3 surprising reasons you should add bugs to your diet

Insects are surprisingly nutritious and they're much more environmentally friendly to farm than pigs or cattle.

Diet and fitness app Lifesum has just started allowing users to track their consumption of insects. Its user base of about 30 million people are now able to add to their profile whether they've eaten grasshoppers, mealworms, and various other bugs alongside the more regular food groups.

Lifesum has collaborated with Entomo Farms, which is North America's largest producer of edible insects. About two billion people around the world already eat insects in some capacity, so maybe it's only a matter of time until more people in the western world are clocking how many crickets they had in their lunch.

According to some of the cheerleaders of insect-eating — Mark Cuban, Salma Hayek, and Nicole Kidman — insect-eating is full of benefits. Here are three of the main reasons why.

"Edible insects are not only abundant in numbers, but are cost-effective and have considerable health benefits," Kajsa Ernestam, a dietitian at Lifesum told INSIDER. "Insects are nutritionally-rich, yet very low in calories, which is thought to help combat obesity and related diseases."

Insects contain vitamins and micronutrients, like B12, iron, manganese, and calcium.

"Insects are a nutritional powerhouse," said Jarrod Goldin, the president of Entomo Farms. "And the prebiotic fiber in insects benefits gut health and digestion."

B12 isn't produced by the human body on its own, and helps bone health and energy levels. Iron is essential for producing red blood cells, manganese is vital for maintaining the nervous system and the brain, and calcium is required for strong bones.

"The benefits of edible insects go far beyond their nutritional value," said Ernestam. "The environmental advantages are truly profound. What may seem like a drop in the ocean now could in the future be a revelation and world-wide solution."

Currently, traditional livestock farming accounts for up to 18% of the planet's greenhouse gas emissions. According to Compassion in World Farming, we need to reduce these emissions in developed countries by at least 80% to stick to the Paris Agreement target of keeping the average world temperature increase below 2 degrees C.

Also, climate change has already impaired food production. Increasing temperatures put further stress on dry regions, making it harder to grow crops and rear animals.

In comparison, insect farming produces around a hundred times less greenhouse gases than beef cattle or pigs.

"Insects also generally have a higher food conversion efficiency than traditional meats," said Ernestam. "Warm-blooded vertebrates need to use a significant amount of energy just to stay warm, whereas cold-blooded insects don't."

They also reproduce incredibly quickly — a female cricket laying up to 1,500 eggs in three or four weeks. This is a much faster rate than breeding cattle, where the ratio of breeding to market animals is 4 to 1.

If you're not keen on the idea of eating bugs as they are, you can get mealworm or cricket powder. It has all the same nutritional benefits, so it's a bit like protein powder.

"You can also consume insect-fortified flour and use this in your baking, making cricket chocolate cake for example," said Ernestam. "If you aren't squeamish, an easy way to integrate insects into your diet is making a pizza with a scattering of locusts, or blending them into a delicious smoothie, or snacking on a bag of insects whenever you feel like it."

Squeamishness is likely to be the biggest hurdle in getting people to adopt insects willingly into their diet. Ernestam said providing options on the Lifesum health tracker is a good place to start, because having more insect foods available on there normalises the activity. There's an insect-based taco recipe on there, for example.

Goldin said Entomo Farms was founded with the "vision to improve human health and deliver nutrition sustainably."

"[This] will help us reach as many people as possible to help introduce them to this delicious, versatile ingredient that will not only benefit their own health, but also the future health of our planet."

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