Eating insects is good for you… and catching on quickly (Guest Post)

Posted: September 11, 2013 in Guest Post
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

“Fried locust in Asia street market”
Caption and Photo by wiangya via

This is a guest post by Marina Mednik-Vaksman

I’d like to introduce you to a superfood that is rich in nutrients such as high-quality protein, fiber, calcium, zinc and iron, yet low in sugar and fat. The fat it does contain provides more of the essential omega 3 fatty acids EPA and DHA than beef from grass-fed cows (Sources: FAO 2013 and Raubenheimer & Rothman 2013). Not only is this food nutrient-dense, it’s also quite environmentally-friendly: it can be produced cheaply and quickly with a much lower carbon footprint than livestock. In fact, many expect that it will be a major part of the solution to the global food crisis that experts consider imminent given increasing populations and rising food consumption per capita.

You might start getting suspicious: am I talking about some substance engineered in a lab?

Just the opposite – this food might actually reduce the need for GMO crops if Westerners began to eat it on a mass scale. It was eaten by the earliest humans and most of the world continues to enjoy this food in all its various forms.

So what’s the catch? Why aren’t we seeing this sustainable food on store shelves right now?

Well, in a way, we actually are.

You may remember the big controversy about a year ago involving Starbucks’ use of cochineal insects to color some of its drinks. Turns out, this practice of using ground-up bugs is common in the food industry and has been going on for centuries. So, you guessed it: the amazing, potentially world-saving food that I am advocating is bugs. But maybe you don’t require an introduction. It seems to me that entomophagy – the practice of eating insects – has been worming its way (pardon the pun) into the Western mainstream lately. Once undertaken mainly by food adventurers, today chefs and entrepreneurs are increasingly bringing entomophagy to foodies and the health-conscious.

I’m seeing more and more articles and news stories about eating insects at restaurants or as a protein bar. And BBC recently released a documentary about how people in Thailand and Cambodia get nutritional and economic benefits from enjoying bugs. The idea is picking up steam – I think we might be surprised by how quickly this crosses over into the mainstream in the US – just consider that most Americans would have been appalled by the notion of eating raw fish only a few decades ago.

And what about me? Do I regularly scarf down barbequed tarantulas for dinner or munch on fried locusts in lieu of popcorn? Alas, I have not yet had the opportunity to (knowingly) acquaint myself with the food source that I so passionately advocate. However, Shelly informs me that Poquitos right here in Seattle offers grasshoppers (order the chapulines), and I must try them soon, before I start feeling like too much of a hypocrite. In the meantime, I’d love to hear your insect-eating stories to help me build up my resolve!

Marina Mednik-Vaksman is a MPH student in the Nutritional Sciences Department and the Graduate Coordinated Program in Dietetics at the University of Washington. Besides insects as food, she champions playgrounds as gyms and gardens as grocery stores. You can find her on twitter as @aMusingMarina.

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  1. I worry that I’ll react that way when I try eating an insect. The pics actually look beautiful to me but I might not like feeling the thorny legs or exoskeleton either…

  2. Seth says:

    Well that’s both gross and interesting!

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