An Overview of the Benefits of Insects as a Food Source

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The practice of eating insects, or entomophagy, dates back to prehistoric times. One of the most popular insects that people eat is crickets. Due to consumers’ desire for sustainable protein, products containing cricket protein are gaining popularity. Crickets are high in nutrients and protein. They may also be more durable than other sources of protein like beef. Some people don’t like eating crickets, however, because they are concerned about food safety. Here, we’ll explore the potential benefits and risks of using crickets for food.

Why are people eating crickets and other insects

For thousands of years, people have been using crickets as food in many parts of the globe. Biblical writings dating back to the third century B.C. mention cricket consumption. Eating insects is also a part of traditional cultures in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. There are approximately 2,100 insect species that humans use for food. The most popular insect to eat is the cricket.

Insects can be a cost-effective, sustainable and easy to produce source of nutrients. They are particularly rich in protein. Most people eat crickets in countries with low resources, where food insecurity is common and other animal sources of protein like chicken, turkey, and fish are rare.

Research has shown that Westerners are uncomfortable eating insects due to their tendency to see them as potentially harmful or unclean. However, people are becoming more open to cricket consumption in Europe and the United States. Food companies have developed user-friendly products based on cricket, such as protein powders and bars.

The benefits of eating crickets

There are many benefits to eating crickets. The health benefits of crickets are unknown, but they can provide more sustainable and eco-friendly protein than any other animal-based sources. One 2020 review revealed that edible crickets are more protein-rich than other animal-based protein sources like chicken, goat, and pork. It was found that cricket protein can be digested by the body better than eggs, milk, and beef. It was also found that cricket protein digested better than other plant-based protein sources like corn and rice.

An important note is that the hard exoskeleton of crickets contains chitin, a type of insoluble fiber. Cricket protein digestibility is variable because of this, so digestibility of cricket protein increases dramatically when the exoskeleton has been removed. Research shows that cricket protein powder has about 65.5% protein and a fiber content as high as 13.4%.

Some cricket species are complete protein sources, while some are not. This means they have all nine essential amino acids. Amino acids are the building blocks of protein, and while our body can make some, it has to get others, called essential amino acids, from diet. So, if you want to increase your daily intake of protein, you might consider using cricket-based products like protein powders or protein bars.

A good source of vitamins and minerals

Besides protein and fiber, crickets also contain some fat, and have high levels of Folate, Biotin and pantothenic acid. One study showed that crickets had a 180% higher iron content than beef. Crickets also contain calcium and Vitamin B.

Also, the majority of fat in crickets is polyunsaturated oils. These have been linked to health benefits including lowering risk factors for heart disease.

An alternative protein source that is environmentally friendly

It is possible to raise insects for food, such as crickets, that are more sustainable and eco-friendly than raising cattle, chickens, or pigs. One study showed that chickens cooked in broilers were 89% more likely to emit greenhouse gases than crickets per unit of edible protein.

According to the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization, 14.5% of global greenhouse gas emissions are caused by livestock. It is smart to reduce your consumption of red meat and replace it with sustainable alternatives like plant or insect protein. If farmers feed their food scraps to their insects, insect farming can help reduce food waste. Incorporating insects into a diet can help industrialized nations create a more sustainable food system, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

May benefit gut health

Research suggests that chitin (the insoluble fiber in crickets) may have a beneficial effect on gut health. The beneficial bacteria growth in the gut may be promoted by chitin, which could act as a Prebiotic. A 2018 study that involved 20 healthy individuals found that whole cricket powder consumption for 25g per day for two weeks resulted in an increase in beneficial bacteria growth.

People who consumed cricket powder also had lower levels of tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNFa) than those who ate a controlled diet.

These results suggest that cricket may be good for your gut health. Unfortunately, there is not enough research to determine how cricket consumption may impact gut health.

Is there a risk of eating crickets?

Although cricket has many health benefits, there are still many Western consumers who remain skeptical about cricket-based foods products because of safety concerns. Like other protein sources, and just any food, there are safety considerations.

Studies have shown that those who are allergic to dust mites or shellfish could also be allergic to insects. However, scientists are still lacking in research on this topic. They need to conduct more studies to understand the possibility of allergic reactions to insects.

Researchers warn that insects like crickets could also be carriers of pathogens that can infect humans or animals. Researchers analyzed insect samples taken from 300 Central European household insect farms and pet shops in a 2019 study. More than 81% of all the invertebrate farms were found to have parasites, according to the study. The researchers discovered parasites in 30% of the cases. However, not all farms are created equal. This is just a warning that eating insects can make you sick, much like eating livestock. Insect farms must follow strict safety guidelines when producing crickets for human consumption. Scientists need to conduct more research in order to understand the risks associated with eating insects like crickets.

The bottom line

Because crickets are high in nutrition and inexpensive, they are popular all over the globe. The good news is that crickets can be a great source of fiber, protein, fat, vitamins and minerals. They may even benefit your gut health. They are also a healthier protein choice than animal-based proteins like chicken and beef.

Eating insects can pose health risks such as allergic reactions or pathogen contamination. You should only purchase cricket products from trusted sources.

You can try cricket products by purchasing protein powders or bars made from cricket-based ingredients, such as protein bars from brands such as Up Proteins.


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