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Novel Food: how insects have changed the icing on the cake

Our love for sugar is an innate characteristic, closely linked to our nature as mammals. From breast milk, the first source of nurture in our lives, we are at risk of signing an implicit condemnation, or the risk of developing a dependence on sugar.

Serotonin, dopamine and beta-endorphins (endogenous opioids) are the main neurotransmitters involved in the metabolic mechanisms that affect sugar. When we introduce carbohydrates rich food in into the body, we practically activate the same neuronal circuits affected by sexual and psychoactive experiences. Pleasure, calm and gratification: sweetness is a reassuring taste, inevitably associated with positive sensations; as a result, we are genetically inclined to accept it and want for more.

The unbearable desire for sweetness has been renamed craving: it consists in the uncontrollable search for foods with a high sugar content. The brain and central nervous system, under normal dietary conditions, use sugar as an immediate source of energy. Other tissues, such as red blood cells or muscles, when subjected to physical exertion of a certain intensity, also depend on glucose for their metabolic activity.

Therefore, we could justify ourselves by stating that, from an evolutionary standpoint and in order to keep the body healthy, we have to stick to the chocolate jar from time to time. However, the daily carbohydrate requirement of an adult person should be around 50-60% of the total calorie quota, and only 10-15% of the total should come from simple sugars, otherwise called free sugars, such as glucose, fructose and sucrose.

When less is more

Excessive amounts of sugar can have disastrous consequences on the body, such as obesity, diabetes and heart failure. Other negative effects are the weakening of the immune system, premature aging of the skin, hormonal imbalances, muscular atrophy. On the psychological level, it seems that consuming too much sugary food increases the levels of anxiety and emotional instability, and brings with it problems of concentration and reduced learning ability.
Of course, we are talking about real abuse, a condition that occurs when the diet degenerates into gluttonous anarchy. In fact, Sugars are hidden in many industrial food compounds that can be classified as junk food, such as carbonated drinks or snacks, which should be absolutely avoided. It is better to satisfy the palate with naturally sugary foods that act on the biochemistry of the brain without harming health such as, for example, fresh and dried fruit, honey, dark chocolate, cereals and (why not?) insects.

Third millennium pastry

This novel food is in fact also entering the sweet production sector. The first tasting of insect patisseries, authorized by proxy, was held in 2015 at the Coop Forum Centre of the Future Food District of Expo Milano, during a meeting organized by Edible Insects: a chocolate chip garnished with walnut kernels and dried crickets, repurposed even on top of a crumble of chocolate biscuits with ricotta reduction.
Those who have tasted them say that crickets are more than edible: their taste is reminiscent of almond chicken, but it carries a sweet scent of vanilla and chocolate notes. Ants, on the other hand, are like peanuts; bugs smell like apples. Master Bug, a.k.a Roberto Cavasin, has been experimenting for some months the combination of classic cuisine with novel food, and has collected on his blog a collection of video-recipes inspired by the Mediterranean style, made with the use of insects. Eight dessert recipes: cannoli filled with strawberry mousse and ants, with crispy silkworms; locusts’ ice cream; cheesecake and tiramisu with crickets; biscuits and muffins with cricket flour. All the recipes are based on ingredients of the traditional cuisine (milk, cream, eggs, etc.), reinterpreted with this novel food ingredient.
When the sweet is a bug in the ear, insects can come to the aid and seduce the palate. Silkworm extract have been used in China as an energy reconstructing and aphrodisiac supplement, apparently promoting testosterone production. Black ants, on the other hand, are an excellent sexual enhancer due to their high concentration of zinc (180 mg per gram of dried product). In addition, in the entrails of the Vespa Mandarinia - the Asian Giant Hornet - there seem to be highly exciting enzymes. Lastly, by infusing a scorpion it is possible to obtain mescal and grappa, apparently excellent liqueurs at the end of a meal as a sweet prelude to after-dinner.

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