The most famous book about overpopulation, The Population Bomb, brought author Ehrlich both respect and revile. And we are in the process of crowding ourselves off Mother Earth and eating up every last thing in the process. To combat this, the solution that many startup companies have come up with is to eat bugs.
Bugs are more sustainable and readily available goods with high-protein content that overshadows conventional animals, making it a serious solution to ecological and nutritional problems. Though many of us have reservations about eating these creepy crawlies, they do have their benefits. If you're thinking of switching over, then read on for our advice on finding what's most palatable and for our top 10 list, including JR Unique Foods' Cricket Powder, for a head start on choosing the best products.
Below, you’ll find some of our favorite edible creepy crawlies. Some, you can’t even tell are insects–and others are all too recognizable.
|Other nutrients||Calcium, riboflavin, iron|
|Bug types||Crickets, meal worms|
|Protein||5g. (coconut), 4g. (chile-lime)|
|Other nutrients||Vitamin A, vitamin C, calcium, iron|
|Other nutrients||Calcium, iron|
|Other nutrients||Calcium, iron|
|Bug types||Crickets, worms|
|Other nutrients||Not provided|
|Other nutrients||Vitamin D, potassium, calcium, vitamin B12, iron|
|Protein||6g. (all types)|
|Other nutrients||Vitamin B12, iron, potassium, vitamin A|
|Other nutrients||Not provided|
3 count, 1.9g. each
|Bug types||Meal worms|
|Other nutrients||Not provided|
JR Unique Foods
Don Bugito Prehispanic Snackeria
Rocky Mountain Micro Ranch
Planet-Friendly Edible Insect Snacks
Cricket Protein Powder
Pappardelle’s Cricket Pasta
Chocolate Dipped Insects
Cricket Flour Protein Bars
Cricket Bites 3-Pack of Assorted Flavors
Larvets Sampler Gift Pack
Crick-ettes Sampler Gift Pack
Add Bug-Based Protein to Your Drinks or Bakes
Snack-able Bug Bites in Various Irresistible Flavors
Tastes Like Chocolate Malt, But Healthy
Just Like Pasta With Some Extra Added Protein
Almost Tastes Like KitKats
Packs A Lot of Chocolatey, Cricket-y Energy
Vitamins and Minerals Packed Into These Sunflower Seed-Like Treats
Get It for the Shock Value and Novelty
These Pack in the Flavor and Crunch
They Come Perfectly Intact So You Can Chew on Them for the Novelty
|Bug types||Crickets||Crickets, meal worms||Crickets||Crickets||Crickets, worms||Crickets||Crickets||Scorpion||Meal worms||Crickets|
|Protein||7g.||5g. (coconut), 4g. (chile-lime)||20g.||9g.||Not provided||10g.||6g. (all types)||Not provided||1g.||0.5g.|
|Other nutrients||Calcium, riboflavin, iron||Vitamin A, vitamin C, calcium, iron||Calcium, iron||Calcium, iron||Not provided||Vitamin D, potassium, calcium, vitamin B12, iron||Vitamin B12, iron, potassium, vitamin A||Not provided||Not provided||-|
If you are going to eat bugs, you want only the best tasting and the most nutritional sort so you can be slowly convinced to add insects to your diet. Here, we'll go over how to find the best ones based on your specific needs.
Notwithstanding the fact that about two billion people worldwide have bugs for dinner, we get kind of squeamish about it in the States. If you’re going to eat anything with more than four legs, it better have some serious health benefits. So let’s look at some important nutrients and what bugs give them to us.
One thing to take note of before you start: insects are the widest-ranging, hardiest little creatures on the planet. Because there’s such a huge variety of species, there will be fluctuation among values, but we’ve provided numbers from the lower end of the scale, just to give you an idea.
For body builders, crickets are the most widely available source of muscle-building power, ground up into neat little packets of protein powder. As is, they’ll pack at least 25 grams of protein per 100 grams; generous estimates spike that number up into the 60s.
But most bugs will give you almost as much protein as a nice, juicy steak. Lean beef (100 grams of it) will provide you with an average of 30 grams of protein, while the same amount of mealworms will give you 20 grams and ants, around 14 grams.
Since we eat bugs whole—guts, skeleton, and all—we’re also getting a lot of vitamins and minerals that a hunk of beef can’t provide. That brings us to our next topic.
Dirt-crawling invertebrates have significant amounts of calcium, which are great for reinforcing and building up your bones. Soldier fly larvae and earthworms are packed with it—you get about the same amount of calcium as you do from cow’s milk. Crickets, depending in their diet, can contain half that amount.
What most bugs will give you is iron. Crickets and grasshoppers provide around 10 milligrams of iron per 100 grams—generous estimates double this number. Ants will give you around 6 milligrams. The same amount of beef would only give you around 3 or 4 milligrams.
While adult men only need around 8 milligrams of iron a day, women—who lose a lot of iron-rich blood every month—require around 18, so ladies should look out for these critters if they plan on going bug.
Most edible insects have also got you covered when it comes to zinc (palm weevil larvae provide about 27 milligrams), potassium (crickets contain almost the same amount as a banana), and magnesium (a good source is a typical housefly). Your body’s immune system needs zinc, potassium regulates blood pressure, and your brain wants magnesium, or it gets depressed.
Vitamin B12 works hard in your body—it produces red blood cells and ensures your brain functions smoothly. If you don’t get enough, you could become anemic. But we don’t produce it ourselves, so we need to eat to receive it.
Crickets reign supreme in providing vitamin B12—they pack 6 micrograms (µg) of it per 100 grams. That’s almost three times the recommended minimum intake here in the U.S.
And these are just a few of the micro-nutrients insects offer. Riboflavin (Vitamin B2; it helps your body grow) is also present in most insects—ranging from a tenth of a milligram to 10 milligrams every 100 grams (crickets contain an outstanding two, which is already double the RDA).
Houseflies pack a whole bunch of energy-producing niacin (Vitamin B3), and almost all bugs (including crickets) are brimming with essential amino acids. If you’re big on health, you can also consider insect powders, which will add lacking nutrients in.
Though you’re more likely to encounter soy-sauce flavored locusts than anything plain, insects do have certain notes to them, so let’s talk about some popular bug-cuisine combinations.
Crickets and grasshoppers taste like peanuts or popcorn—they have a very neutral taste, but a certain crunch to them. That’s probably why crickets make such good pasta and flour; you can turn out some sweet, nutty chocolate cakes, or a creamy, earthy Carbonara with cricket-based products.
If you’re getting any flavored snacks—the most popular being cheese- or chocolate-drizzled, the tastes won’t clash. Mealworms and larvae are also quite mild.
As a general rule of thumb, the bigger the bug is, the more meat it has on it, and the more you’re going to get a “tastes kind of like chicken” kind of reaction. Grilled scorpions are just like jerky; tarantulas have a crabby meatiness to them. These are fine to eat on their own, but your kids will probably notice if you grind them into the muffins.
Worms are also beefy and fatty. They mix well with other ingredients to make good meatballs for cricket-flour (or regular) spaghetti. But when they’ve been left out too long, they tend to melt together or turn into strips of leather. When buying online, take a look at the reviews so you can be sure about what you're buying.
Fruity is probably the last word you’d associate with insects. But ants actually have a citrusy zest to them—especially the aptly named lemon ants. Red ants, too, have a sourness reminiscent of tamarind, which celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay will attest to.
If you’re looking to make a sweet-and-sour dish, or anything zesty, you can sneak a few ants in, and it’ll only enhance the flavor.
Giant water bugs have a shrimpy flavor to them—but, if you’re looking for something more powerful, the males secrete an essence that has both the bite of star anise and the sweetness of tropical fruit. That’s why they’re harvested in Thailand to make the pungent chili paste nam prik mang da.
Since Americans aren't used to consuming bugs on a daily basis, we don't always want to be able to see what we're eating. Luckily, bugs can be ground into powder or shape-shifted into other forms of food to make them more palatable. And if you're daring enough, you can find them whole too.
If you're interested in eating bugs, but the idea of seeing them clearly and swallowing them gives you the jitters, don't worry. There are plenty of insect-based foods that look so normal that you would never guess you were eating a bug.
Take cricket pasta, for instance. It looks deceptively like flour-based pasta—enough so that anyone would be okay with trying it, as long as they don't know what's in it.
And since insects already come packed with protein, vitamins, and minerals, when you mix them with other ingredients, you get a complete nutrient profile: amino acids, B12, calcium, iron, and the works.
With bug-based flours, you could bake yourself a devil’s food cake that’s a notch more healthy then regular sweets with the addition of protein. Though not as malleable as your plant-based flours, insect-based flours have a nutty, earthy taste to them that goes well with fruits and spices.
If you’re looking to dine on bug for purely nutritional reasons, there are also insect-based powders. Mix these into drinks and smoothies, and they’ll help to curb your hunger.
Finally, eating insects whole is the most Instagram-, YouTube-friendly, and certainly most daring way to go. Just remember that bugs, in general, are pretty tasteless (think of eating shrimp with no garlic, no butter, or no salt).
If you’re looking to be a true gourmand, know that it’s the seasonings and the preparation method–not the critter itself—that’s going to spin out the flavor of the dish. On matters of taste, consult customer reviews.
Eating bugs isn't your only option when it comes to sustainable living. You can make easier swaps by switching out your plastic goods for eco-friendly ones, or choosing to only buy what you need at any one point in time. And if you need help choosing products, we've got you covered.
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