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Noon Edition

Insect Antioxidants

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Y:        Don, don’t eat that! I don’t know how, but a bunch of grasshoppers got into your taco—look.

D:        They got in my taco because I put them there. Want a taste?

Y:        You’re eating grasshoppers… on purpose?

D:        It only sounds weird because we’re not used to it here. In many parts of the world, bugs are a normal part of people’s diets—they’re just another animal, after all. One huge benefit of eating bugs, though, is that they’re a much more sustainable source of food than other animals: they have a tiny carbon footprint compared to, say, cows or pigs. They’re also a great source of protein, healthy fats, vitamins, minerals, and fiber. And not only that—research shows that insects have a lot of antioxidants, which fight free radicals in our bodies.

Y:        Just like blueberries and kale?

D:        But with legs and antennas. The scientists removed the insects’ wings and stings, then ground them up and extracted the fat and whatever would dissolve in water. Then they tested the extracts for antioxidant content.

Y:        Which had the most antioxidants?

D:        Grasshoppers, silkworms, and crickets—all plant-eaters—topped the list, with levels of antioxidants comparable to fresh orange juice. On the opposite end of the spectrum were carnivorous bugs like giant cicadas, giant water bugs, black tarantulas, and black scorpions. Another interesting find was that the bugs didn’t have many polyphenols, which are usually the source of antioxidants in foods. That means that most of the antioxidants in bugs come from different compounds that have yet to be discovered.

Y:        In the meantime, maybe I’ll try a bite of your taco.

Photo of a grasshopper.

Grasshoppers have levels of antioxidants comparable to fresh orange juice. (Wikimedia Commons)

It sounds weird because we're not used to it here, but in many parts of the world, bugs are a normal part of people's diets. After all, insects are also animals.

One huge benefit of eating bugs, though, is that they're a much more sustainable source of food than other animals. They have a tiny carbon footprint compared to, say, cows or pigs. They're also a great source of protein, healthy fats, vitamins, minerals, and fiber.

That's not all, either. Research shows that insects have a lot of antioxidants, which fight free radicals in our bodies. In a sense they're just like blueberries and kale, except with legs and antennas. 

The scientists removed the insects' wings and stings, then ground them up and extracted the fat and whatever would dissolbe in water. Then they tested the extracts for antioxidant content.

The insects with the most antioxidants were grasshoppers, silkworms, and crickets. All of these are plant eaters and have levels of antioxidants comparable to fresh orange juice. On the opposite end of the spectrum were carnivorous bugs like giant cicadas, giant water bugs, black tarantulas, and black scorpions. 

Another interesting find was that the bugs didn't have many polyphenols, which are usually the source of antioxidants in foods. That means that most of the antioxidants in bugs come from different compounds that have yet to be discovered.

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