Insects as Nutrition

Mealworm Stir-fry

Mealworm Stir-fry

Insects can be appreciated and investigated from many points of view. Interest in insects as a future food source is high because human population increases will require more production and new sources of food. Nutritionists are interested in insects as food value and bring a reductionist approach. Rumpold & Schlüter* have published a review of the nutritional compositions of 236 edible insect species. Their compilation allows for comparison of nutritional quality that can inform decisions on what insects are the best sources of energy, protein, minerals and vitamins. The animal and human diets of the future may contain blends of insect derived nutrients.

Rumpold & Schlüter found wide variation in nutrient content but were able to make some generalizations. Most insects store energy as fat, not carbohydrate and use proteins for a variety of structural and metabolic functions. The energy content is primarily from proteins and lipids. Lipids and proteins are relatively energy dense compared to carbohydrates giving insects a high caloric value relative to their weight. Almost 80 percent of edible insects measured have caloric content above 400 kcal/100 g and 41 percent are above 500 kcal/100 g. The caloric value of insects is high even relative to meat.

Insects can feed on a variety of foods that are not edible by humans or our livestock. Raising insects on otherwise inedible food is one way to utilize more of the available biomass for human nutrition. Basic studies of nutrient content combined with innovative processing methods will lead to new foods of the future.

*Birgit A. Rumpold, Oliver K. Schlüter. 2013. Nutritional composition and safety aspects of edible insects. Molecular Nutrition & Food Research
Volume 57, Issue 5, pages 802–823.
DOI: 10.1002/mnfr.201200735

About jjneal

Jonathan Neal is a retired Associate Professor of Entomology at Purdue University and author of the textbook, Living With Insects (2010). This blog is a forum to communicate about the intersection of insects with people and policy. This is a personal blog. The opinions and materials posted here are those of the author and are in no way connected with those of my employer.
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1 Response to Insects as Nutrition

  1. argylesock says:

    Reblogged this on Science on the Land and commented:
    argylesock says… Insects have great potential as food and feed. Here’s a summary of how that can happen, is already happening, and will happen more.

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