Bugs for Food?

Eating insects is surprisingly beneficial to human health and can serve as a solution to some of our problems.

Reading Time: 2 minutes

In the Western world, most are grossed out by the idea of eating bugs. Yet, all around the world, especially in parts of Africa and East Asia, eating bugs is customary. Thailand is famous for its food carts that serve deep-fried bug snacks. Fried cockroaches and chocolate-covered worms are popular in Australia. In fact, it seems that only parts of Europe and the United States are behind on the popularity of entomophagy, the practice of eating bugs. Part of the reason that many Americans and Europeans are disgusted by the thought of eating bugs may be that shortly after becoming agrarian, Western societies began viewing bugs as an enemy that destroyed crops rather than as a food source. Despite this distaste, eating bugs has several benefits.

Bugs are loaded with protein, healthy fats, fiber, and important minerals. For instance, a cooked grasshopper is 60 percent protein and only six percent fat, whereas a hamburger is 18 percent protein and 18 percent fat. Additionally, the fatty acids found in bugs are unsaturated and thus healthier than foods containing saturated fats, such as heavily buttered baked goods and fatty meat. The same vitamins and minerals found in fish and meat can also be found in certain bugs like mealworms. Another bug, the butterfly, is highly sought after in Africa by pregnant women and children as an iron supplement. Even ants are packed with nutrition: 100 grams of red ant contain around 48 grams of calcium and 14 grams of protein.

Bugs can also be obtained more efficiently than typical livestock. Harvesting bugs requires fewer resources, as bugs do not need as much land as animals like cows and sheep do. Additionally, bugs require less food while outputting the same amount of food to consumers. Some species are even resistant to droughts. Most importantly, bugs are a reliable source of food due to their high reproduction rate and population numbers. They are also dependable to those who cannot afford groceries or live in underdeveloped areas where food is difficult to come by.

Entomophagy is also beneficial to society and the overall wellbeing of our planet. Eating bugs can help control their high population numbers without using insecticides that contain harmful chemicals. By naturally reducing the bug population, the fruits and vegetables we buy at the grocery store would be less likely to be covered in these hazardous products. Moreover, opening up bug farms and plantations would generate new jobs, thus creating a new and profitable market for insect farming.

Around two billion people regularly eat a wide variety of bugs, cooked and raw, so why don’t we? There are more than 1,900 edible insect species loaded with protein and other essential nutrients. Beetles, butterflies, ants, crickets, and even wasps are all edible. People worldwide eat bugs for nutrition, reliability, sustainability, and tradition. Even the ancient Romans and Greeks considered bugs, particularly beetle larvae, to be a delicacy that only aristocrats were able to eat. Entomophagy is nothing new, nor does it belong in the past. Who knows, grilled cockroach may become your favorite snack. All it takes is one taste!