Think you’ve never eaten a bug before? Think again. The truth is insects aren’t that different from stuff you’ve already eaten.
You already eat bugs as part of other foods
Chocoholics might be surprised to learn how many bugs they’ve eaten without noticing. If you eat the same amount of chocolate per year as the average American—5 kgs, or 11 lbs—after 20 years you will have consumed a whole kilogram of bugs.
(That’s if the chocolate contains the maximum FDA-allowed amount of insect parts. The reality is probably somewhat lower, but you’ve almost certainly had at least a few handfuls of bugs by now.)
And that’s just one example of a food that contains hidden insects. Bread, spinach, raisins, breakfast cereal, and tinned fruit are all subject to a sprinkling of insect parts here and there. Even if you’re extremely thorough about rinsing your salad ingredients, you may still be eating half a million insect parts per year.
In fact, you may already have benefitted from eating bugs
Reports of insect parts in food sometimes prompt outraged op-eds railing against the FDA’s lack of standards. But such arguments are typically based on emotions—the ick factor—rather than logic. The trace amounts of insects in our food pose no danger.
Attempting to keep all insects out of our food would be very expensive (and practically impossible to achieve anyway). From a health perspective, we might even be worse off, since we’d just end up consuming more pesticides.
According to a report from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, trace amounts of insects in our food may even be good for us. They list rice weevils as an example: people in regions where rice is a staple food often ingest a lot of rice weevil larvae, which could be an important source of vitamins.
You’ve already eaten similar foods, like lobster
Insects aren’t that different from the seafood we enjoy today. You know how delicious a barbecued shrimp kebab or perfectly steamed crab leg can be. Insects present similar culinary opportunities, except they’re smaller and cheaper (and—perhaps most importantly—don’t require any special shell-cracking tools).
In the future, we may even view insects the same way we now think of lobster. Just consider how lobster went from being a cheap source of protein, fed to (unimpressed) prisoners and servants in the 1800s, to being an expensive luxury today. Lobster used to wash up on the shores of Maine in two-feet tall piles, and they were cheaper than baked beans in Victorian times. But by the 1920s, they were sold by high-end restaurants to wealthy east-coast diners. It might seem crazy that those prisoners turned up their noses at lobster. Might our descendants feel the same way about us, who are reluctant to eat insects?
How to start eating more insects
There are many reasons to eat bugs. First, they’re easier to farm, require less water, and produce fewer greenhouse gases than livestock, making them a sustainable alternative to traditional protein sources.
Bugs are also packed with nutritional benefits. Their high protein content makes them perfect for people on a paleo or low-carb diet. They’re also a source of vitamin B12, vitamin A, zinc, and iron, so they’re great for anyone who needs more of these nutrients.
But this isn’t just a case of eating something because it’s good for us—one of the best reasons to eat insects is because they taste good!
Not quite ready for a bowl of fried bugs? Insect-based flours and protein powders are a great way to ease into the trend.
How do people get B12 in vegan cultures?