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Your Guide to Edible Insects: A Source of Sustainable Protein

Fried grasshopper with pandan Season with salt, pepper and soy sauce. on old wooden table
Fried grasshopper with pandan Season with salt, pepper and soy sauce. on old wooden table

Image: Kidsada Manchinda/Shutterstock

Sustainability is a priority these days for more of the population than ever before. It’s never been more important to take care of our environment, and many vegetarian and vegan practices lend themselves to environmental efficiency. If you’re considering switching off the mass-produced meat market, you’re already on the way to reducing your carbon footprint.

You’ll probably grow tired of repeatedly answering the same question, “How do you get your protein?” And while the question may irk you, it is an important aspect of a healthy diet. So we’re here to present a possible solution: edible insects. Read more to discover whether it’s for you.

Edible What?!

We’ve come a long way from watching tan, lean people eat bugs on Survivor for thousands of dollars. Now, the notion of eating bugs for more than just sport—for health—is receiving a lot of buzz. While it’s something new for American culture, there are many countries all around the world that consider edible insects as part of a healthy diet. In fact, according to The Guardian, “More than 1,000 insects are known to be eaten by choice around the world, in 80% of nations.”

In Western civilization, we have a psychological barrier that prevents us from embracing insects as cuisine. When you think about it, though, we hardly bat an eye at shrimp and other sea creatures that aren’t very different from insects. Not everyone is ready to embrace edible bugs, but it’s worth considering when you hear the environmental, nutritional, and personal benefits.

The Environmental Perks

You’re probably wondering why you would even consider adding insects to your menu. Here’s the biggest benefit: sustainability. It requires a significant amount of energy to produce meat. Think about it from beginning to end. For a sirloin steak to show up, packaged and ready to cook at the grocery store, it all had to start at the farm. Feeding cattle requires petroleum-based agricultural chemicals, fuel to move the cattle to slaughter, and more fuel to get to the market.

Here’s a surprising stat from EarthSave: it takes “2,500 gallons of water, 12 pounds of grain, 35 pounds of topsoil and the energy equivalent of one gallon of gasoline to produce one pound of feedlot beef.” That’s only one pound. Now think about how much energy it takes to support a family of four steak-eaters all year.

Edible insects, on the other hand, are easy to raise on just a few scraps and a small amount of water. You won’t need as much land to harvest insects as you would livestock. If you decide to raise insects yourself, you also cut down on transportation requirements and costs. Consider taking on a fun home improvement project to create a backyard oasis for terrariums and small insect-farming containers.

The Nutritional Perks

When creating a healthy food plan, it’s necessary to evaluate macronutrients and vitamins offered from every ingredient. The good news is that insects are high in protein, iron, calcium, B12 and omega fatty acids.

When it comes to protein, insects hold their own when compared against industry-leading protein powders. Chapulines, termites, mealworms and grasshoppers have protein equivalent to or surpassing beef, per 100 grams. Mealworms alone offer nine different essential amino acids, which many people get from soy, whey, and dairy.

Four common edible insects—mealworms, silkworms, crickets, and waxworm larvae—all offer a wide range of essential vitamins, including calcium, iron, zinc, potassium, and more.

The Happiness Perks

One of the best parts about traveling to new places is the opportunity to try new cuisines. There’s just something about eating an authentically prepared dish in its birthplace that makes it all the more delicious. And eating edible insects is the perfect way to expand your palate. If you’re daring—the kind of person who seeks adventure and new experiences—what do you have to lose?

Adding edible insects to your diet can add new tastes and textures to your repertoire. You can change up a potentially monotonous rotation of meals and try something bold, daring, and incredibly good for the environment. Every insect has a unique flavor, and this added flair, paired with health benefits, can lead to a more fulfilling diet.

It’s Not for Everyone

Though there are many perks to consuming edible insects, some people cannot get past the psychological barrier of seeing bugs as food. It’s simply not a common part of American culture, and that’s okay. If the idea of eating insects is, well, bugging you, then opt for alternative sustainable sources of protein. A plant-based diet full of legumes, grains, tofu, chickpeas, etc., is still more energy-efficient than relying on the meat industry.

This article is courtesy of Modernize

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  • Reply
    Austin Miller
    April 24, 2017 at 1:19 pm

    Love the article Kate. Yes, insects are superior protein sources in terms of nutrition and of the environment; however, there is still a big stigma in the West. Fortunately, that is changing day-by-day…even the Seattle Mariner’s professional baseball team has started to sell grasshoppers in their concession stands (and they are selling out!). Thanks for highlighting this important issue.

  • Reply
    Rachel R.
    April 24, 2017 at 2:05 pm

    I’m not trying to be snarky here, because I generally love Oh My Veggies, but how, exactly, are insects vegetarian? This seems like a really odd choice for a vegetarian website.

    • Reply
      April 28, 2017 at 1:56 am

      I agree with Rachel, why do you not consider insects as animals?

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