Grub’s Up!

By Jodie MacLeod 2019-12-11 14:25:54

A New Perspective on a Bug-Based Diet

Picture the scene: you’re preparing dinner when a line of ants march along the worktop. Most of us would wipe them away in shock but evidence now suggests that these little critters might be the answer to our climate change problem. As we enter into an era of rising sea levels and drastic temperature changes, researchers are looking at ways that we can revolutionise our diets. If you’re still squirming at the idea of embracing a bug-based diet, read on to hear about the benefits.

When did we start eating insects?

In prehistoric times insects formed a vital part of the human diet, but the invention of hunting and farming tools led us to the consumption of livestock. Whereas many Eastern countries still embrace the practice of entomophagy, the eating of insects is considered a ‘taboo’ in Western cultures. Perhaps they associate it with the popular TV show ‘I’m A Celebrity…Get Me Out of Here’, where contestants are forced to eat creepy crawlies to earn points. But eating bugs is no longer reserved for bushtucker trials, and the negative perceptions are slowly shifting thanks to forward-thinking restaurants and businesses who are turning insects into a delicious and trendy addition to daily diets.

Health Benefits

One company who is making waves in insect-eating is EAT GRUB, a London-based “sustainable food brand that aims to revolutionise Western food culture by introducing insects as a staple part of it.” They believe that insects are the original superfood and shouldn’t just be enjoyed in the East when they have such powerful benefits on health. Co-founder, Shami Radia, believes that “they [insects] are high in protein, minerals and amino acids so it makes sense to eat them.”

Studies have also shown that the complete protein content in insects can be extremely useful in fighting malnutrition as they are good sources of iron, calcium, good fats, Omega 3 and vitamin B12.

Celebrity Insect-Eater

If you’re not yet convinced, it sometimes helps to see some celebrity endorsement, which is exactly what Angelina Jolie did on a 2017 trip to Cambodia where she was filmed eating tarantulas and scorpions with her children. She joked, “How do you flip a scorpion?” as she tucked into some fried critters and turned the world’s attention to the possibility of eating insects.

The real question though isn’t how to flip a scorpion, but what would it take for you to swap your diet to a grub-filled one? If it’s not the known health benefits or celebrity trends, perhaps you’d be more inclined to eat insects because of its positive effects on the climate.

Environmental Benefits

It is estimated that the global population will reach 9 billion people by 2050, which means that's a lot of extra mouths to feed. Environmental scientists are worried that we will be producing livestock, such as cows, pigs, chickens and fish, on a mass scale in an attempt to keep up with the populations’ carnivorous appetites. This isn’t good news when we consider the fact that food production accounts for nearly 25% of all greenhouse gas emissions, and the predicted rise in population means that greenhouse gases will also rise to accommodate.

It’s not all doom and gloom though; if we can drastically reduce our meat intake, we can have a direct impact on the current climate decline. Luckily for us, by considering food sources such as insect alternatives, we can significantly reduce these greenhouse gas emissions. Online insect enthusiast, Crickster, says that “the production of edible insects creates 100 times fewer greenhouse emissions than the same amount of beef”. So, as our carbon footprint becomes more of a carbon hoof-print, now is the time to find alternative diets that drastically reduce the amount of farmed meat we consume.

I hear your groans, as you consider a life without pepperoni pizzas and juicy beef burgers. But modern companies and restaurants have come up with unique alternatives which mean that you don’t have to give up your guilty pleasures entirely. There are lots of new and unusual dishes like 'Critter Burgers', 'Cricket Carrot Cake' and 'Critter Kofta Patties' that you can try for yourself. Check out for more details on bug-based recipes.

If you’re tempted to sample some delicious insects, it should come as no surprise that Shanghai is the perfect place to practice entomophagy in China! As the melting pot city of East meets West, you can find edible insects being fried traditionally on street corners and in markets, but there are also a host of modern restaurants that have included bugs in their menu as a unique culinary experience. For some exotic Yunnan cuisine you can try Lotus Eatery (Dingxi Road), Southern Barbarian (Jinxian Road) provides a bohemian South-Eastern experience, or for those of you wanting to splash out you can treat yourself to a night at Shanghai’s avant-garde Ultraviolet.

With a fresh knowledge of the health and environmental benefits of eating insects, perhaps next time you find an insect on the plate in a restaurant, don’t send it back with a horrified complaint, but rather send compliments to the chef, for adding a crunch of sustainable protein to your meal.