Oceans are being over-fished. Agriculture is encroaching on natural parks and protected areas. Food sources all over the world are slowly being depleted. Meanwhile, the population is ever increasing.

With the demand for food increasing and the sources of food shrinking, we need to find creative solutions to help sustain the human population. One such solution? Eating insects.

Billions of people worldwide are already incorporating bugs into their diets.Over 2,000 insect species act as a source of food for over 3,000 different ethnic groups in roughly 130 countries. In other words, 80 percent of the world is already eating insects. But, in the United States, other than the zoo gift shop, select restaurants and the fine print on most processed goods, one may not find many bugs being openly eaten in the United States as in the rest of the world.

Because of their myriad benefits to human health and sustainability, the United States should more openly incorporate insects and other edible bugs into the country’s general food sources because they are full of nutrition, sustainable and would be easily integrated by the government.

One reason Americans tend to avoid eating insects is because as children, many are taught that bugs are pests. People in the United States are generally taught that some bugs bite, some bugs sting and all bugs are something that should be avoided or exterminated. Unlike in other countries such as Japan, where bugs like bamboo caterpillars are a common occurance on menus, edible insects are simply not part of the United States’ social identity. Despite this societal aversion, eating edible bugs would have a positive effect on Americans for many reasons, one being health benefits.

Despite their small size, edible bugs have a lot of nutritional value, as they are more protein- and vitamin-dense than many of the foods we currently consume. Crickets have 68 grams of protein per 100 grams. Lean-cut beef has only 30 grams of protein per 100 grams and retail-cut beef has only eight grams of protein per 100 grams. Also, it takes more than 95 times the water and 26 times the food to raise a kilogram of beef than a kilogram of crickets, making crickets far more environmentally sustainable and economically sensible. Also, there are many ways to consume insects like crickets, and not all of them involve the ingestion of the entire, raw bug.

A more common way to consume insects is to grind them into a protein-rich flour for baking or other uses. Cricket flour is both environmentally friendly and sustainable. Only one-fourth of a cup of cricket flour can provide seven grams of protein. This source of protein is something the United States should not overlook.

Incorporating bugs into the general United States diet could help meet food needs of humanity’s ever-growing population. Currently, the world’s population is roughly seven billion people, but by 2050, that number is expected to grow by over two billion. With crop loss to climate change factored in, it is estimated 50 percent more food will be required to feed the anticipated nine billion people in roughly 30 years. Food sources can be made more sustainable by including edible insects.

Insects are arguably one of the largest groups of animals on Earth, and it’s even estimated that insects make up 80 percent of all animals. With this amount of nutritionally beneficial insects in the world, there’s no reason not to take advantage of this undervalued resource. Still, many people may have reservations about incorporating bugs into their diets.

Because of the general societal disgust surrounding bugs in the United States, some may still be averse to their consumption, despite their many benefits. However, because the FDA has several rules allowing for insects in processed foods — such as three maggots per 28-ounce can of tomatoes and 136 insect fragments per 16-ounce jar of peanut butter — most Americans are already eating bugs, they just aren’t fully aware of it. Americans are already consuming insects, so we might as well take the plunge and get used to the idea of openly ingesting them.

In order to successfully incorporate edible insects into the general diet, Americans need to overcome the stigma surrounding the consumption of bugs. One company that takes promoting bug consumption to heart is Brooklyn Bugs, a team of chefs and scientists in New York City with the mission of showing kids and adults that bugs can be tasty. They throw kids festivals, college tours, Ten-Course Chef’s Table events and much more, all promoting the eating of insects. This company is one of many who have taken on the mission of creating a country where bugs are readily incorporated into food. Americans should try to follow their example and be open to new ways of gaining nutrition.

Americans should openly incorporate more insects and other bugs into general food sources. Insects are high in nutritional value, are high in number and the stigma around them could easily be shaken down. Americans need to get over the negativity of eating insects, not just for their own nutritional needs, but for the rest of the world as well.

Emma Kopplin is a freshman anthropology major. Reach her at opinion@dailynebraskan.com or via @DNopinion.