Are Bug Bars the New Protein Bars? The Nutritional Value of Eating Insects

Are Bug Bars the New Protein Bars? The Nutritional Value of Eating Insects

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If you haven’t snacked on a grasshopper lately, you’re missing out on a hefty dose of nutrition.

By Harley Pasternak

Pasternak is a celebrity trainer and author of “The Body Reset Diet.”

For one to stay lean and healthy, every meal must contain protein, fiber, and healthy fat. When I suggest quality proteins, I’m usually referring to foods such as eggs and egg whites, lean poultry, seafood, low-fat dairy, and so on. I’ve even recommended exotic game meats such as ostrich, bison, elk, and caribou.

If you’re the adventurous type, though, there is an extremely affordable, sustainable, and eco-friendly — yet high-quality — protein option you may want to consider: bugs!

I’m not talking about the bug parts that unintentionally get into our food in kitchens or factories; I’m talking about making them the main event. The Western world hasn’t seemed to catch on to what a large part of the world already knows: Insects can be a nutritious and delicious food source. More elegantly referred to as “insect cuisine,” entomophagy is the consumption of insects and arachnids as food. 

Several types of insects are packed with protein, fiber, and good fats — all part of a healthy meal! Many countries in Africa, the Americas, Asia, and Europe are already ahead of the game, with an estimated 2 billion people consuming insects as part of their regular diets. A recent report out of the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization encouraged nations to embrace nutrient-dense and sustainable insect food sources.

Before you go and scoop up your dinner from the basement or backyard, most experts recommend you buy insects specifically intended for consumption so that you don’t eat anything poisonous or tainted by chemicals or pesticides. You can find many retailers selling these online, or if you live in a culinarily adventurous city, you may be surprised by how many establishments serve a variety of insects. 

Check out some of these popular insect-cuisine choices:

Grasshoppers, crickets, and locusts. Grasshoppers (and their relatives, crickets and locusts) are the most highly consumed insects in the world. These hopping insects are easy to find (often occurring in swarms), are easy to catch, and have been reported to be quite delicious and nutritious. A 3.5-ounce serving of raw grasshoppers contains between 14 and 28 grams of protein and is rich in calcium and iron. 

Grasshoppers and their relatives have been reported to be neutral in flavor. Internationally, this makes them an ideal complement to a variety of dishes, including stews, stir-fries, and other recipes with strong flavors. A popular way to prepare grasshoppers is by roasting them and seasoning them with soy sauce, garlic, onions, and/or chiles. 

[Read: 5 Reasons to Eat Insects]

Caterpillars. Caterpillars are another insect commonly consumed globally. They are popular in many areas, including Botswana, northern South Africa, and Zimbabwe. With 53 grams of protein and about 15 percent fat per 100 grams of dried caterpillars, this insect has been considered to have a higher proportion of protein and fat than beef and fish. 

[Read: Meat Is Murder: America’s Deadly Beef Obsession]

Beetles. Beetles are another very popular insect in the diets of many worldwide. There are many different types of beetles, with 78 edible aquatic beetle species reported. While it depends on which beetle you select, you can ingest up to 36 grams of protein from a single serving of palmworm beetle. These insects also are a great source of minerals, such as calcium, iron, and zinc.

If you’re not quite ready to dive in headfirst with a grasshopper skewer, start out slowly with one of these items, all being introduced in the U.S. and made with insect flour: 

  • Exo Protein Bars — made with nuts, fruit, and cricket flour.
  • Chirps from Six Foods — a baked chip made with beans, rice, and cricket flour.
  • Chapul Cricket Bars — feature tempting flavor combinations such as dark chocolate; coffee and cayenne; and coconut, ginger, and lime.

[Read: Eating Insects: A Healthy Solution to Food Shortages]

 Ready to take it to the next step? Try these: 

  • Chocolate-covered scorpions or silkworms from Thailand Unique.
  • Weaver ants, eggs, and larvae, or weaver ant infused rock salt, from Edible Unique.

[Read: Meals of the Future: Will Soylent and Ambronite Make Food Obsolete?]

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