Certain Edible Insects Are More Nutritious Than Beef
It’s true that there are some pretty horrifying things we end up putting into our bodies by consuming beef without doing our research first. And as if antibiotics, chemicals, hormones and other nasty things weren’t enough to turn us off from beef and other meat products, there’s also the reality of the industry’s negative impact on the planet and its unsustainable future.
Insects, however unappetizing they may seem, could actually be the meat alternative we really need. Although they’ve been a part of traditional diets in Asian regions for centuries, those of us in the West aren’t yet used to the idea of actually consuming creepy-crawlies for their nutritional benefits.
According to a recent report from the American Chemical Society, we wouldn’t only be helping out the planet by switching from meat to insects. We’d also be better off choosing certain insects over a sirloin steak for nutritional purposes.
Using a lab model to replicate human digestion, researchers analyzed the nutritional contents of a variety of edible insects including crickets, grasshoppers, mealworms and buffalo works. The researchers determined that the insects had varying levels of minerals like iron, calcium, copper, magnesium, manganese and zinc. For instance, crickets were higher in iron than other insects.
Nutrient absorption was also examined in all of the insects. It turns out that calcium, copper and zinc from grasshoppers, mealworms and crickets are better absorbed by the body than those same nutrients that come from beef.
After determining how much of each nutrient the human body could absorb from the insects by consuming them, the researchers concluded that the right amounts and mix of insect species could be an excellent source of certain nutrients and serve as a good alternative to other foods, like beef and other meat products.
If we could replace much of the meat we consume instead with insects, such a mass shift in food production away from meat would result in a significantly smaller impact on the environment. One of the reasons why certain regions around the world have had insects included in their diets for such a long time is because there simply isn’t enough land, water or other resources needed to support livestock that produces enough meat to feed such large populations.
Of course, if insects really are the future of meat alternatives, they’ll have to be introduced throughout the West in ways that grab the attention of meat eaters and appeal to their appetites too. At this point, the majority of edible insects that are available in the West come in the form of snacks, candy (like chocolate covered grasshoppers) or powder.
Changing people’s perceptions about consuming insects will surely be the biggest struggle, but given the unsustainable reality of the meat and dairy industries, that’s a challenge we might just have to face. Let’s hope that scientists can actually figure out a way to make a pile of ground up crickets and grasshoppers taste like a hamburger without pumping too many chemical ingredients into it for texture and taste purposes.
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