Are Insects the Future of Food?

Angelia Jolie created media buzz during a Louis Vuitton photo shoot in Cambodia when she told a reporter that her kids snack on crispy crickets like Doritos.

While the thought of eating insects may turn your stomach, bugs, including grasshoppers, beetles, caterpillars, ants, spiders, and termites, are staple sources of protein around the globe. In Thailand, fried bugs are served like peanuts with beer, and even countries that haven’t traditionally practiced entomophagy (eating insects as food) are starting to embrace it.

The European Union has offered a financial incentive to member states to promote the use of insects in cooking. And in the U.S., James Beard-award winning chef José Andrés serves chapulín (grasshopper) tacos at his Washington, D.C., restaurant, Oyamel.

A three-ounce portion of dried caterpillars supplies more than 50 grams of protein—about twice as much as the same serving size of lean flank steak—and the production of bugs for food requires fewer resources, including feed, water and land, and generates less greenhouse gases, including one tenth the amount of methane, a compound that traps heat in the atmosphere. For these reasons, many food and nutrition experts believe that supporting entomophagy will be necessary in order to feed a growing population while protecting the planet.

According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, there are 1,700 species of edible bugs, and apparently a Chicago company has plans to produce insect protein in cutlet form (think chicken breast versus chicken on the bone) to up its appeal.

What do you think? Have you ever tried insects? Would you eat a six-legged snack? Please tweet your thoughts to @cynthiasass and @Shape_Magazine.

And if you’re curious for more, check out this video news report, which includes a peek at some insect-based culinary creations.

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Cynthia Sass is a registered dietitian with master's degrees in both nutrition science and public health. Frequently seen on national TV, she's a SHAPE contributing editor and nutrition consultant to the New York Rangers and Tampa Bay Rays. Her latest New York Times best seller is S.A.S.S! Yourself Slim: Conquer Cravings, Drop Pounds and Lose Inches.

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