Would you like to have some crispy crickets for snacks or include a plateful of stir-fried grasshoppers as sides for lunch? I am not joking, but eating insects is prevalent across countries worldwide because of its nutritional benefits while this statement might nauseate most people.
We look at cockroaches in our households with disgust, would hate a fly on our meal and avoid grasshoppers while sitting on our garden porch. How on earth are we going to digest the fact that eating insects is common and happening around us? This loathing has nothing to do with nutrition, digestion and evolution. Even studies pacify those against this habit with the example of our ancestors. They put forth the fact that the insect food choices of our primeval generations could still be executed today. Till now, our perception was that mammals did not produce the enzyme that would help them break down the exoskeleton of insects and hence, eating them would make digestion a difficult process. But now, researchers have uncovered the fact that humans still possess a working copy of the gene CHIA, a stomach enzyme needed to break down chitin (a part of an insect’s outer covering). Still existing are small living primates that contain three copies of the CHIA gene. Henceforth, even if there are contradicting theories that support/deny the existence of an enzyme for digesting insects, individuals would not face any problem in eating a cooked insect as the exoskeleton becomes soft and easier to chew.
The Chosen Ones!
Any insect lovers’ first choice would be beetles followed by caterpillars, bees, wasps, ants, crickets and grasshoppers. Almost more than 1,900 species of insects are said to be edible for consumption. We eat beef, pork, meat and crabs, then why not eat insects too? Insects are sustainable alternatives to other animal food sources with minimum carbon footprint and higher protein source. Advantages of consuming insects include:
Even after reading these list of benefits, not many would prefer to pop a grasshopper into their mouth. This is because, more than the taste of the food we are bothered about its origin, its background and our culture. Let’s not deny the fact that human taste varies based on his/her cultural background (history, community and environment) and it is difficult to accept certain things despite their advantages/benefits.
But, the days are not far off when people would be ordering a beetle sandwich for lunch or munch on boiled ants for breakfast.
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Dietitian & Nutritionist Dr. Nafeesa Imteyaz.