Nowadays what we eat is dictated mainly by culture. Humans tend to culturally eat. Let’s take breakfast for example; in France, it commonly consists of a coffee and croissant, in Asia it’s pork and rice, in New Zealand, the UK or Australia, it would be some sort of cereal or toast.
Humans used to eat out of need for sustenance. Through history we consumed foods based on nutritional content, not on what society, advertising and industry dictated. Furthermore, a lot of the “food” we now consume contains empty calories, loads of chemicals and often toxins. For example, finding good quality grass-fed meat in Vietnam is difficult.
There is a need to consider other forms of nutrient-rich foods. One of the most overlooked sources of good nutritious foods is insects. I am sure everyone has seen the carts selling the little critters somewhere in Asia. The National Autonomous University of Mexico found that 113 countries across the world eat insects as a substitute for meat with a variety of 1,700 different species of insects being consumed.
If you think this is disgusting, you need to consider that insects were a large part of a Palaeolithic diet. A paper called Calcium in Evolutionary Perspective by S. Boyd Eaton and Dorothy A. Nelson states that for “a total of 150 million years — three quarters of the entire time mammals have existed — our ancestors were primarily insectivorous.”
You may have heard of the Paleo Diet that has become popular in the past few years. One problem with this diet is that the authors completely overlook our ancestors’ consumption of insects.
Hunting animals was dangerous, which means meat was scarce or at least not caught on a regular basis, insects were more bountiful and safer to harvest. Early hunter-gatherers had about a 20 percent success rate when hunting game. Therefore, their tribe would have starved if it weren’t for a steady stream of nutrients and calories consumed by gathering and foraging foods such as tubers, greens, fruits and small animals including insects and other invertebrates. The demand for protein required a constant intake of insects.
Insects are highly nutritious. When we compare the nutritional value of insects to beef and even fish it is clear that insects come out on top. For example, caterpillars contain higher levels of iron and vitamins than ground beef, while being par on protein content. Likewise, crickets have higher levels of calcium, which is an essential nutrient for bone development. Insects are also a much higher quality food compared to fruits, leaves, flowers and even nuts. Insects, in fact, provide all the nutrients that drive human physical development; protein, iron, calcium and, best of all, unsaturated long-chain essential fatty acids.
National Geographic suggests that besides the nutritional value, insects are environmentally sustainable. Insects take very little water, feed and transport fuel to be farmed and harvested compared to livestock and vegetables. For example, 10 pounds of beef requires one hundred pounds of feed; the same amount of feed would produce four times the amount of crickets.
Vietnam has an abundance of insects available for consumption. I have eaten ants, tarantulas, crickets, scorpions and coconut grubs all of which were very tasty. Coconut grubs were particularly delicious and packed full of goodness of their home… the superfood coconut.
From all the research it seems that insects were a large part of our ancestors’ diets for approximately 2.5 million years. A great source of protein and essential nutrients, if eating creepy-crawlies never occurred to you, try them. You’ll be eating healthy and saving the environment.