“Surely that’s just a typo,” you may be thinking. But no, you read correctly. We should be adding a dose of delicious insects to our diets. Entomophagy is the practice of eating bugs. Eighty percent of the world is already doing it, including parts of Africa, Asia, Australia, New Zealand and Central and South America.
Eating insects has loads of nutritional benefits and is environmentally friendly. We just need a little help shifting gears. We need to go from seeing bugs as something to eat only for survival to adding cricket flour to all our baked goods. Here's a few reasons why.
They are super nutritious
The nutritional value of an insect varies depending on the species, but overall insects are a great source of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and prebiotic fiber. The nutrients they contain include calcium, potassium, zinc and iron.
They are packed with so much more nutritional value compared to beef and other meats. For example, crickets have almost five times the amount of magnesium and about three times as much iron as beef. And research has found that feeding crickets certain foods will help them become even more rich in certain nutrients.
They are high in protein
Protein is a pillar of good nutrition, helping muscles, bones and skin all grow and repair themselves. Generally, the protein content of an insect ranges from 20% to 75% depending on the species and developmental stage.
Words to know
Antioxidant: A substance that removes damaging agents in a living organism.
Entomophagist: A person who eats insects.
Entomophagy: The practice of eating insects.
Greenhouse gas: A gas that absorbs and emits radiant energy, causing the greenhouse effect.
Check out this comparison: A 3.5-ounce snack-size bag of Cheetos has 2 grams of protein, but a 3.5-ounce portion of grasshoppers usually has 14 grams to 28 grams of protein. Insects would be the perfect after-school snack! They could also be served as the main course. Pound for pound, mealworms contain the same amount of protein as beef but have less fat and fewer calories.
It’s good for Earth
Raising crops and livestock requires a lot of space, water and energy. However, insects are more sustainable, taking less space and water. Picture it: 10 cows roaming a field versus 10 crickets in a terrarium. Crickets take less space, but they do require energy for heat lamps in colder environments.
The best part for Earth is the effect on greenhouse gases. Livestock creates methane, a gas that contributes to climate change. A study by Wageningen University found that insects produced 80 times less methane than cows!
They are abundant
Insects are everywhere. They are the most diverse group of organisms on Earth, with about 900,000 different known species of insects. That is counting just the different species. Counting individual insects, the planet is estimated to be home to about 10 quintrillion. That’s a 10 with 18 zeroes — 10,000,000,000,000,000,000.
Sure, we can’t eat every single species of insect, but entomophagists report there are more than 2,000 different insects that are edible. So, let’s get eating!
There’s so many ways to try them
Because there are so many different kinds of edible insects, there are lots of ways to eat them. You can eat crickets, ants, mealworms, grasshoppers, beetles and more. You can freeze, pan fry roast or grind them up. Serve them on pizzas or in salads or dip them in chocolate. Who doesn’t love chocolate?! If none of these ideas sounds appealing, try cricket flour. That way it’s a more silent boost of protein in baked goods or stirred into smoothies.
Try it for yourself!
Now that we have convinced you, give insects a taste test. Visit Plum Creek Nature Center throughout November for “Don’t Be a Zombie: Eat a Bug!” We will have crunchy crickets and more to sample. Hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and noon to 4 p.m. Sunday.
While you are visiting, watch out for zombies! You can see how well you would survive a zombie attack by participating in the special exhibit “Don’t be a Zombie! Be Prepared.”
Follow Willy's Wilderness on Facebook for more kid-friendly nature stories and activities.