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Insects

The United Nations is concerned about the sustainability of the current agricultural system and is trying to alter people’s perceptions of what foods are good to eat. Because people generally consume animal protein, but the current meat, dairy and poultry industries use up lots of resources and land, the UN feels that eating insects such as maggots, larvae, grasshoppers, crickets and beetles would be a good compromise.

They definitely have a point. Think about a human left naked and alone in a jungle. If she found a termite nest it might provide enough calories to allow her to survive until she could find a way back to civilization.

Evolutionary arguments also support the practice. Humans make an enzyme called chitinase that allows the digestion of the exoskeletons of insects, spiders, worms and the like. Although our closest relatives are almost all primarily herbivorous, some insects will get into their diet on purpose or by accident, just as they do in ours.

Some of us probably even ate a bug on a dare as a child.

Even the most scrupulous of us will inadvertently consume some insects regularly anyway, and the UN is just trying to let us know we should try it consciously. The Chinese government is even feeding silkworm caterpillars to their astronauts. They are very low in saturated fat and high in protein.

Insects are much more efficient at converting grain to body weight; cattle need 8 pounds of food to gain 1 pound, but crickets only need to eat 2 pounds of grain to gain the same pound. I used to accidentally run that experiment in my pantry when I was single. It seems about right.

So if you simply have to have some animal protein in the diet, you can usually find loads of edible insects in any pet store in the form of meal worms and crickets. If you want a little more panache with your protein, there are now over 100 gourmet insect restaurants across America.

Because insects are low in saturated fat, they are probably the best animal protein for your heart, but they still have high levels of leucine and methionine, which can shorten lifespan. For the ideal diet, focus on starches and let the insects in your food get there accidentally.


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