While Americans were busy consuming 232 million turkeys last year (46 million of them on Thanksgiving), others were passing on the noble bird in favor of a snack of beetles, crickets and other arthropods and insects.  There are many places in the world that have markets full of these delicacies. If you sample this fare while roaming the world, are you being brave or just foolhardy?

In parts of Asia, Africa, South America and Australia insects, including locusts, crickets, beetles, caterpillars, and bamboo worms, are a common snack. Some people eat scorpions, and tradition says that eating the tail (where the stinger is) will make you strong. In China, you can also taste test exotics such as jellyfish, seahorses, starfish, and sea urchins.

Why eat them? Of course there’s the pure adrenaline rush around trying something new and unusual. But there are actually health benefits to eating insects. Pound for pound, insects contain more protein, fat, and carbohydrates than meat, and could help resolve hunger issues around the world.  They can even help address environmental concerns. Thailand’s countryside is drying out, possibly because of global warming, which makes it difficult to farm large animals, so some farmers are switching to raising insects.

While insects have not yet inspired a holiday feast, many local outdoor markets are brimming with choices on a daily basis.  The Wangfjing Street Market and Donghuamen Night Market got a lot of press during the Olympics, and offer tons of variety. Time Out in China recommends other, less-touristy options.

A few words of caution as you explore: in the interest of general food safety, choose things that are cooked right in front of you and have been prepared on a clean surface. Be sure you know what you’re eating, for example “fugu” in Japan is blowfish which can be poisonous if not prepared correctly.  Finally, please note if you have allergies that blossom into asthma, you want to avoid fried insects! Recent research suggests they contain high levels of histamine.

If you’re an experienced insect eater, we’d like to know this: is it the flavor or the texture that makes the memory?


About The Author

Emily Moran is a guest contributor to Healthy Travel Blog. During the school year, she is a math teacher and curriculum coordinator at Greene Street Friends School in Philadelphia. During vacation, she travels when she can, and lived and studied abroad in Paris, France while receiving her undergraduate degree. She received her Bachelor of Arts from Haverford College in Mathematics with a minor in French.

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