Health

Jingle Bugs menu: Why you should consider eating these insects this holiday season

By Karla Pequenino, CNN

Updated 12:02 PM ET, Tue December 27, 2016
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Entomophagy -- the human use of insects as food -- brings many health and environmental benefits, including increased protein and less greenhouse gases than livestock. CNN talked to some ento-chefs about their special Jingle Bugs menu.

"Humans would be doing themselves a pretty solid turn by adding insects to their diet. And of course, a large percentage of the world's population has relied, and continues to rely, on insects in their diet," said Chief Entomologist Zack Lemann from Audubon Butterfly Garden and Insectarium.

To start the party, he recommends elevating simple cheese on crackers with a sprinkle of ants. Different ants have different flavors -- from sweet to savory - but for Lemann they are a nice way to introduce skeptics to a bug meal.

Pictured: Ants and crackers from Audubon's Bug Appetit Eatery.
Audubon Images/Bug Appétit-Media

Pictured
: Fried dragonflies over mushrooms from Audubon's, Bug Appetit Eatery.

Dragonflies are listed as some of the most eaten insects worldwide by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).
Frying dragonflies may not be healthier than frying dough, but it is much better for the environment.

"Virtually all agro-ecosytems benefit from insects because they can naturally control harmful pest species," reads the FAO's latest report on Edible Insects.
Audubon Images/Bug Appétit-Media

Pictured:
Orthopteran Orzo salad, a combination of grain shaped pasta and crickets, from the "Eat-a-Bug Cookbook" by Chef David George Gordon.

"It's a great blend of carbohydrates, vegetables and protein. I used cricket nymphs because they don't have wings, so they're less crunchy," Gordon told CNN

Orthopterans are a type of insect that includes grasshoppers, locusts and crickets. In addition to protein, crickets are rich in calcium and contain Omega-3 fatty acids.
Chugrad McAndrews/David George Gordon/Eat-a-Bug Cookbook/Ten Speed Press

Pictured:
Scorpion Scaloppine, by Chef Gordon.

Scaloppine is a traditional Italian dish where thin slices of meat -- often veal, pork or chicken -- are thinly sliced and sautéed to go with a wine sauce.

Gordon recommends drenching scorpions in low fat milk and cornmeal before cooking them in hot butter until golden brown.
Scorpions are not technically insects, according to the FAO, but are included in their report on Edible insects.
David George Gordon/Eat-a-Bug Cookbook/Ten Speed Press

Pictured: Mealworm Pizza Pissaladiére, served at the Salad Bug Dinner at Witte Museum in San Antonio, Texas.
Pissaladière is a dish from Southern France. The dough is usually thicker than classic pizza. The slightly bitter taste of mealworms combined with the delicate flaky crust makes a delicious main meal
Mealworms are a great source of Omega-3 fatty acids according to the FAO, and a more drought resistant and reliable food source than cattle.
Leandra Blei photography

Pictured: Amaretto Honeypots

"Filled with sweetness, honeypot ants are the crème de la crème of the insect world," wrote Chef Gordon back in 1998 when he first published his "Eat-a-Bug Cookbook.

"The honeypot ants are a favorable delicacy — just like those gourmet honey sticks you bought as a kid," Gordon told CNN.
These ants are exceptionally large and selected to serve as storage for nectar and honeydew, which gives them a delicious and crunchy taste if you dare to bite them.
Chugrad McAndrews/David George Gordon/Ten Speed Press

Despite all the benefits, if you're still unsure of giving insects a chance, just add chocolate.

Pictured: Chocolate Cremeux with toasted crickets made with whole crickets, cricket flour and aromatic black ants, created by pastry chef Ernest Lopez of San Antonio's Eilan Hotel.

"Edible insects offer a whole new world of flavor and texture that you've likely never experienced," said Meghan Curry, an entomophagist and founder of Bug Vivant, an online based culinary hub which introduces edible insects to kitchens globally.
Leandra Blei photography

Pictured: Chocolate Chirp Cookies for Santa, from Audubon's Bug Appetit Eatery.

Made with cricket flour and dry roasted crickets, these cookies are packed with protein.

Traditional chocolate cookies will only have 4.9 grams of protein per 100 grams, but with addition of crickets the number increases to 16.9 grams.
Audubon Images/Bug Appétit-Media

Pictured: Fruit fly cakes, from Audubon's Bug Appetit Eatery, by chef Zack Lemann

"We already eat crustaceans -- basically bugs of the water -- why not eat insects?," he told CNN.

"Take home message: most insects are good for way more than just protein! They have high amounts of iron, calcium, niacin, phosphorus, riboflavin, and thiamine."
Audubon Images/Bug Appétit-Media