oil
spread works just as well.
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