The Nutritional Quality of Insects as Food
Minerals and trace elements
Insects are generally consumed as whole (e.g. when powdered), including all tissue types such as head, organs etc. in the edible portion. This contribute to a generally higher content of minerals and vitamins, comparing to animal-source foods such as meat where a large proportion of the animal is not considered edible. This beneficial aspect of insects being consumed whole is similar to that the consumption of small fish, which are consumed whole with bones, head etc., is a much better source of minerals and vitamins compared to larger fish where only the fillet is consumed.
Insects are good sources of minerals like iron and zinc. Iron and zinc from animal-food sources are beneficial because of high bioavailability. Crickets also contain calcium, magnesium, sodium and chloride, selenium, and iodine.
Calcium is essential for the formation and maintenance of bone health. It is also necessary for blood clotting and for muscle and nerve functions. calcium deficiency can lead to osteomalacia and osteoporosis in adults and rickets and retarded growth in children. An excess intake can cause the formation of kidney stones and neural motor dysfunction.
Magnesium is important for teeth and bone structure. In addition, magnesium is required as a cofactor for various enzymes involved in energy metabolism and for RNA, DNA, and protein synthesis. Like calcium, magnesium is required for blood clotting.
Iron comes in two different types: heme (meat, offal) and non heme (pulses, vegetables, cereals, and dairy). Iron aids the transport of oxygen via haemoglobin present in red blood cells. Iron deficiency is probably the most common nutrient deficiency throughout the world and affects all populations.
Zinc is present in all body tissues and important for immune system, protein synthesis, growth, and wound healing. Zinc is also vital in synthesis of insulin.
Sodium and chloride help maintain the body’s water balance and sodium is essential for both nerve and muscle function. An excess of sodium chloride may result in high blood pressure whilst lack of salt may cause muscle cramps.
Selenium is essential in the production of red blood cells and development of the immune system. It is also important in thyroid metabolism. Areas with low selenium content in the soil have higher prevalence in selenium deficiency.
Iodine is essential in the synthesis of thyroxin. The thyroid hormone controls the metabolic processes in the body and affects energy metabolism as well as mental function (Campbell-Platt and International Union of Food Science and Technology, 2009).
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Joint Expert Consultation on Protein and Amino Acid Requirements in Human Nutrition, Weltgesundheitsorganisation, FAO, United Nations University (Eds.), 2007. Protein and amino acid requirements in human nutrition: report of a joint WHO/FAO/UNU Expert Consultation ; [Geneva, 9 - 16 April 2002], WHO technical report series. WHO, Geneva.
Roos, N., 2018. Insects and Human Nutrition, in: Halloran, A., Flore, R., Vantomme, P., Roos, N. (Eds.), Edible Insects in Sustainable Food Systems. Springer International Publishing, Cham, pp. 83–91. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-74011-9_5
Selenius, O., Korpela, J., Salminen, S., Gomez Gallego, C., 2018. Effect of Chitin and Chitooligosaccharide on In vitro Growth of Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG and Escherichia coli TG. Appl. Food Biotechnol. 5. https://doi.org/10.22037/afb.v5i3.20468
van Huis, A., Tomberlin, J.K. (Eds.), 2017. Insects as food and feed: from production to consumption. Wageningen Academic Publishers, The Netherlands. https://doi.org/10.3920/978-90-8686-849-0
USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference (January 2020) https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/ [1 https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/170604/nutrients] [2 https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/172188/nutrients ] [3 https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/174270/nutrients ]