Updated 02 August 2019

Locusts, mopani worms and termites – 'It’s time to reclaim traditional staple food'

More of a novelty than a star ingredient, insects are in fact nutrient rich. Yet they have fallen off many a menu, despite their health benefits.

Most families around Limpopo considered insects as part of their staple food, but nowadays, this isn’t the case anymore.

Although insects are rich in protein, healthy fats, iron, and calcium, and low in carbohydrate, people don’t include them in their daily diets like before.

Exposure to various diseases

Traditional healer, Norman Makhaza (71) says when he was growing up, there were hardly any people who suffered from non-communicable diseases (NCDs) like diabetes and hypertension because of the food they used to eat. This included insects such as locusts, mopani worms, and termites. They also ate lots of fresh vegetables. 

Makhaza says: “Insects were part of our staple food. We used to run around bushes catching locusts and looking for termites. Those are the types of food which are good for people’s health and bodies, but we hardly eat them these days. [We are] exposed to various diseases due to the type of food we are currently eating.

According to a 2013 report by the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations, it is estimated that insects form part of the traditional diets of at least two billion people. More than 1 900 species have reportedly been used as food.

Only old people eating insects

”Insects are healthy and nutritious alternatives to chicken, pork, beef and ocean-caught fish," the report says. Because insects have a low-fat content, it could be that entomophagy – the practice of eating insects – may be a way to eat healthier.

Makhaza says it’s time to reclaim traditional staple food. “Because if we don’t, most of our people will hardly reach the age of 50 due to junk food, processed meat, sugary drinks and alcohol abuse.

Namadzavho Muvhulawa sells mopani worms in Thohoyandou. She says it worries her that most young people don’t like eating insects. “[I have] been selling mopani worms for years [and I’ve] come to realise that it is only the older people who actually grew up eating insects such as locusts. And those same people enjoy eating mopani worms.”

– Health-e News

Image credit: iStock


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