Insects like crickets, mealworms, ants and caterpillars are being touted as one of the hottest culinary trends. Should these crawly critters be part of your diet?
Many insects contain a plentiful dose of protein, plus some healthy carbs and fat. Two tablespoons of cricket flour (available online and in some health food stores) contains 55 calories and more than 7 grams of protein; it also contains vitamin B12 and minerals like iron and zinc.
While insect consumption is more common in some countries, it’s a relatively new phenomenon in the U.S. But here in the States, bugs are finding their way into everything from granola bars to candy to tortilla chips.
Some of the pros surrounding this trend are the nutrient profile and the sustainable cultivation of insects. When compared to more mainstream protein sources like beef and chicken, insect farming has a much less significant environmental impact, making insects an even more appealing food source to those with the environment in mind. A 200-page paper published in 2013 by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations identified insects as a possible answer to food insecurity worldwide.
On the other hand, Americans might not be ready to dive into bug munching. There are an increasing number of products entering the marketplace, but due to the low supply, the price tag is still pretty high compared to insect-free versions. There’s also the unavoidable “ick” factor of embracing the concept of eating something most of us are only accustomed to swatting with a newspaper.
Edible insects and foodstuffs containing them are becoming more widely available. If you’re interested in giving them a try, they do have some nutrition to offer. There’s no need to bug out if bugs aren’t your thing — there are plenty of other nutritious high-protein foods to choose from.
Dana Angelo White, MS, RD, ATC, is a registered dietitian, certified athletic trainer and owner of Dana White Nutrition, Inc., which specializes in culinary and sports nutrition.