July 18, 2024

As much as you may not want to believe it, insects are poised to be the next big food source. In many parts of the world, they already are.

Insects are a normal menu item in several cultures, says Valerie Stull, PhD, MPH, a faculty associate at the University of Wisconsin in Madison. For the average American who didn’t grow up with insects as part of their cuisine, this can seem strange. On a worldwide scale, however, insects are regarded as a potential alternative protein source that is both healthy and sustainable — and more people who eat a traditional Western diet are coming to see these benefits.

There are more than 2,300 edible species of insects, per a November 21, 2019, article in Food Production, Processing, and Nutrition (though there are likely more), and people around the world have eaten insects for thousands of years. Read on for a closer look at some of the nutritional benefits of edible insects, and — if you’re interested — how to start your journey into entomophagy (insect eating).

What Are Edible Insects?

Edible insects (or edible bugs) are varieties that are safe for human consumption. In the United States, the just-getting-started edible insect industry has focused on a few species, including crickets, mealworms, and black soldier fly larvae, says Gina Hunter, PhD, an associate professor of anthropology at Illinois State University in Normal and the author of Edible Insects: A Global History.


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