Could bugs be our next superfoods?

Food & Drink

Anyone would pick a burger over a plateful of dried crickets. But according to a new study, you should think twice before placing your order.

Researchers at the American Chemical Society have spent months examining the nutritional benefits of grasshoppers, crickets, buffalo worms, and mealworms.

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In Thailand, grasshoppers are fried in popular snack called jing leed. Picture: InstagramRoasted vegetable with buffalo worms. Picture: InstagramGrasshopper with Avo taco. Picture: Instagram

Compared to beef, the first two are a far better source of many nutrients, particularly iron which is widely considered one of beef's key benefits.

The report, published in the Journal on Wednesday, says the findings provide an opportunity to explore different, more sustainable sources of nutrients.

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Studies have long documented the high protein content in bugs but the latest research offers new insights into how bugs also fill the gaps for other nutrients commonly found in meat.

Most importantly the researchers, led by Yemisi Latunde-Dada, were looking at how to find alternative sources of iron.

Iron is a particularly important nutrient that is often missing in non-meat diets, causing iron-deficiency anemia, which can lead to lower cognition, immunity, poor pregnancy outcomes and other problems.

In a finding that could make many readers' skin crawl, crickets had the highest levels of iron and was much better absorbed by the human body than beef.

Minerals, including calcium, copper and zinc from grasshoppers, crickets and mealworms were also more readily available for absorption than the same minerals from beef.

Latunde-Dada said the results support the idea that eating bugs could help meet the nutritional needs of the world's growing population.

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For many cultures around the world, this suggestion will not be so groundbreaking.

Bugs are a feature in the diets of more than two billion people, UN figures estimate. More than 1,900 species of insects are considered edible.

A popular snack food in Thailand, called jing leed, features deep-fried crickets served with a kind of soy sauce.

In Mexico, you can find fried caterpillars, ant eggs, and chicatanas pan-roasted ants served with a wedge of lime.

The Japanese eat fried cicada and silk moth pupae. Meanwhile ants are a popular snack in China and Brazil.

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