If I asked you how you felt about eating bugs and insects, the most likely response I would get from is a squeak and a “Yuck!”.
And I don’t blame you for feeling squeamish. In the UK, the popular TV programme “I’m a Celebrity…Get Me Out of Here!” has a lot to answer for when it comes to the idea of eating bugs.
However, eating bugs is not such an outrageous idea, nor is it something ‘new under the sun’. Here are some interesting facts:-
People have been eating insects since Biblical times.
In Leviticus 11 of the Bible, the Jewish people are given specific rules around what kind of insects and bugs are okay to eat (such as locusts, crickets and grasshoppers). Today, you can visit a market in Africa and edible insects will be as common as baguettes in Paris. Mexico and Thailand have a long history of eating insects, and they are a firm part of the everyday diet. There are about 2,000 types of edible insects which are eaten by more than 80 per cent of people all around the world.
Believe it or not, insects are now becoming accepted as a new food ingredient in many EU countries.
In 2013, Belgium became the first European country to allow the sale of bugs for human consumption. In the UK, scientists at the Food and Environment Research Agency are involved in an EU-funded project called PROteINSECT (worth £3m) which is exploring introducing insects into our diets as a new protein source.
‘So what is this hype about eating bugs and insects?’ you might ask, and rightly so.
There are many reasons why eating creepy crawlies may benefit you and the planet.
Firstly, from a sustainability perspective, they are an ecologically viable food source. According to the predictions of the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation, by 2050, the human population is likely to rise above 9 billion (up from ca. 7.4 billion today), so the demand for meat is expected to grow by 44%. Quite inconveniently, our planet will stay the same size… About a third of our planet’s croplands are used to grow animal feed, and the livestock sector generates close to a fifth of our greenhouse gas emissions – more than the world’s vehicles combined. And don’t even get me started on other, nutritional issues such as overuse of antibiotics, hormones, and grain feed.
Secondly, from a nutritional perspective, the average insect is around half protein by dry weight, with some insects up to as much as 75% protein. Mealworms, for example, are super high in Iron, Zinc and Omega-6 fatty acids. This means that insects are comparable to other animal protein sources, but come without many of the previously mentioned issues.
Thirdly, from an ethical/animal welfare point of view, when it comes to preparing them to be food, many scientists have concluded that insects do not feel pain in the same way as other animals do. This is because their nervous system is poorly developed and they continue their daily activities even when they are seriously injured. This could be a very important thing to consider if you are, for example following a vegan/vegetarian diet as a result of animal welfare concerns.
Well, this sounds quite convincing to me, however, I have the feeling that I still need to do some convincing for you to consider trying them.
I have not touched on how to overcome the ‘yuck factor’ just yet…
Many people assume that eating bugs and insects means consuming them raw and wriggling, like those poor celebrities in the jungle. However, the good news is that you can buy insect products powderised into a fine ‘buggy flour’; so you can forget about the grossness factor!
Taste-wise, cricket and mealworm flours have virtually no taste, making them perfect for high-protein baking and energy bars.
You would be surprised to know how many healthy eating and fitness food brands have started to launch products with insect powder in them. Check out these nutritious Gryo bars, or if you fancy something savoury, why don’t you grab a bug burger from Muscle Food which is high in protein and low in fat. These award-winning Crobars cricket protein bars may be worth a try, too, to refuel after your workout. You may have already spotted Grub bars on the shelves of your local health-food store, such as Planet Organic. Alternatively, if you fancy being a bit more adventurous, a few London based restaurants such as Wahaca and Archipelago now offer insect dishes.
In conclusion, eating insects and bugs is not as gross as you think it might be.
I personally think that there is undoubtedly potential in embracing insects and bugs as a food source. They are extremely versatile; they are comparable to other animal products in terms of nutritional value; and they could help put our diets on a healthier, more sustainable footing.