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Healthy Living

Bugs for Breakfast?

Most Europeans would be horrified at the thought of eating insects, although insects are considered a perfectly normal food in Africa and southeast Asia - because they're full of valuable nutrients.

Experts see insects as a nutritious and healthy source of food, with lots of protein, vitamins and minerals. The nutritional value of edible insects varies greatly, however, according to their species, stage in their life cycles and preparation. Most insect species are rich in unsaturated fatty acids, roughage and amino acids. In addition they contain micronutrients such as copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, selenium and zinc. Some insects also contain substances such as riboflavin, pantothenic acid, biotin and folic acid. Mealworms - the larvae of the mealworm beetle - for instance, have as many valuable omega-3 fatty acids as fish.

But can eating insects also spread diseases? The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization says the risk is of insects transmitting zoonotic diseases such as H1N, bird flu and BSE, mad cow disease, is very low.

According to estimates, insects form part of the diet of at least two billion people. An overview by the FAO says that, at 31 percent, beetles are the most frequently eaten insects, followed by caterpillars (18 percent), and bees, wasps and ants (14 percent). Locusts, crickets, cicadas, termites, dragonflies and flies are also used as sources of food by humans.

Most people in Germany wouldn't put insects on their plates. A survey found that two thirds (65 percent) said they would generally not include insects in their diet. 73 percent of the women asked said that, and 57 percent of the men.