Insects Are Taking Over – But Not In The Way You Think

Forget kale and avo. Insects could be the new superfood.

Kirsten Curtis |

South Africans are no strangers to eating insects. Mopane worms are a delicacy in many areas across the country. They’re said to be nutritious and rich in protein. Just as meat eaters are called carnivores, the process of eating insects is called entomophagy.

Related: Yes, You Can Build Meat-Free Muscle

Insects Are Food Not Foe

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations more than 1900 insect species are consumed around the world, with the most popular being beetle, caterpillars, bees, wasps and ants. Insect farming is also touted as more sustainable than farming livestock, as they produce less greenhouse gasses, can be farmed on a smaller space of land and need less feed.

Two years ago, researchers in India came up with an alternative to dairy milk. Forget soy and almond milk–cockroach milk exists and is said to contain four times as much protein as cow’s milk. “The protein crystals contain proteins, lipids, and sugars. If you look into the protein sequences, they have all the essential amino acids,” co-author Sanchari Banerjee, told the Times of India. The milk contains all the necessary nutrients required for cell growth but which our bodies don’t always naturally produce.

Related: Is Milk Really Healthy for You? Learn the Facts

You might be wondering how cockroach milk is produced. Unlike cows, the female Pacific beetle does not  have udders. Instead, it secretes a liquid after giving birth to feed its young. Whatever liquid is not consumed is crystallized.  It’s this milk crystal that is highly nutritious and has been studied by Banerjee and her team.

But before you swop your soy for cockroach milk, know that a vast quantity of the female beetle would be killed for you to have enough for your coffee. Another co-author of the paper, Leonard Chavas, told science publication, Inverse, that to produce 100 grams of milk you would need to kill over 1000 cockroaches.

Proudly South African Grub

A South African company called Gourmet Grubb have produces ice-cream using EntoMilk, which is made from sustainably farmed insects such as the Black Soldier Fly Larvae. According to their website, they want to redefine the way the western world thinks of insects as an alternative food source and as an alternative dairy product. Like cockroach milk, EntoMilk is said to be nutrient dense, with minerals such as iron, zinc and calcium. The ice-cream is sold in three flavours – Peanut Butter, Chocolate and Chai. They currently don’t have a store, but you can sample their wares at different food markets around Cape Town.

In 2014 the pest control company, Rentokil South Africa, participated in a global Pestaurant. The event showcased various sweet and savoury edible insects the company created. One of their popular items turned out to be the chocolate brownie surprise. They wanted to educate people about the health benefits of including insects in your diet.

For those of you who prefer your food less crunchy, the urban farming project, Endoki, has developed cricket flour. They also sell live crickets, if that’s your preference. Like any other flour, the cricket can be used to make cakes, muffins and bread. It’s also packed with nutrients like omega 3 and 6, protein, calcium and other essential amino acids.

With the emergence of all these companies, you might find yourself swopping a steak for a steaming bowl of worms. Insects won’t just be moving into your homes, but onto your plates.

READ MORE ON: Food and Nutrition Health healthy eating insects superfoods

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