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Thinking about eating a cicada? Why experts say think again

Yes - they are edible. Experts say use caution.

This summer, in some parts of the country, cicadas will reappear after 17 years underground. Virginia is one of those places that will soon be buzzing with the red-eyed ground dwellers.

While it may not be common in Southwest Virginia, there’s plenty of ‘buzz’ about inviting these creepy crawlers to dinner — as the main course.

And it turns out, cicadas are edible. But if you decide to try them, Beth Czerwony, a Cleveland Clinic dietician, said to be mindful about where you harvest them.

“Remember, they’ve been in the ground for 17 years so they’ve been able to absorb pesticides, lawn fertilizer, any other chemical that you would put on your lawn, so maybe you don’t necessarily want to eat them if that’s something you would normally put in your backyard,” she advises.

Insects are commonly eaten by at least two billion people around the world, however, they’re not embraced as a food source in most western countries.

Like other insects, cicadas are thought to be high in protein and low in fat and carbs. One study suggests they may be high in antioxidants too.

If you have food allergies, experts like Czerwony urge to take caution when considering these insects. Cicadas are considered crustaceans, so they’re related to shellfish like shrimp and lobsters.

“They find it’s similar to shellfish, so if you’re allergic to shellfish, it is recommended that you avoid eating cicadas,” Czerwony said.

Shellfish are known to aggravate gout, a form of arthritis, so if you suffer from this condition experts recommend avoiding eating cicadas. The same goes for people who have a food allergy to shellfish.

Some cicadas may also contain significant levels of mercury, according to one preliminary study. Mercury exposure can be harmful to an unborn or young child’s nervous system, so experts advise pregnant women and young children to avoid eating these insects.


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