- In a BBC interview, Angelina Jolie revealed how she and her kids love to eat bugs
- Bugs have been shown to have plenty of protein, fiber, healthy fats and vitamins
- UN figures reveal more than two billion people eat insects as part of their diet
For most, a go-to snack is a bag of nuts, a piece of fruit, or even a shake. For Angelina Jolie, however, it’s bugs.
In a segment last week on BBC News, the actress and her children visited Cambodia (where her eldest son was adopted from) and they dined on tarantulas and scorpions.
Jolie is seen showing her eight-year-old twins, Knox and Vivienne, how to prepare spiders in a skillet.
‘See the hard part where you have the teeth? Take the fangs out,’ she tells them.
But the Hollywood star is far from the first person to eat insects.
Scientists have been trying to get people to eat bugs for years as they are high in protein and may contain even more iron than beef.
Angelina Jolie shares a plate of scorpions with her eight-year-old twins Knox (left) and Vivienne (second to the right). Insects are common bugs eaten around the world with studies showing that they are good for us
The actress takes a bite of a scorpion. Studies have found bugs like crickets and grasshoppers to be a far better source of iron for humans than beef
In an interview on Good Morning America Tuesday, the mother-of-six spoke about her past experience eating bugs.
‘I first had them when I was first in [Cambodia],’ she said.
‘Crickets, you start with crickets. Crickets and a beer and then you kind of move up to tarantulas.’
She added that her kids could ‘eat a bag of crickets like a bag of chips’.
A plateful of dried crickets may not seem like the most appetizing food choice, but studies have shown that they – and other insects – are quite nutritious.
A study published last year in the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry found that insects can provide as much magnesium, iron, and other nutrients as steak.
And researchers at the American Chemical Society (ACS) found grasshoppers and crickets to be a far better source of many nutrients, particularly iron, compared to beef.
Grasshoppers, mealworms, and crickets all had higher concentrations of chemically available calcium, copper and zinc than the sirloin.
According to registered dietitian Vandana Sheth, a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, bugs can be a healthy addition to your diet.
‘In general, insects can be high in protein (about 60 to 70 percent), low in carbohydrates, and provide vitamins, minerals, and fat,’ she told Health.com.
She added though that there are almost two thousand species of edible bugs, and not all of them are superfoods.
‘Because of the wide variety of edible insect species, their nutritional value is highly variable,’ Sheth said.
WHERE BUGS ARE ON THE MENU AROUND THE WORLD
Bugs are a feature in the diets of more than two billion people, UN figures estimate. More than 1,900 species of insects are considered edible.
A popular snack food in Thailand, called jing leed, features deep-fried crickets served with a soy-type sauce.
In Mexico, you can find chicatanas – pan-roasted ants served with a wedge of lime.
The Japanese eat fried cicada and silk moth pupae.
Meanwhile ants are a popular snack in China and Brazil.
And because many bugs come into contact with pesticides and other chemicals, it’s important to purchase them from reliable sources.
While in many Western countries bugs are considered to have a ‘yuck factor’, many of the world’s cuisines include insects.
According to a 2013 report from the Food and Agriculture Organizations of the United Nations (FAO), over a quarter of the world eats some form of bugs.
It read: ‘From ants to beetle larvae – eaten by tribes in Africa and Australia as part of their subsistence diets – to the popular, crispy-fried locusts and beetles enjoyed in Thailand, it is estimated that insect-eating is practiced regularly by at least two billion people worldwide.’
A number of companies have jumped on the trend to turn insects into a profitable industry.
Exo, an American company founded in 2013, specializes in making cricket protein bars. Heilu, a Canadian company, specializes in making powder and butter from insects.
Even a few high-end restaurants have begun to dabble in serving bugs on their menus. The Michelin-starred restaurant Aphrodite, in France, serves up mealworms and crickets with foie gras.
And British chef Peter Gorton paired with entomologist Peter Smithers to feature a menu that had bugs in every dish.
Sheth, the dietitian, says if the idea of swallowing a bug sounds unappetizing, to try instead a product made from insect flour, like cricket chips or cricket protein bars.
In addition to their health benefits, bugs have been seen as a way to help socioeconomic issues. Population growth has led to an increased pressure on the food supply.
Unlike traditional livestock, bugs are much easier to find and bug farms could be the most efficient animal farms out there.
Crickets, for example, need 12 times less food than cattle and half as much as pigs for the same amount of animal protein.
This ACS graph shows how beef matches up to crickets, grasshoppers, mealworms (center) and buffalo worms (second from bottom) in terms of iron absorption