American Society For Nutrition

Green and Lean

Green and Lean

Excellence in Nutrition Research and Practice
Posted on 08/30/2011 at 08:13:03 PM by Student Blogger

Green and Lean: Insects are a Nutritionist's Friend

By Gopi M.

The current global food situation is an ultimate paradox.The West is weighed down by the obesity epidemic while the rest faces the unsettling prospect of food shortage due to world population bursting at its seams. The contrast couldn't be any starker.Quite absurdly, on one hand it seems we are the victims of our own innovation while on the other, the palms are always outstretched and empty.Given the crises, nutritional science has an important role to play and nutritionist from the developed nations must step up efforts to highlight the benefits of incorporating insects in our diet to bring down the bias against them.Intensifying research in this regard, as well as breaking the cultural shackles is therefore needed.While you can, go gather grubs for grub and go green!!

For all their creepy contours and freakish features, insects are a nutritionist's delight. Rich in a vast array of nutrients, insects are comparable to other animal sources of food.A grasshopper has 21 grams of protein, 3.9 grams of carbohydrates and 6.1 grams of fat, while dried caterpillars have 28.2 grams of protein for every 100 grams.Not surprisingly, the widespread use of insects in the diet of our ancestors is exhaustively documented.At present, more than 1000 species of insects are used as food across the tropics and sub-tropics. In these parts of the world, insects are roasted, grilled, boiled, broiled, sauteed, fried to serve up delicacies. Although reports abound regarding the earlier usage of insects as crucial elements of gastronomy in France, Germany, Italy and other European nations, the West has developed and moved on well past entomophagy- to harbor bias against insects as food. While it's a matter of preference, it's worth the attempt to expose the public to the nutritional benefits of insects.

Perhaps the stigma associated with insect consumption has got to do with the phase of human evolution when insects were procured during the hunter-gatherer stage.Ironically, insects, in one form or another, are part of our diet.For example, according to the FDA, an average of 5 whole insects in apple butter and 60 aphids or thrips in frozen broccoli are allowed for every 100 grams. In addition to their nutrient value, insects can improve the quality of biomass. Insects can ingest the inedible metabolic waste and can be used as feed to fish and other mammalian species. It's worth noting that the food conversion efficiency of insects like crickets is superior to the conventional livestock.While the developed nations are ahead of the poorer countries in scientific progress and innovation by several leagues, the dearth of understanding of insects and their cultivation and production can have an adverse impact on a global scale.

Table 1. Common insects and protein content on the basis of dry weight

Insect Name

Protein Percentage

Leaf hoppers


Leafcutting ants


Tree hoppers


Red-legged locusts


Corn earworms


Water boatmen adults


Stink bugs


Ramos-Elorduy (1998)


Ramos-Elorduy, J. 1998. Creepy crawly cuisine: the gourmet guide to edible insects.

Rochester VT, USA, Park Street Press. 150 pp.

Katayama, N. 2008. Entomophagy: A key to space agriculture. Advances in space research, 41: 701-705.

DeFoliart, G.R. 1999. Insects as food: Why the Western attitude is important, Annual Reviews in Entomology, 44: 21-50.

1 Comment

Do you happen to know what the protein percentages are for scorpions?