Why You Should Add Tasty, Nutritious Insects to Your Menu—Bug Benefits
7 minute read
Food is a defining feature of any culture. Sadly, Western culture is defined by processed foods, high-sugar foods, unhealthy fats, and convenience meals, all of which are unhealthy. You know the drill for healthy eating: more fruits, more vegetables, whole grain, and lean protein. But did you know that insects should be on the list too?
Not something you see on the typical American menu, insects are good for you. Eaten in many cultures for quite some time, insects have exceptional nutritional value and they offer environmental health as well as human health.
Currently, two billion people across the globe eat insects. If you already enjoy lobster, crab, and shrimp, are insects such a huge leap?
Bugs Make You Better
If you can get past the “yuck” factor, eating bugs will do you a world of good. Pound for pound, insects contain more protein than the meat sources you typically eat. They also contain fiber and essential vitamins and minerals to rival your favorite fruits and vegetables.
A recent study found that crickets, made into a powder, and added to shakes or baking mixes, were beneficial to digestive health. The high fiber and high-quality protein in crickets inspired growth of beneficial gut bacteria that were associated with reducing inflammation.
With the health of your gut influencing the health of other systems, this is an important first step.
Insects also contain minimal amounts of fat when compared to traditional meat sources, such as poultry, pork, and beef. The high-fat diet that is typical to most Westerners contributes to serious disease each year.
Higher cholesterol levels, obesity, diabetes, and heart diseases are just a few of the complications you can expect if you consume too much fat. Although this doesn’t mean something like red meat should be taken off the menu entirely.
It is understandable that eating a bug will take some getting used to, so starting slow is the best approach. You don’t want to eat fish when the eyes are still staring at you and eating a bug is no different.
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Many insects are made into powders and flours to add to meals in a more subtle manner. Not seeing them may make them easier to eat, and the benefits you get will be the same.
You get high-quality protein and the security and conservation of food sources gets protected. Fewer resources are needed to cultivate insects and they don’t take up much space. They also do not take as large of a toll on the environment as livestock and other larger animals.
The value that insects can provide to food sustainability is immeasurable, especially as we see world populations continue to grow.
Eating insects could also benefit your digestive health, which in turn supports your immunity. A balanced and healthy gut microbiome is necessary for optimal health, and eating bugs has been found to serve as a nutritional source for your gut.
Studies so far have only been done with chickens, but the research is promising and scientists hold high hopes for the potential gut microbiome support bugs can give humans.
Not only are they easy to cultivate and space-saving, but harvesting insects is easy and cheap to do. They are also incredibly abundant. After all, much of human history has been spent failing to actually eliminate many insect pests.
Delicious Ways to Bug Out
Incorporating insects into your meals is relatively easy. They are versatile and can be fried, roasted, ground into powders, sautéed, baked, or boiled.
While insects are not yet ubiquitous on menus, many people have jumped on board and have developed creative ways to add insects to meals. Here are just a few ideas:
Black ants can be used to replace lemon and lime flavoring because of their slightly citrus flavor. They also add a nice crunch to the dish and the black color adds to a bland meal.
Cricket flour can be used for any of your favorite baked treats to replace regular flour. Strongly resembling nut flours, cricket flour is great for those with gluten allergies, and it adds a distinct nutty flavor to any cookie, pie crust, or brownie.
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Roasting some wax worms in olive oil and your favorite herbs gives you the ultimate replacement for croutons. Add a delicious crunch to your salad along with extra protein instead of unnecessary carbohydrates.
Grilled grasshoppers (or any beetle) serve to make delicious kebabs. Skewer seasoned insects along with your favorite vegetables and throw on the grill. You can even marinate your bugs first to get more flavors along with that abundant protein.
When you season and bake some mealworms, they can be added to a number of dishes. If you are still unsure about eating bugs, just add the baked mealworms to your fried rice and they blend in, almost becoming invisible. You will never know why your fried rice tasted so good.
Some caterpillars contain more protein than a chicken leg, so using them for your soups and stews is a better option for beating those pesky winter colds. Rather than buying a whole chicken for that chicken noodle soup, you only need to add a handful of grilled caterpillars to your favorite vegetables in some broth and enjoy a more potent cure for colds and flu.
The Bottom Line
Consuming more bugs can also preserve other food sources from dwindling to dangerously low levels. Think about it—As the population increases, we will eventually eat through all our current food sources and will have to find alternatives to survive.
Since bugs are actually good for us, we might as well start now and save our health and the planet with every bite.