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Eat Bugs for Bulk

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Health food advocates say insects, like these fried locusts on display in a market, are a good source of protein, amino acids, vitamins and minerals. Photo: AMIR COHEN/REUTERS

It used to be that consuming buffalo meat was considered exotic. Then over time other animals started appearing on U.S. plates. Fare such as ostrich, alligator, zebra and others have continued to drive a new market for consumable protein.

So what’s next you may ask? How about a nice healthy dish of sautéed caterpillars followed up with a side of baked scorpion? Indeed, this is becoming a more frequent occurrence here in America and there are many positive benefits enjoyed from this culinary practice.

To start, insects are an excellent source of inexpensive and abundant protein and at 75% by weight, it is one of the highest sources available. Most, but not all, insect protein contain all nine essential amino acids necessary for humans. It is rich in B vitamins, calcium, zinc, iron, and phosphorous to name a few. Insect protein is also gluten and dairy free.

Recent studies have indicated that insects tended to have higher micronutrient content than standard livestock such as beef or chicken. Insect protein is also good source of omega-3 fatty acid which is known to reduce the risk for heart disease.

Another benefit to consuming insects for protein instead of farm animals relates to the environmental impact. At the current rate of population growth in the world, it is estimated that by 2050, the process of raising livestock as a food source will become unsustainable. It will simply require to many resources to raise and process enough animals to feed a ballooning population. Insect cultivation has been found to be very sustainable, using up to 50 – 905 less land than its livestock counterparts. Additionally, it requires approximately 0.05%, yes that’s right, five one hundredths of a percent the amount of water to produce 1 pound of protein compared to beef.

So where can I buy insect protein without having to run around in my local pasture with a bug net? There are several online distributors currently with plans for many others to hit the market soon. It is understandable that eating bugs has a certain amount of social taboo associated with it in the U.S however, as the cultivation and processing components of insect protein become more common and efficient, the free market arena will surely increase the awareness and consumption of this sustainable resource in the future.

By Dr. Vincent K. Ramsey

Dr. Vincent K. Ramsey, is the Chair of Sports Exercise Science at the United States Sports Academy, and can be reached at vramsey@ussa.edu.

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