More than a third of the world’s population (over 2 billion people) regularly consumes insects. Although not a staple of our mainstream diets (not counting those inhaled accidentally while cycling on the streets of London), bugs have recently taken the spotlight because of their nutritional and environmental benefits. So are insects going to be the future of food, or is this just another fad that will buzz off quicker than you can say Jimini Cricket?
All the cells in your body contain protein; your bones, muscles, skin and hair. Protein is a building block of life. We need protein to repair cells and produce new ones and to make enzymes and hormones. Getting enough protein in your diet therefore is pretty important. However it’s not just meat, fish, eggs, beans and pulses that are sources of protein.
Insects contain all the essential amino acids that our bodies can’t produce. Per 100g, edible crickets contain 63g of protein, compared to 55g in beef and 25g in chicken - that’s a whole lotta protein! Granted, 100g of crickets may look less appetizing, but gram for gram, we’ll get more of our daily intake from cricket stew than chicken curry.
Edible insects also contain essential vitamins and minerals. Crickets contain double the amount of iron than spinach, which our bodies need to carry oxygen from the lungs to the rest of our bodies.
Crickets contain similar levels of Vitamins B1, B2 and B12 to beef. These vitamins help our bodies to operate efficiently by converting food into energy. Vitamin B1 is important for nerve, muscle and heart function. B2 can help to reduce fatigue and vitamin B12 helps maintain a healthy immune system.
You’ll also find comparable levels of fatty acids omega 3 and 6 found in fish to those in crickets. It’s these healthy fatty acids that may help to prevent cardiovascular problems.
Farming insects is kinder to the environment than traditional livestock and turning to insects could help to solve hunger issues as our planet’s population grows.
Perhaps obvious due to their size, insects require less space, water and time compared to cows, pigs and chickens to grow and breed. Using less of the earth’s already limited resources, it may be we have no choice in future than to snack on our flying friends. So the facts may speak for themselves, but what about taste?
One brand trying to make creepy crawlies mainstream is Jimini’s. With bug-based products such as energy bars and pasta made from cricket flour and seasoned dried insects, will you be converted into a full time insect enthusiast?
The energy bars are very similar to your standard date and nut-based bar. The taste is fairly inoffensive and the bug flavour (whatever that is) isn’t that prominent. More obviously ‘bug’ however, are the crickets and worms. In a bid to try and make eating insects ‘normal’ to people, Jimini’s have recreated your favourite bar snack flavours like spicy chilli, salt and vinegar and sour cream and onion. Although a fairly unfamiliar texture, if you closed your eyes before popping one of these savoury snacks, you probably wouldn’t know you’re eating a bug. But you certainly would know you weren’t eating a Pringle. Because of their size, don’t expect a huge flavour punch, but they can be added to dishes as a garnish.
Baked Butternut Egg with Spicy Chilli Worms
1. Cut the butternut squash into rings, discarding the seeds and inside pulp.
2. Place in a baking tray with the coconut oil, chilli powder and seasoning.
3. Roast for 35-40 minutes until the flesh is tender.
4. Crack an egg into the centre of one of the rings and finish in the oven for another 5-6 minutes, until the egg is cooked.
5. Sprinkle the worms on top and serve with a side salad
Although there could be environmental potential in consuming more insects, they aren’t hugely more nutritious than our mainstream supermarket purchases. Surprisingly, they don’t taste all that bad, although aren’t packed with flavour. But as there’s increasing focus on environmental sustainability, it might be sooner than you think before we’re served a bowl of crickets in place of peanuts with a pint.