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The Art of Eating Insects

Insects are an up-and-coming trend in the food world. Some chefs consider them a superfood. Crickets and mealworms are the most popular. They may be served whole or made into a flour that goes into foods such as protein bars or cookies.

The United Nations has suggested that a diet that includes insects could fight world hunger. But, for most of us, the idea takes some getting used to. We reached out to registered dietitian Michelle Jaelin to get some expert insight into entomophagy – the practice of eating insects.

The first question is why. Why eat insects?

Jaelin: “In many parts of the world including Asia, Central and South America, Australia and Africa, insects have been eaten for centuries as a food source. Although not as commonly eaten in North America, insects are becoming increasingly popular. This is due to their potential to be an alternative protein source to traditional livestock farming with their ability to be farmed in a more environmentally sustainable way. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations has also cited the value of eating insects as not only a source of food to diversify diets, but to help improve food security around the globe.”

What are some of the nutrients and health benefits of eating insects?

Jaelin: “Insects have a similar protein content to that of soybeans, having a good amount of essential amino acids for human consumption. What is probably more beneficial is the far smaller ecological footprint they leave on the earth as compared to animal agriculture.”

This video takes a look at a cricket farm in Canada.

Are there side effects or things you should watch for if you’re adding insects to your diet?

Jaelin: “With trying any new food, watch out for hives, swelling of the lips, tongue or throat or shortness of breath which may indicate an anaphylaxis allergic reaction, which is the most severe possible side effect of insect protein.”

For someone who has never eaten insects, what is your advice to get started?

Jaelin: “The easiest way to try insects is to have them covered in a more robust flavor, such as insects dipped in chocolate or honey mustard crickets, as the extra seasonings will make them more palatable. If the concept of eating insects still feels too strange, try not to think about what you are actually tasting and think of it as a food you normally like eating with similar taste and texture.”

Insects are an alternative source of protein that holds the potential to be a sustainable food source.

About The Experts

  • Sara Theurer

    I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately, but have no idea where to look to purchase insect snacks! Any recommendations on your favorite online retailers?

    • Michelle Jaelin

      Hello Sara, you are right in that the easiest way to find out where-to-buy insect snacks is online! Try Bugs Feed Directory for a list of where you can purchase insects from. It breaks up the retailers by country, which is good to help find a retailer close to you: http://www.bugsfeed.com/directory. Personally I have tried insect snacks from Entomo Farms, but of course you are not limited to that option 🙂