- You might find this nutritional tip disgusting
- This type of insect has more protein, iron and vitamins than beef
- Could insects become our allies in our fight to feed a growing population without destroying the environment?
The big yellow bus ground to a halt in the city of Oaxaca.
Off the bus stepped one Ray Collins and his wife Lara.
As this was a long time ago, I had significantly more hair.
Although, I was actually heavier than I am today!
At that point, less than a year before the birth of our first son, I had not yet had my diet epiphany (described in The Honey Garlic and Vinegar Miracle – which you can get from here).
I was becoming interested in nutrition, but I wasn’t prepared for what I saw as we headed into the marketplace to find lunch…
It was a bunch of excited little kids huddled around a woman with a large cloth sack.
She was digging into the sack with a little ‘pick and mix’ style trowel…
And scooping something crunchy into little paper bags.
The kids handed over a few coins and started tucking into what I presumed were nuts.
But they weren’t nuts.
As Lara and I got closer, we could see that they were insects.
The kids were chomping with delight on little handfuls of dried-up crickets, just like I might have tucked into a bag of sherbet pips as a child.
To my sensibilities, munching crickets was horrible.
I couldn’t even bring myself to try some for the ‘authentic’ travelling experience.
However, I think many of us are like that.
There’s a common revulsion about consuming insects, which we see as tiny monsters that dig around in dirt.
Yet many of the same folk happily eat prawns, which are like insects that scavenge the ocean floor.
(I am guilty as charged there, too!)
For instance, much more recently, I watched the BBC show The Great British Menu, in which one of the chefs made a dessert of rice pudding that was covered in ants.
Apparently, they add a “lemony zing”.
As much as I applaud the experimentation, I can’t help myself – I just don’t want ants on my pudding.
If I want lemony zing, I’ll use lemon.
But, hey, this is just my cultural prejudice.
Because I am fully aware that for many non-Western cultures, insects are a vital source of protein. They also contain fats, fibre, vitamins and minerals.
In fact this might surprise you…
The insect that’s healthier than beef
Did you know that a pound of crickets will give you three times the protein, plus more iron and nutrients, than a pound of beef?
While you might enjoy the beef more, think about people who cannot access, or afford, that kind of food.
For instance, until recently in Mali, West Africa, it was common for children to pick grasshoppers from the crops.
This gave them a vital nutritional boost. It also kept grasshoppers at bay, helping the farmers look after their crops.
But in recent years, Western farming practices have crept in.
Now the farmers try and grow more food than they need so they can store and sell surplus crops.
To achieve this, they use pesticides.
So now the children can’t go picking grasshoppers like they used to.
Is this progress?
Well maybe not…
It could be that the world needs to think again about their approach to insects.
Could insects become our allies in our fight to feed a growing population… without destroying the environment?
The issue, as I’ve written so many times before, is that modern farming methods have caused a lot of problems.
Not only the stripping of nutrients from the soil but also the increasing use of chemical pesticides.
In The Butterfly Effect: Insects and the Making of the Modern World, Edward Melillo argues that as the human population continues to grow, we need to find better ways to feed ourselves.
Ways that don’t decimate the environment with pesticides and resistant monocrops… which don’t rely so heavily on deforesting to create fields for methane-producing cows, which contribute to global warming.
He thinks that instead of purely viewing ALL insects as pest that must be destroyed, we should domesticate some insects and use their natural products instead.
Not just for food, either.
For example, before records were made from vinyl, they were made from shellac, a resin secreted by bugs in the forests of India and Thailand.
Similarly, many dyes and food colourings were made from insect products, before synthetic chemicals took over.
So it could be that on a rapidly changing planet, we may one day soon have to change our attitude to insects in the Western world.
And the future of nutrition could be products like these, which are on sale now:
- Cricket powder
- Cricket crisps
- Roasted crickets
- Insect burgers
- Cricket energy bars
- Insect salt
- Cricket cocktail bitters
Fancy any of those?
Maybe not, but if you do enjoy insect products at all, please write in and let me know.
Of course, if you want a nutritional boost and you DON’T want a cricket toastie, then there are plenty of supplements derived from whole foods on our website here: The Good Life Letter’s Essential Vitamins and Minerals