Vegetarian bugs may be better than a glass of OJ

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grasshopperVegetarian bugs may be better than a glass of OJ
Edible insects are touted as an excellent source of animal protein that does not adversely impact Earth’s resources. New research indicates that they may also be good sources of antioxidants. A recent study by a group of scientists in Italy determined that the antioxidant levels of various edible insects and invertebrates is surprisingly high.

Raising edible insects requires far less land than raising cattle, chickens, and pigs. In addition, insects require six times less feed than cattle and two times less feed than pigs and chickens to produce the same amount of protein, and they produce fewer greenhouse gases. More than 2 billion people around the world eat insects. Nonetheless, most consumers in Westernized countries are resistant to consuming edible insects despite their nutrition and sustainability profiles. The study reveals information that may make consuming insects more attractive.

The Italian researchers analyzed a range of edible insects and invertebrates for antioxidant activity by grinding them up (sans wings and stingers) to create extracts. Dividing the extracts into water-soluble fractions and fat-soluble fractions, the researchers made some key discoveries: The water-soluble extracts (i.e., dry insect dust) of vegetarian insects and invertebrates contained higher levels of antioxidants than predatory insects that eat other bugs. The water-soluble extract from grasshoppers, silkworms, and crickets contained the highest levels of antioxidants. Moreover, their levels of antioxidants were higher than that of fresh-squeezed orange juice (OJ).

The researchers believe their findings reveal the potential of using grasshoppers, silkworms, and crickets to develop novel functional food products. However, the bioavailability and efficacy of insect-derived antioxidants when consumed by humans is not yet known, so more research is necessary.

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