https://www.healthline.com/health-news/why-edible-insects-are-the-next-superfood-trend#2Don’t bug out, incorporating edible insects into your diet is a healthy choice for you — and the environment.
A culture is defined by many things, and often food is high on that list.
In Western culture, our diets are earmarked by many unhealthy ingredients, most notably high amounts of sugar, salts, and fats. But there’s another item notably missing from American diets that advocates say should be incorporated into the range of foods we eat: insects.
While eating insects has been a part of other cultures for quite a while, it’s only now beginning to catch on in the United States and United Kingdom. However, it’s still far from being a mainstream on menus.
Because most Americans overlook the nutritional value of bugs, we’ve been missing out on the benefits to both human and environmental health they offer as a food source.
In 2013, the United Nations published a report estimating that two billion people worldwide eat bugs as part of their diet and urged cultures around the globe to start eating insects to help add more security to the world’s food supply.
So, if bugs are so healthy, why are some culinary appetites — particularly Western cultures — not engaging in entomophagy, or eating insects for nutrition?
The biggest hurdle is the “eww” factor.
Bugs are better for us
Bugs, insects, and even arachnids pack more protein, pound for pound, than most traditional meat sources. They also contain enough fiber, vitamins, and minerals to rival the nutritional value of some grains, fruits, and vegetables.
A recent study out of the University of Wisconsin-Madison looked at what impact eating 25 grams a day of whole cricket powder — made into muffins and shakes — could have on a person’s gut microbiota, or the body’s own bugs that can influence a person’s overall health.
Noting crickets contained high levels of protein and fiber, the researchers found the dietary changes spurred the growth of probiotic bacteria and reduced a type of plasma associated with harmful inflammation. While the study only included 20 people, researchers concluded further studies could help affirm their initial findings that “eating crickets may improve gut health and reduce systemic inflammation.”
The lead author of the study, Valerie Stull, hopes eating insects will gain popularity in the United States.
“Food is very tied to culture, and 20 or 30 years ago, no one in the U.S. was eating sushi because we thought it was disgusting, but now you can get it at a gas station in Nebraska,” she said in a statement accompanying the study.
While bugs aren’t yet available in most gas stations, people are slowly getting over their initial gut reactions to eating insects for a variety of reasons.
Summer Rayne Oakes, a certified nutritionist who studied entomology and environmental science at Cornell University and later founded Homestead Brooklyn, says the reality is that most people want to be divorced from their food.
“We don’t go to stores and even seen chickens with their heads or legs left on,” she told Healthline. “Some people can’t stand a fish with a face, so it’s understandable that a fried caterpillar or cricket would be too much for someone to bear.”