If you want to combine healthy eating with respect for the environment you can’t go wrong on a diet of insects, says an academic who has benefited from consuming them.
But there’s another reason for eating insects: they can assist in controlling diseases such as diabetes.
Gabriela Jiménez Casas, a researcher at the Institute of Ecology at the National Autonomous University (UNAM), says that some insects and their eggs, including mezcal worms, chapulines (toasted grasshoppers), escamoles (ant larvae), red ants, crickets and even fly larvae, all contain high levels of protein and amino acids that are essential for a healthy and balanced diet.
When she was diagnosed with diabetes 10 years ago, Jiménez says, she was motivated to research how she could achieve a more balanced, sugar-free diet.
Consequently, she found that insects contained a lot of the nutrients she needed to keep her condition under control.
Not only are they free of sugar and trans fats and high in protein but any dried and ground insect can also be turned into flour and used as a substitute for flour made from wheat.
Jiménez says that insect flours function in exactly the same way as regular flour but can be consumed by people who are gluten-intolerant.
Consuming bugs can also help the environment and even diminish the effects of climate change, she claims.
To produce one kilogram of meat requires 20 liters of water, on top of which cattle emit gases such as methane, which contribute to the greenhouse effect.
On the other hand, insects don’t need water and many species can damage crops. Eating them reduces the need to use insecticides.
“Chapulines arrive and destroy cornfields. If we consume them we are helping the farmers, they don’t use insecticides and we’re topping an infestation . . . and we’re not spending any money for their consumption.”
Jiménez says that caterpillars and even cockroaches can be eaten, although the latter need to be bred specifically for the purpose.
Puebla, Chiapas, Hidalgo, the State of México, Oaxaca, Guerrero, Veracruz and Yucatán are the biggest insect-consuming states in the country coinciding with a wide variety of insects native to the areas.
However, the UNAM researcher still believes that the resource is “wasted” and despite their nutritional and environmental benefits she concedes that it is difficult to get more people to consume them.
She calls on people to return to a more “traditional” diet, referring to the fact that insects were important in the diets of pre-Hispanic peoples.
As part of her job, Jiménez also gives educational talks about the benefits of eating insects and says that children are easier to convince than their parents, something that perhaps bodes well for future consumption trends.
But while the children may be convinced, their parents are not. In fact, she says, they don’t want to know anything about them.
Source: El Universal (sp)