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Eating insects: health benefits and risks

 

The insects are considered in many countries of the world, especially in Asia, as authentic delicacies; they are foods that enjoy a great reputation. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) estimates that nearly 2 billion people globally consume insects on a regular basis thanks to their wide range of properties and health benefits.

In the West it is a food that little by little is forming an increasingly important part of gastronomic culture. Last January the European Union regulated the consumption of insects, including them as a product suitable for human consumption. Of course, European legislation indicates that insects raised for human consumption must be food only with residues of plant origin, never animal.

Is eating insects good?

The truth is that insects are one of the healthiest foods that exist, both from a nutritional point of view and respect for the environment. The most commonly consumed species are bees, beetles, ants, grasshoppers, crickets, and caterpillars.

The craze for eating insects has been championed by a large number of celebrities in recent years. One of the celebrities who most defends this practice is Salma Hayek, a Mexican actress. She herself has recognized on occasion that one of her favorite dishes is the ant egg with fried grasshoppers and guacamole. Also Angelina Jolie, who thanks to her humanitarian work in Cambodia has discovered the gastronomy of this country; The actress explained that insects are a delicacy that is very meaty and that it can be eaten in many different ways.

The main benefits of eating insects

Below we explain what are the main benefits that insects provide to the body.

Wide variety of species

Insects are one of the groups of living beings with the greatest variety; There are a total of 900,000 different species , although experts estimate that there are still six times as many different to be discovered. They represent almost 80% of the total species on the planet.

Of course, not all species are edible, but even so the number of insects that can be consumed is very high; nothing more and nothing less than 2,000. A number that has expanded considerably in recent years thanks to the discovery of new species.

Insects are rich in protein

From a nutritional point of view, insects are one of the foods with the highest protein content. The species with the highest percentage of protein in their mass are grasshoppers and crickets.

Proteins are essential for the proper functioning of the body as they play an active role in a wide range of processes: they are responsible for the development and growth of cells and tissues, they are a source of energy, they transport oxygen and iron, and they are part of immune system antibodies .

From the point of view of the world population, the contribution of proteins by insects is very important. The World Health Organization estimates that in the year 2050 there will be about 10 billion people worldwide, which will mean an increase in the demand for food by 70%.

Thus, insects are presented as an exceptional alternative in the food diet; and is that certain species can convert 2 kilos of food into 1 kilo of insect. If we compare it with the productivity of other animal species it is a fabulous figure; for example, cattle need about 8 kilos of feed to generate only 1 kilo more of meat.

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Insects are very rich in nutrients

The nutritional benefits of insects go far beyond protein. These animals are high in minerals and fatty acids; They are also rich in fiber, so they help regulate intestinal transit and prevent diseases such as constipation . In addition, they have very few carbohydrates , so they do not contribute to weight gain; insects are very healthy foods.

The species with the highest percentage of fatty acids are beetles and worms. Regarding the fiber content , the richest insects are the hemiptera.

And it does not end there, because insects provide a large amount of micronutrients: magnesium, calcium, copper, iron, zinc …

Less contagion of diseases between animals and humans

Another of the great benefits of consuming insects has to do with public health. And it is that this type of animal presents a very low risk of transmission of diseases by the contact with the human beings ; something that does happen with other animals, such as bird flu or mad cow disease.

Taste

There are those who reject the consumption of insects, claiming that their taste must be the most unpleasant. Nothing could be further from the truth. The truth is that the vast majority of insects have a crunchy texture that is very pleasant for the palate; As for its flavor, there are those who point out that it is very similar to that of nuts.

Environmental care

Beyond the benefits that the consumption of insects provides for the body, this type of diet also favors the care of the environment. According to recently presented studies, insect farming requires up to 1,000 times less water per kilo of product compared to livestock farming.

In addition, today no species of insects is in danger of extinction. Moreover, its consumption can greatly favor the regulation of populations, since these can harm crops.

How are insects consumed?

Those countries in which insects are part of their usual food diet, have hundreds of ways to prepare them; They can be the main ingredient of a certain dish, or they can be presented as a garnish. The different species of insects can be cooked fried, toasted … They are usually introduced in soups, stews and sauces; In some countries, drinks are also made with insects.

Is it dangerous to eat insects?

As we have pointed out, the consumption of insects is very beneficial for the general health of the organism. Of course, there are also those who wonder if eating this type of food has some kind of health hazard.

Well, according to experts so far there has been no case of disease transmission through the consumption of insects. However, allergic reactions can occur , similar to those that occur when consuming invertebrate animals. In addition, it must be taken into account that insects are a type of food that somehow favor the growth of bacteria and fungi.

Thus, if we think about the trendy foods of 2018, insects are undoubtedly one of them. Now, after the approval by the European Union of insects as a food suitable for human consumption, their popularity is sure to skyrocket in Spain. What’s more, some supermarket chains have already started selling foods made with insect dust, such as bars and snacks.

 

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Hello Readers, I am Nikki Bella a Psychology student. I have always been concerned about human behavior and the mental processes that lead us to act and think the way we do. My collaboration as an editor in the psychology area of ​​Well Being Pole has allowed me to investigate further and expand my knowledge in the field of mental health; I have also acquired great knowledge about physical health and well-being, two fundamental bases that are directly related and are part of all mental health.

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