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Tuesday, September 03, 2013

Would you consider wolfing down a cricket? Don’t wrinkle up your nose, because insects and bugs are actually filled with a host of health benefits, says Rhea Dhanbhoora

If you thought only China and Thailand served up delicious bugs to crunch down on, you thought wrong! Insects and bugs are fast becoming the experimental foodie’s dish of choice, the fancy chef’s unique, off-the-beaten-path invention and the bon viveur’s latest talking point. The UN Food & Agriculture Organisation even staged a special conference on the benefits of eating insects a few years ago, known as entomophagy. Also, we already use insects as part of dyes — did you know that the red die in imitation crab sticks and Campari was made from insects? Professors of entomology at Wageningen University in the Netherlands say that insects should become a common feature on menus because they not only have nutritional benefits, but they also produce less waste and require less feed and water. While restaurants don’t seem to have caught on to the squeamish trend yet, here are the benefits of some of the most popular insect and bug picks, so you can make an informed decision when caught in the midst of an insect trail.

Grasshoppers are the most commonly eaten insects in the world. They’re nutritious and considered to be a delicacy in many countries. You have the best chances of finding these to munch on in certain more experimental areas of India. They’re usually eaten deep fried and are sometimes even dipped in chocolate! They contain protein, vitamins and have insignificant amounts of cholesterol and fat.

Many chefs suggest preparing crickets spicy and pairing them with beer — yes, you read that right. They’re also filled with a host of benefits and very little fat. They’re actually pretty similar (fat wise) to a steak. They also have a high protein content and healthy, unsaturated fat that makes them best roasted.

For us Indians, hearing about the benefits of red ants is nothing new. They’ve been part of Eastern diets for years and although they’re hard to collect, we know there’s no dearth of them around. Some cultures believe that their bite can even help relieve joint pain. They contain a lot of protein, healthy fat and carbohydrates that’s actually similar to high protein salmon. In fact, they have less fat than a salmon too.

Yes, you can eat scorpions. And no, they’re not poisonous once the stinger is off. Fried scorpions on a stick are one of the most popular exotic foods you’ll be offered on a vacation around Asia. They’re also eaten soaked in wine. Like most insects, they also have a lot of protein and nutrients. They are sometimes put inside chocolates and are very popular in Thailand in vodka drinks.

Water beetles are already a big deal in Thailand, but they should be getting more popular world over, because they have more nutrient and protein content than kidney beans! They’ve also been getting popular as a dish because they emit a fragrant aroma when cooked that’s more appetising than most insects.

Put your turkey down and go look for a caterpillar. That’s right, caterpillars can actually compete with the lean, protein filled meat — in fact, they contain more protein and fat. The fat in a caterpillar is also healthier.

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