06/07/2014 03:29 pm ET Updated Aug 07, 2014

Delicious Creepy Crawly Snacks Around the World

The United Nations wants us to just get over it... our inner cringe-response to eating insects, that is. Our six-legged neighbors have been getting the short end of the stick from squeamish humans, particularly as a food source which could solve the problems of growing poverty, pollution, and the lack of agricultural resources to feed a growing population of seven billion (which by 2050 will be around nine billion).

Click Here to see the Complete List of the Delicious Creepy Crawly Snacks Around the World

Entomologist (bug specialist) and champion for insectivores everywhere Marcel Dicke explained in a TED talk that Americans are already eating a lot more insects than they realize: at least 500 grams of the creepy crawlies are crushed into their processed food every year. No, it's not a conspiracy -- during the preparation and packaging of many processed foods, bugs do make their way into the mix quite by accident, and so the USDA allows for a certain ratio in all food from peanut butter (50 insect fragments allowed per 100 grams) to ketchup (30 fruit fly eggs per 100 grams). It's allowed because, really, eating insects is not bad for your health... it's actually really, really good for you.

  • 1 Insect Sushi, Japan
    The Japanese have long known about the incredible health benefits of eating delicious insects. Rumor has it that Japanese emperor Hirohito in the 1900s favored a meal of cooked rice and canned wasps with soy sauce and sugar. Insects are currently eaten in many dishes, though the latest craze is insect sushi with all manner of tasty creepy crawlies served on top. Click Here to see More Delicious Creepy Crawly Snacks Around the WorldPhoto Credit:
  • 2 Flying Termites, Uganda
    Also known as white ants, or easels, these termites are a great source of protein and fat. In fact, they may even be a higher source of protein than their weight in beef steak. Termites are usually collected from their mounds or as they swarm before a big rain. Photo Credit:
  • 3 Grilled Mopani Worms, South Africa
    The mopani worm is really not a worm at all — it’s a caterpillar, and it’s considered both a staple protein source for people living in rural areas in southern Africa, and a delicacy for those living in urban areas. These critters are often grilled on an open-air barbeque with spices, and usually eaten by pinching the little black head between your thumb and forefinger while squeezing the rest of the creamy white body into your mouth. Photo Credit: © Flickr / Roland I'm not gonna tell ya my last name Click Here to see More Delicious Creepy Crawly Snacks Around the World
  • 4 Dried Grasshopper Tacos, New York (USA)
    Mexican restaurant Toloache, in midtown Manhattan, offers a range of crunchy bug dishes including chapulines tacos (two tacos stuffed with Oaxacan-style dried grasshoppers). Photo Credit: © Flickr / Sanna
  • 5 Weaver-Ant Pupae, Laos and Thailand
    Weaver ants and their eggs are consumed as a delicacy in Thailand and Laos and are sold in markets all over the region. They’re also really nutritious and are eaten solo or with sticky rice, shallots, chilies, lime, lettuce, and spices. Click Here to see More Delicious Creepy Crawly Snacks Around the WorldPhoto Credit: Wikipedia/ Wikicommons

Bugs are a comparable protein source to pork, beef, and chicken; they're also an excellent source of other nutrition, serving up everything from minerals to vitamins to fatty acids and fiber. Most insects, such as mealworms, also contain a comparable amount of omega-3 fatty acids to that in fish. Also, Mopani caterpillars have an iron content that ranges from 31-77 milligrams per 100 grams of dry weight versus only six milligrams per 100 grams of dry weight in beef. Insects also produce a lot less waste and are far more environmentally friendly than meat production.

The United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization even tells us there are more than 1,900 edible insect species on the planet, so with dwindling crop and meat food resources, it makes sense to just eat more insects. Many countries around the world are already doing just that; in fact, 36 African countries are "entomophagous" (meaning they eat insects), as are 23 in the Americas, 29 in Asia, and even 11 in Europe. Raw termites are a popular tasty treat in Uganda, crispy fried locusts are a common snack food in Thailand, in Mexico ant larvae make a nutty delicious bite, and in South Africa many people enjoy eating grilled Mopane worms.

It's not a purely foreign concept, either; insects have actually been crawling onto U.S. menus for years. In California a local confectioner is serving up a range of candy covered insects, from chocolate-dipped scorpions to insect candy suckers -- all made with real insects, of course. And in New York a local Mexican restaurant offers a range of insect dishes, including tacos piled high with crispy dried grasshoppers.

Insects really are the six-legged meat of the future, and once you get over your initial aversion, making a meal of them just makes good sense, and can be quite tasty too. Here are some of the most delicious creepy crawly snacks and dishes from around the world.

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-Serusha Govender, The Daily Meal

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