Research into mineral absorption says that crickets and grasshoppers offer the human diet more of what it needs than red meat
By 2050, experts the global popular to have reached 9.75bn people, which poses grave problems for a global community that already struggles to feed the 7bn people on Earth. Especially considering the increasing pressure placed on the agricultural over meat production, which has been widely criticised for water consumption and as a leading cause of climate change. Eating insects in place of beef is often held up as a sustainable alternative, and now a new study suggests that consumers can get all the minerals they would need from beef from grasshoppers, crickets and mealworms.
Arguably the biggest single issue facing the insect-eating idea is how alien it is as a concept to western palates. But for 2bn people currently living today, insect consumption is a common culinary cultural norm.
Many studies examining the nutritional values of an insect-filled diet have already shown that the protein gained from insects is no different from that acquired from eating fish or meat, but nutritional experts have always pointed out that meat like beef in not merely used as a source of protein. Equally important to human health are mineral nutrients like zinc and iron, which play an essential part in the body’s production of enzyme.
Researchers at King’s College London and China’s Ningbo University have just completed the first extensive research into how commonly eaten insects like grasshoppers, crickets and mealworms. Writing in the Journal of Agricultural & Food Chemistry, the scientists claimed that in terms of just mineral concentration, none of the insects managed to compare to beef. Particularly with regard to iron, only crickets have a level even near to beef, while each of the other insect species only has half as high a concentration of what is arguably the most important mineral to human health found in meat.
However, when it comes to the body’s ability to actually absorb minerals and nutrients, it turns out that beef wastes considerably more of its high quantities compared with insects. Human digestion actually manages to take minerals more readily from insects than meat, with the research showing it generally occurs in quantities that are as much if not more than a person could expect to take from eating beef. In fact, beef lagged behind almost all of the insect species across the nutritional absorption spectrum – although precise figures were not available for iron.
“Grasshopper, cricket, mealworm, and buffalo worm could provide excellent sources of iron, calcium, copper, magnesium, manganese, and zinc in human diets depending on the recipes and portion sizes,” the researchers write.