Beetles for breakfast, locusts for lunch?

If you’re like most Americans, the idea of eating bugs (entomophagy) is not only taboo but also downright disgusting; but with 80 percent of the world’s population eating insects it’s time we started asking the question, are we the weird ones?

Whether it’s deep-fried crickets in Thailand, termites in Ghana, or French-fried caterpillars in Mexico, many of the world’s population find a variety of healthy and seemingly delicious ways to eat insects as a substitute for meat. If factory farming continues the degradation of public health and the global environment, Americans may need to consider adopting insects into their daily diet.

In fact, cave paintings show that humans and animals have been indulging on arthropods since ancient times.

Many Greeks and Romans, including great minds like Aristotle, ate locusts and grasshoppers.

Native Americans made cakes out of roasted grasshoppers and crickets, pine nuts, grass and berries.

As European society became agrarian, insects became seen as destroyers of food rather than a source of it. With this switch in ideology came the invention of pesticides, chemicals used to kill crop-eating insects.

Marc Dennis, founder of the website www.insectsarefood.com, advocates that farmers stop using pesticides and instead employ environmentally safe methods of harvesting and capturing these bugs creating what he calls, “a double crop.” Through this method, farmers are not killing off possible food sources and polluting the environment with dangerous chemicals.

Along with the capacity to immensely help the environment, entomophagy, can be a healthy lifestyle choice. Insects are high in proteins and minerals and low in calories, fat, and cholesterol.

To provide a comparison, 100 grams (3.5 ounces) of grasshopper contains 20.6 grams of protein and only 6.1 grams of fat, and provides calcium and iron. One hundred grams of ground beef, on the other hand, consists of 26 grams of protein along with a whopping 18 grams of fat, seven of which are artery-clogging, saturated fats. If that wasn’t bad enough, ground beef is also a high source of cholesterol – another contributing factor to heart disease.

Most lipids contained in bugs are long-chain unsaturated fats, as opposed to saturated fats contained in livestock. Long-chain saturated fats are considered better for consumption and are often called “healthy fats.”

If the benefits to one’s health and the health of the environment are not enough of a motivator, consider this: many Americans eat lobster, crab, and shrimp, which are close relatives of insects. In fact, European settlers once considered lobsters insects.

Another point to consider is that Americans are already eating insects, whether they like it or not. The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) sets standards on how many fragments can be in many canned and frozen food as well as ground herbs.

If including insects in your lifestyle seems like a good choice – whether to save one’s conscience from eating higher animals, save a person’s heart from disease, or save the environment, the question about where to procure these insects takes the forefront.

The website www.thailandunique.com is dedicated to providing edible insects, along with other interesting products, including snake wine and scorpion whiskey.

For more information regarding entomophagy or recipes using a variety of insects, visit www.insectsarefood.com.

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