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June 6, 2015
There are interesting and questionable culinary delights all over the world, and America is no exception – have you tried bacon on a stick, ambrosia salad, or deep fried donut burgers? What may have us raising our eyebrows in America though, is that many cultures around the world gladly eat insects.
In fact, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization recommends eating insects and notes that there are more than 1,900 edible insect species on Earth, many of which are already dietary staples in Asia, Africa, and the Americas. Insects are excellent sources of fiber, protein, vital minerals, and good fats. So before you say “yuck,” why not give some of these creepy crawlies a taste.
The grasshopper family – which includes locusts and crickets – is the most consumed type of insect on the planet due to their prevalence around the world and the fact that they’re easy to catch. Grasshoppers are very rich in protein, and the grasshoppers known as chapulines in Mexico have a protein content reaching 77%.
Chapulines even have a higher protein content than the foods that they commonly feed on, such as corn, beans, and alfalfa. The traditional way to serve chapulines is with guacamole and tortillas, providing a tasty and filling snack.
Long-horned, june, dung, and rhinoceros beetles are commonly enjoyed by people living in the Amazon basin, parts of Africa, and the heavily forested regions of Southeast Asia. Beetles are rich in fat content (the good kind of fat) and they’re typically fried in their own fat, meaning they don’t need any extra oils.
Beetle larvae – or grubs – also serve as natural energy providers and contain more polyunsaturated fatty acids than poultry or fish. Consumers describe the texture and taste of grubs as creamy when raw and sweet when fried.
Beef is generally known for being rich in iron, but many insects have significantly higher iron contents. For example, the mopane caterpillar has an iron content of between 31 and 77mg per 100g of dry weight, compared with beef’s 6mg per 100g of dry weight.
This caterpillar is highly consumed in southern Africa, and could be an essential part of improving iron efficiency in the regional diet. Nearly half of pregnant women and 40% of pre-school children in the developing world are believed to be anemic.
A food that’s high in protein and calcium, provides a nice splash of iron, and doesn’t have a high calorie count? Sign us up. 100 grams of red ants provides 14 grams of protein (more than even eggs), almost 48 grams of calcium, and a jolt of iron and essential nutrients, all while being less than 100 calories.
Ants are prevalent all over the world, and are extremely easy to catch. Ants are typically roasted with salt since they have a naturally vinegary taste, though chocolate covered ants are a special treat in certain cultures.
Don’t let the name – or the initial odor – scare you away. These insects are high in iodine and even have analgesic properties – meaning they relieve pain. They can be roasted, fried, or ground and have a slightly sweet, yet bitter flavor similar to cinnamon.
In the Taxco region of Mexico, small stink bugs called jumiles are mashed, added to a salsa, and served on corn tortillas. However, at times, these bugs are eaten while still alive, and they can continue to scamper around in your mouth, even while headless. So, they’re an acquired taste…we’ll leave it at that.
So while we wouldn’t recommend going into the backyard and munching on whatever bug crosses your path, maybe we’ve opened your eyes a little bit. Insects are an essential part of people’s diets around the world, and, with the right garnishes and seasonings, they can be tasty too!