Eating Insects may be the Next Culinary Frontier

If you think eating insects is odd, one of the world’s top chefs serves a raw Amazonian leaf-cutter ant on top of a pineapple cube.

This dessert will set you back $200.

Alex Atala is the chef and owner of São Paulo’s D.O.M., ranked the 30th best restaurant in the world, where you can eat an ant that supposedly tastes like lemongrass. Atala has a history of pushing culinary boundaries, which landed him a spot on the Netflix series Chef’s Table, but eating bugs is nothing new.

Grasshoppers contain as much protein as a slab of beef. And if you’re after taste, ants have a nutty flavor, while the essence of a stinkbug snack is apple. When cooked properly and to neutralize the venom, scorpions remind their predators of a beef jerky slab.

Bugs: Tasty, Sustainable and Nutritious

Entomophagy, the practice of eating insects, has been called a healthy and eco-friendly food solution by experts and has a strong culinary tradition in some cultures.

“Some insects have shown to be a highly nutritious and healthy food source with high fat, protein, vitamin, fiber and mineral content,” said Katherine Carithers, MHA, RD, CSO, LDN, CNSC, of Lahey Hospital & Medical Center in Burlington, Massachusetts.

A September 2017 article in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics said substituting a small amount of cricket flour in chocolate chip cookies increased overall nutrition. The study found that cookies made with cricket powder had a 3 percent Daily Value (DV) in protein compared to the control. In the cricket flour cookies the DV of vitamin B12 increased to 10 percent, and increased fiber 4 percent.

“There seem to be more cricket powders available that provide comparable amounts of protein to other protein powder sources like whey protein and soy protein,” Carithers said. “Cricket powder can be added into recipes to increase the protein content on foods.”

Welcome to the World of Insect Consumption

If you think eating insects is a radical idea, take solace it isn’t only you. Most people in the West find bugs to be gross, filthy and disease-carrying creatures unworthy of a refined palate.

But this is, largely, just the purview in the West. There’s a whole world out there and many of its inhabitants eat insects. In fact, the United Nations wants the entire world to eat more bugs.

More than 2 billion people eat some of the 1,900 species of edible insects, according to a 2013 report from the Food and Agriculture Organization, part of the UN.

“Entomophagy is heavily influenced by cultural and religious practices, and insects are commonly consumed as a food source in many regions of the world,” the report said.
“In most Western countries, however, people view entomophagy with disgust and associate eating insects with primitive behavior.”

People are starting to notice this untapped resource. Colorado State University offered a class on eating creepy crawlers. And several businesses have popped up offering food-grade bug products, such as flour.

With the world population estimated to reach 9.8 billion people by 2050, some experts argue bugs can provide a nutritious food source while not further impairing the globe’s ecosystem. Human food production, especially farm animals, is one of the largest sources of pollution.

While eating insects may be the next culinary frontier, you shouldn’t take any bug off the street or out of your backyard. Some are poisonous. The nutrition of some insects is not as good as others. And some species lack in taste what their delectable counterparts offer.

To learn more about incorporating protein, viatmins, or fiber (or bugs) into your diet, speak with your Lahey Health provider.



*The content on this website is for informational purposes only and is not medical advice. Please consult a physician regarding your specific medical condition, diagnosis and/or treatment.

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