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Science News: Will insects become a major part of our diet?

– K.J., Editor

As the global population continues to increase, the consumption of animal-based protein will rise proportionally. Unfortunately, the meat industry will be put under immense strain to meet the dietary requirements of this growing population. Meat and dairy farming are our main source of protein, but are expensive to maintain and cause extensive damage to the natural environment. Thankfully, research into more cost-effective and eco-friendly sources of protein has provided a suitable, albeit a bit unappetizing, option: insects.

Insects are the largest group of animals on earth. One type of insect, the mealworm, is of particular interest to researchers. The mealworm is the yellowish-brown larval stage of species of darkling beetle. It is a decomposer that resembles a worm and is predated by other animals. Since they are protein-rich, mealworms are seen as a good addition to the human diet. Mealworm powder can be purchased and added to food for added protein and flavor. One suggestion is to sprinkle some onto your morning yogurt.

For some people, the idea of eating powdered insects can be nauseating. To help with this, chemists at Wonkwang University in South Korea recently discovered a solution: adding sugar during cooking to mealworms makes a more palatable “meat-like” flavor. Then, the mealworms can be added as seasoning to other dishes. This is a great idea for less adventurous eaters, particularly children and picky-eaters.

Though not the most esthetically appealing option, insects like mealworms offer a viable and nutritional protein source. Perhaps one day, we can even see mealworm farms as a common feature in every home... or perhaps not.

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