Eating bugs and insects is healthier than you think

By Lahja Nashuuta

To many, especially in the Western world, eating bugs or insects is unthinkable. But in our part of the world, mostly in Southern Africa – entomophagy or the eating of insects and bugs is part of our staple diet.

And there is no need to feel disgusted about eating insects, because studies suggest that they are more nutritious than conventional food.

In a 2013 report, the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) noted that more than 1,900 insect species have been documented as food sources globally.

While a few bugs pose health risk, insects such as grasshoppers and crickets, ants, beetles and caterpillars are edible, which FAO touts as a nutritious way to meet the nutrient needs of humans.

In another study, the University of Oxford says insects are more nutritious compared to foods like chicken, steak, and pork.

FAO further advocates that grasshoppers and crickets are a good source of unsaturated fats which can help lower your risk of heart disease.

These insects also supply small amounts of iron, though the exact amount depends on how large the bug is.

The UN agency also has it on record that ants are also a good source of calcium.

Beetles are among the richest insect sources of protein, according to the National Geographic, but the exact amount depends on what type of beetle you’re eating.

Like other insects, beetles supply calcium and iron, as well as a good dose of zinc.

But most importantly, that excellent source of protein and other minerals heavily consumed in Namibia and across Southern Africa without any idea of what we are consuming and is an excellent source of protein and other minerals is the mopane worm.

Mopane worm (imbrassia belina), also known as madora or amacimbi, is considered a delicacy in northern parts of Namibia, Botswana, South Africa, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. It is one of the major sources of protein.

Since time immemorial, the edible amacimbi delicacy has provided food at low cost and generated income for locals helping to fight hunger and poverty.

Because of their seasonal nature of occurrence, these edible worms can also be dried and stored.

Dried mopane worms are a source of income for the inhabitants of the region, especially women.

They are sold across the region and as far as the cities Gaborone, Harare, Bulawayo, Johannesburg, Pretoria and Windhoek.

According to FAO, the worms could be the solution to protein-energy malnutrition, and a crucial ingredient in supplementary feeding of young children.

They are also rich in micronutrients (minerals and/or vitamins). They provide magnesium and iron, which are essential to the nutrition of children and pregnant women.

They also supply about one-fourth of the potassium one needs each day, as well as 100 percent of the copper one requires.

Termites are a good source of heart-healthy unsaturated fats, and about 49 percent of their body composition contains these beneficial nutrients.

The next time you’re gazing into the fridge racking your brain trying to come up with something to make for dinner, consider heading outside instead.

Your backyard and neighbourhood are probably teeming with edible insects that may be good for you!

February 2017
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