forkA few years back, my husband and I were eating in a Mexican restaurant in New York City when the table next to us started laughing and carrying on about their appetizer. A father and teenage son were eating, while the mother and daughter were clearly declining the offering. When they offered us a bite - and told us they were eating were chapulines, or grasshoppers - my husband and I passed, saying that we were just too full to partake.
But it turns out that the father/son grasshopper-eating pair may have been on the forefront of a new protein source: bugs. Eating bugs isn't new to the rest of the world, as some 80 percent of the world population eats insects regularly, but here in the United States, people tend to get well, squirmy, at the idea.
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However, some companies are looking past the squeamishness and moving ahead with bug-based products. One such company, Exo, has raised more than $48,000 on Kickstarter to bring its "revolutionary protein source" to the masses in the form of protein bars. Luckily for potential purchasers of the bars, you can't actually see anything buggy in these bars. They're made from cricket flour, so you won't be crunching whole crickets should you choose to partake. But the nutritional value of the bars is noteworthy: They're high in protein, low in sugar, packed with omega 3s, iron, and calcium, while being free of unnatural sugars, gluten, grains, dairy, soy, and artificial preservatives.
Forbes called the Exo bar a protein of the future, as global demand for protein sources will increase as population booms. While I haven't tried it, staffers at National Geographic put it to the test, assuring consumers that there are no wings or legs to be seen (much to the delight and disappointment of testers). And don't worry, appliances are already in the works to help you with your new culinary critters, should you choose to go the home cooking route.
So are companies like Exo just a fly-by-night trend, or will they catch on? It's up to consumers to decide, but until then, know just a few of the buggy benefits before you decide for yourself! In addition to the nutritional strengths of bugs, like the high protein, as well as iron and zinc, rearing insects tends to produce fewer greenhouse gases than other protein sources. Plus, the genetic distance between humans and insects is so great that it's unlikely that diseases will jump species, as is the case with some flus.
I'm still a long way from being able to get on board with eating crickets. Sure, it helps that with the Exo bars you can't actually see the winged beasts. But if bugs are the protein of the future, I'm going to need some time to warm up to the idea.
Have you ever eaten a bug? Would you?
-By Erin Whitehead
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