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4 Benefits of Consuming Edible Insects

Updated: May 9, 2023


benefits of consuming insects cover

What are the benefits of consuming edible insects?

First and foremost, eating insects is good for you! Insects are a good meat replacement considering that they are high in protein, fat, minerals and vitamins. Additionally, they contain a lot of fibre in the form of chitin, which has been found to have beneficial effects on human gut microbiology.


Another benefit of edible insects is that the growing insect farming industry offers more jobs for people in developing countries. Finally, rearing edible insects has a considerably lower strain on the environment compared to livestock rearing.


Which insects are considered edible?

It is estimated that about 2000 species of insects are edible! In many tropical countries, it is already considered normal to include insects in their daily diet.


The most common insects that are eaten are beetles, caterpillars, ants, wasps, bees, locusts, crickets, grasshoppers, dragonflies, termites, flies and more! Insects can be eaten raw or processed, for instance by roasting, toasting, frying or boiling them.


4 Benefits of consuming edible insects


consuming edible insects benefits

1. High nutritional value


Protein

It may surprise you, but insects have a high protein content. Studies show that insect-derived proteins are of higher biological value than those obtained from plant sources such as soybean. This means that insect proteins are more nutritionally useful in the human diet.


Fat

The second highest component of edible insects is fat. Especially during their larval stage, think of caterpillars, insects are full of polyunsaturated fats. Compared to meats such as beef and pork, which contain more monosaturated fats, edible insects are healthier sources of energy.


Additionally, insects accumulate lower cholesterol levels compared to animal-based foods. Consumption of processed meat has been found to be linked to illnesses such as cancer and coronary heart disease. This means that there is a lowered chance of diet-related illnesses through the consumption of insects.


Minerals

Insects are also a good source of minerals such as phosphorus, magnesium, manganese, copper, selenium, zinc, iron and calcium. In fact, edible insects have been shown to contain more calcium, zinc and iron than chicken, pork and beef!


Vitamins

Finally, insects are rich in a wide range of vitamins including riboflavin, biotin, pantothenic acid and folic acid. Taken altogether, insect consumption can be considered a good alternative source for many nutrients in the human diet.

2. Improves gut microbiota

Insects contain high levels of chitin, which forms the exoskeleton of most arthropods. Consumption of this fibre is beneficial to human health as it has been found that chitin promotes the proliferation of beneficial microbiota in the gut.


This prebiotic potential helps prevent microbial foodborne diseases as well as indigestion difficulties. Paired with promoting beneficial microbiota, chitin has been shown to reduce harmful microorganisms in the gut as well.


mealworms in bowl

3. Insect farming as a livelihood

Insects are reared either through wild harvesting or farming. The latter is not very common yet, as there is limited knowledge of factors influencing yield and harvest quality. Nevertheless, mass insect farming is an upcoming business due to its promising prospects in the food and feed industries.


The growing entomophagy industry would offer more jobs to people in developing countries. Even though insect mass farming technology is still new, there is a low entry requirement to engage in insect harvesting, processing and trade. Another benefit of insect farming is that it would reduce the threat of extinction due to overexploitation through natural harvesting from the wild.


4. Environmental benefits

As you may know, the global population is ever-increasing. Consequently, the demands for food cannot be met due to limited land available for agriculture. Additionally, the meat production industry contributes largely to greenhouse gas emissions as well as environmental contamination and deforestation.


It has been found that a more sustainable way to produce protein-rich food is through…. You guessed it, insect farming! There are plenty of benefits to the environment by rearing edible insects, to name a few: utilization of organic waste streams, low emission of greenhouse gasses, less water requirement, high feed conversion efficiency compared to livestock and finally, lower use of pesticides.


green forest

Final thoughts

Conclusively, the uprising industry of edible insects appears to be very promising. The high nutritional value of insects indicates that they are a good contender as a dietary replacement for meat. Furthermore, insect production is more environmentally friendly compared to the current livestock rearing.


However, there are some potential food safety hazards related to consuming edible insects. Examples are allergens or the occurrence of pesticide residues or heavy metals in insect bodies.


Source:

Imathiu, S. (2020). Benefits and food safety concerns associated with consumption of edible insects. NFS journal, 18, 1-11. Chicago https://doi.org/10.1016/j.nfs.2019.11.002


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