3 Reasons You Should Start Eating Bugs

A new study says insects can provide as much iron as beef. Let's dig in.

December 5, 2016
grasshopper
characters for your/shutterstock

Have you ever reeled in disgust while watching your cat capture a beetle and then proceed to chomp it up? It seems like a perfectly natural reaction to most of us in the global West, but it may be time to repress our horror at the prospect of eating bugs. Humans, after all, are entomophagous—we’re insect eaters. The United Nations estimates that about 2 billion people worldwide eat insects as part of their traditional diets. Here are three reasons why the rest of us should get past the ick-factor and start crunching crickets.

(Find seasonal recipes, inspiring imagery, and gardening tips every day inside the Rodale’s Organic Life 2017 Calendar!) 

plate of roaches
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They're Really, Really Nutritious

A 2016 study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry looked at how several types of insects stacked up to beef, nutrient-wise. It concluded that calcium, copper, and zinc from some insects would be more readily absorbed than the same minerals from beef. Mealworms also had more bioavailable iron than sirloin, and other insects boasted significant levels of iron. (Still not into insects? Stock up on these 14 vegetarian foods that have more iron than meat.)  

bugs
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They’re The Future Of Food—And The Past

Though many of us in Western societies are decidedly squeamish about the idea of dining on insects, humans have been eating them for millennia. Anthropologists think that civilizations in the Fertile Crescent and Europe turned away from eating insects with the advent of agriculture. Livestock supplied us with leather, wool, milk, and transportation, in addition to a reliable supply of meat. Insects couldn’t provide so many essentials, so they became less important to us, especially as we began to view them as undesirable crop pests. Still, insects remained a delicacy in the West as recently as Ancient Rome.

Related: 7 Appalling Meat Facts You Need To Know

The United Nations wants us to start thinking of insects as a tempting dish again, and the organization is trying to challenge the disgust many people feel towards them. The UN sees edible insects as the future of food security for an overpopulated planet for three reasons: Insects are extremely nutritious, insect farming is easy on the environment, and raising insects has untapped economic potential. 

crickets
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You're Eating Them Already

Marcel Dicke, a Dutch entomologist, explains why he wants you to start eating more bugs in this fascinating TED Talk. Yes, more. If you eat processed foods, like soup or peanut butter, you’re eating at least some insects—about 500 grams a year in the US. He explains that’s because cosmetically perfect tomatoes get sent to the grocery store, and insect-damaged ones go to the soup factory. Insects, he says, are everywhere, and it’s impossible to keep them out of our processed foods (insect parts are allowed in food under FDA guidelines), so it’s time to stop being so squeamish about it. (In case you’re wondering, here are eight bugs you don’t know you’re eating.)

fungus beetle
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Some To Try

Ready to give insect-eating a go? Here are three palatable ways to do it:

Chupal Protein Bars
Chupal bars are made with cricket protein powder, and are dairy- and soy-free. Try four different flavors—we especially like the peanut butter and chocolate. 

Exo Protein Bars
Cricket flour is also behind Exo protein bars. They come in six different flavors (including apple cinnamon) and are free of gluten, grain, soy, dairy, and refined sugars.

Thailand Unique 100% Cricket Flour
Bolder foodies may be ready to start experimenting with cricket cookies and biscuits. Hey, it’s paleo!

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