It’s challenging to get over our instinctive fear of creepy crawlies. Even the thought of having insects in the same cupboard as our food repulses us. Bugs are disgusting. Squirmy. A telltale sign of filth and ugliness. Who would eat them, anyway?
80% of people on the planet would disagree with that. Insects have long been a mainstay of people’s diets in Asia, Africa, and South and Central America. But are they safe to eat? Can we get through the unpleasantness? Let’s investigate the good, bad, and ugly of the world of edible insects.
Insects provide good nutrition (like proteins), few greenhouse gasses, and can be used to end hunger in the world. However, there is the risk of getting bacteria, allergens, toxins, pesticides, and anti-nutrients from eating insects. All these can be prevented with proper insect farming.
Insects are food for both humans and pets like dogs. Given their low costs, it’s time we seriously consider making them a part of our diets.
What are the benefits of eating insects?
The advantages of eating insects include the following:
|Pros of eating insects||Cons of eating insects|
|Good source of nutrition||Bacteria|
|Low greenhouse gas emissions||Anti-nutrients|
|Source of income||Allergens|
|Can end world hunger||Pesticides|
|High level of proteins||Toxins|
1. Good source of nutrition
You might be surprised to learn that eating insects is incredibly healthy.
Depending on the insect’s species and stage of development, the protein content of its dry matter ranges from 20 to 76%.
For instance, one 3.5-ounce serving of grasshoppers has between 14 and 28 grams of protein. From only one little serving of food, this equates to 25 – 60% of your required daily requirement.
Approximately 14 grams of protein and a staggering 71% of the required daily amount of iron can be found in the same-sized meal of red ants.
Caterpillars, beetles, and crickets are also excellent suppliers of these nutrients. The same goes for mealworms and superworms which provide a high level of nutrition.
2. Almost no emissions of greenhouse gasses
Methane gas, a significant cause of climate change and global warming, is produced during the production of animals. Methane is thought to have a 25-fold worse impact than carbon dioxide on the environment.
Cattle also produce nitrous oxide and ammonia in the environment. However, growing insects results in 8 – 12 times less ammonia and 10 – 80 times less methane production than raising cattle. Since we all breathe the same air, this is good news.
3. Insect farming could provide a stable income
It doesn’t take a lot of space or expensive equipment to grow insects. In our least developed nations, even the most impoverished population can do it and turn a profit.
Established farmers can also find stability in insect farming, earning net earnings of $5,000 to $10,000 per year in nations where the average annual gross income is about $5,440.
A significant social benefit of the edible insect industry is the empowerment of many economically disadvantaged people worldwide.
Besides that, insect farming can also generate income when their products such as honey and wax are sold. Next time a bee follows you around, look at it as an idea knocking on your door.
4. A potential solution to world hunger
Even though the world currently produces more than enough food to feed everyone, there is still a global hunger problem. Moreover, the issue will only worsen as the population increases and the land remains constant.
Unless a significant change is made, the globe may not be able to provide enough food for everyone. An encouraging development in this dismal outlook is the widespread farming of insects and their consumption.
They may be our best chance to avert this catastrophe due to their low land and water usage requirements and plenty of nutrients. Additionally, kids are considerably more receptive to the notion of eating bugs.
5. High protein content
Beef is an excellent source of protein and other essential elements. In actuality, though, 100 grams of beef only contain about as much protein as a handful of crickets. It also uses a lot of resources to produce this amount of beef.
Water is necessary to grow the cattle’s diet; the procedure uses an average of 15 liters. However, mealworm production requires roughly 4 liters, or 9 liters less, per kilogram of beef than cattle production.
The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the U.N. said in 2006 that 70% of agricultural land is used for livestock production worldwide. Comparatively speaking, insect farming requires minimal space.
However, the advantages of this new food source must be balanced against all potential drawbacks. This includes any food safety problems that could endanger customers’ health.
What are the downsides to eating insects?
On the other hand, insects might contain the following:
Let’s face it; we have solid reasons for not eating bugs instead of trying to keep them out of our food. Many insects feed on decaying substances, including bacteria-filled human waste, animal corpses, and rotting food.
This is a common risk related to insects caught in the wild. Furthermore, there is a chance that some spore-bearing bacteria and microbial fauna could end up in the farmed bugs we eat.
Therefore, the environment where the insects are bred must be clean. Unfortunately, many insect farms don’t adhere to high hygiene standards.
Additionally, insects can transmit parasites that can be dangerous or even fatal.
Insects may also contain anti-nutrients which are the nutrients’ evil twins since they prevent the body from absorbing and using protein. As a result, they may diminish the nutritional value of certain foods, especially plant-based diets like rice or flour.
Phytic acid, tannins, and lectins are examples of typical anti-nutrients.
These anti-nutrients have been detected in trace levels in insect “chitin” or exoskeleton. However, most research has discovered that these levels are somewhat modest compared to what might be present in plant-based diets.
Fortunately, it’s not entirely hopeless. Eating chitin has several health advantages, although it decreases our bodies’ capacity to absorb insect protein.
Although various cultures worldwide have long used insects as food, very little is known about how they might influence human bodies.
Food allergies are a well-known issue that is getting worse. Previously regarded as soft foods, milk, almonds, shellfish, and eggs are nowadays frequent allergen triggers. Insects can cause allergic reactions just like crustaceans do.
This makes sense since insects and crustaceans are considered arthropods. Therefore, you might avoid eating roasted grasshoppers or flour made from crickets if you have a shellfish allergy.
The use of insecticides in the breeding of insects has received very little research. However, investigations discovered trace amounts of some dangerous substances. These were similar to what you’d find in most foods from animals.
There is a small risk associated with eating insects as a food source due to the lack of proper regulation of the use of pesticides in growing edible insects, which we cannot ignore.
However, the risk is higher when insects are taken out of the wild rather than raised by an insect farmer.
Knowing which insects benefit you and which could harm you requires some expertise. To fend off predators, certain ants and bees carry toxins inside of them. When consumed, the same poisons can harm you.
Some species of beetles have a metabolic steroid that, if taken excessively, can cause growth retardation, infertility, or the masculinization of females.
Overcoming your fear seems like a small price when you consider all the good you do for your body, the planet, and the environment. So, accept their offer the next time someone offers you roasted mealworms or a nutritious snack made with crickets.