Edible insects are a common food in some countries such as China, Thailand, Mexico, Brazil and Ghana. The most common edible insects include grasshoppers, crickets, ants, earthworms, beetles, scorpions and so on. These insects are usually being fried, roasted, or seasoned before being served as dishes.
People in the Western world often cringe at the sight of insects, thus consuming edible insects is not popular in Western countries. Besides, most western people overlooked the nutritional values of edible insects, thus they do not implement insects-eating as culture or habit. The feeling of disgust is the main reason that people are reluctant to consume insects. However, the western people started to accept it recently for human consumption and as feed for livestock.
What are the benefits of consuming insects?
Edible insects contain nutrients needed by the human body. It is a good source of protein and fat. Besides, consuming insects also provide the body with fibre, minerals and vitamins. Most of them contain more protein than livestock muscle tissue or wheat. They provide all 9 essential amino acids that are unable to be synthesized by the human body, which is histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan, and valine.
Also, insects are a source of unsaturated fat, such as omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids. One of the examples of edible insect – cricket, has a good balance of omega 3 and 6. These fatty acids can also be obtained from seafood such as salmon, however, there may be a risk of excessive heavy metals present in the seafood which could harm human health. Thus, edible insects are a source of omega fatty acid without the risk of high-level heavy metals.
Moreover, insects provide antioxidant, which helps to remove free radicals in the body. This is to protect the body from cell damage, hence prevent the formation of cancerous cells. Based on a study, insects such as crickets, grasshoppers and silkworms have antioxidant 3 times higher than orange juice. Edible insects also have higher bioavailability compared to other animals. Therefore, the nutrients are easier to be absorbed into the human body and provide the maximum benefits for the consumers.
A Sustainable Food Alternative
According to research, the younger generations in western countries are likely to try out new products such as edible insects. Therefore, it is a potential source of alternative food and would be more widely accepted by consumers in the future.
Production of edible insects is more sustainable compared to other animal products as it uses a smaller amount of land, water and feed. Besides, farming of insects releases lesser greenhouse gases. Current projections showed that the world populations will reach 9 billion by 2050. Thus, it could be a potential alternative source of food protein for human in the future.
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Prepared by: Wan Kei