Consuming insects has been a part of different cultures for as far back as history can be recalled. Entomophagy is the practice of eating insects and it has exploded in popularity as people are looking for a sustainable alternative food source.
Crickets are a common source of food for those that consume insects. It has turned into something past a trend, with items such as cricket flour turning up in commercially produced goods.
These little critters are touted as some of the best protein sources in the insect kingdom… but just how much protein do they have?
On average, a 100-gram serving of adult crickets contains up to 20 grams of protein. Cricket powder will have up to 65% protein per 100-gram serving.
A lot of science still needs to be done regarding how much crickets really can do to improve our diet.
This article aims to clear up a lot of the questions surrounding eating this sustainable food source. Let’s take a look at why people would want to eat crickets in the first place.
Why Do People Eat Crickets and Other Insects?
Eating insects has been a part of history since biblical times as even in scripture it is mentioned that people ate crickets.
In modern times, crickets are eaten all across the world in Asia, Africa, and South America. There are still primitive tribes today that eat insects as their core protein source.
There are many reasons why these indigenous people consume crickets and it all comes down to nutritional resources.
Crickets are sustainable, meaning they can be produced at a rate that can feed people and keep within the natural rhythm of the species.
Insects are cheap to produce, which means you can have a large farm of crickets without a lot of overhead costs.
Loaded with nutrients, crickets are a source of vital nutrients and valuable protein and fats.
More and more people in western countries are warming up to the idea of including insects in their diet.
The key lies in making consumer-friendly products that make the idea of eating crickets more palpable.
As consumers see the value in the nutrition that crickets bring, more products will be in demand and you’ll start to see items on grocery store shelves.
Advertising has increased for eating crickets with new studies also being released all the time.
The climate change awareness that various governments are focusing on is fuelling their need to reduce the carbon footprint of their country.
Imagine driving through the country and instead of seeing cattle farms, there will be insect farms producing your food.
All agricultural benefits aside, there is more than what lies atop the surface with crickets. Sure, they have a lot of protein, but the magic lies in their complete nutritional value.
Nutrition Breakdown of a Cricket
Crickets provide a variety of nutrients and minerals that our bodies use to perform different functions including repairing muscle tissue, controlling your immune response, and providing energy to go about your day.
The nutrients you can find within crickets include:
- Pantothenic Acid
Iron in particular is pretty high in crickets as a study shows that they contain more than 150% the amount of iron than beef.
Other vitamins such as vitamin C, vitamin B, and riboflavin were higher than what was found in meat products.
A lot of buzz has been surrounding crickets and gut health. They are shown to have a surprisingly large amount of fiber, linked to their cellulose-type shell called chitin. In a 100-gram serving of adult crickets there can be as much as 13.4% fiber.
Lastly, you can find polyunsaturated fatty acids within crickets which have been found to have positive effects on heart health.
The Benefits of Eating Crickets
In a survival situation, eating crickets is meant to provide you with the energy and nutrition that you need to keep going until you’re rescued.
For homesteaders, crickets can provide vital energy in lean times. Crickets can offer a different source of sustainable food with benefits for everyone.
There are different species of crickets and it’s important to get familiar with the varieties in your area as they have different tastes and textures based on the species.
If you are handling crickets it’s best to know which species you’re handling since some of them can potentially give you a stinging bite.
They’re a Good Source of Protein and Other Minerals
A healthy body needs a good balance of fats, proteins, and nutrients.
It has been found that our digestive system can digest a smaller proportion of protein as opposed to meat and dairy. However, it is more than what is absorbed from corn or rice.
Environmentally Friendly Food Alternative
In an age where we are wastefully throwing away our resources, alternative options for things like food are a necessity.
Crickets, and insects in general, provide a great option that is sustainable and leaves less of a footprint on the surrounding environment.
Farming cattle, sheep, and pigs can increase carbon emissions and pollute the surrounding area with feces and runoff from the farms.
All of these things can find their way into the water table and spread throughout the region.
Farming crickets could help alleviate some of the stress put on the planet and reduce our waste footprint by feeding them the waste.
Disadvantages of Eating Crickets
Aside from the fact that eating insects is off-putting for many since you are effectively eating bugs, the downsides are few.
Of course, you’ll want to do your due diligence before you start eating handfuls of them.
There is a potential to activate an allergic reaction when eating crickets. Most often it’s people with shellfish or dust mite allergies that will feel the effects.
Depending on the source of the crickets there could be other allergies based on the environment or diet of the insects.
Potential to Carry Parasites and Pathogens
As with all creatures, the potential for bacterial infections and parasites can be high.
Studies have shown that more than 80% of insect farms have parasites within them and 30% of those are potentially harmful to humans.
There still needs to be more scientific studies completed as the subject of eating insects needs to be researched more to shed some light as to the extent of these diseases and their transmission to us.
What are the Risks Associated with Eating Crickets?
As mentioned above, there is still a gray area on the full risk vs reward information and as such, there are still a lot of risks involved in eating crickets.
Yes, people have been doing it for centuries, however, modern western cultures are not equipped to switch their diet to an insect-based one.
Being able to digest a cellulose-like material such as chitin has evolved from a biological need and might not agree with the stomach of your average American.
Cricket flour is a great product as the bug has been broken down into an easily digestible powder.
Not enough licensing has been introduced in the United States to fully guarantee a high-quality product that is safe for human consumption but that is hoping to be changed in the future as more and more companies hop on board the insect-eating train.
The interesting thing about eating crickets is that it is both eaten around the world and shunned as food in certain parts of the world, primarily the west.
As science evolves and more information is available, others will be drawn to the idea of a new sustainable food source that can be turned into a variety of recipes.
Crickets are a nutritious and economical choice that can lessen the burden of common agricultural practices.
Be mindful of the risks associated with eating insects and make sure that you do your research before you go ahead and start adding them to your diet.
Frequently Asked Questions
Ready to take the plunge and eat some cricket-based products? Here are some of the most common questions people have about consuming crickets and insects.
Powdered crickets will taste differently depending on the species and their diet.
The normal house cricket (Acheta domesticus) will taste nutty, and earthy, and hints of salty soy.
Some people may be put off by the slight bitterness that comes after eating it. Other species can be more powerful in terms of flavor and scent.
As with all insects, crickets can be potentially unsafe to eat. This is primarily due to how they were raised and what they were fed.
There needs to be more research done on chitin and its effect on our digestive system.
If you don’t have access to crickets then you can look for other insects such as grasshoppers or ants, which are also widely eaten all around the world and are a good source of protein.
Stay away from insects that live in garbage or dirty areas, such as cockroaches since they can have deadly pathogens inside them.
Greg spent much of his younger years camping and hiking. Greg grew up on a small farm with lots of livestock such as cows, horses and chickens. He’s good with a bow and arrow, is a huge knife enthusiast, and has a blackbelt in Taekwondo.