By Soji James, CPT, CSCS
You know what they say: when in Rome, do as the Romans do. In this case, I was in Thailand and I had a 3-hour hike ahead of me during what was already a pretty long, humid and exhausting day. Even worse, I was out of food and water. I’m not one to turn down a challenge so luckily for me my guide came prepared. He set down his bookbag, and out of his side pocket came a bottle of water and a plastic bag—filled with crickets. Needless to say, I was pretty shocked at the idea of eating bugs. I didn’t want to seem rude, so I did what any helpless, starving, polite guest would: I devoured the insects. And…
…they were pretty delicious!
Does the idea of eating bugs make your stomach turn? If so, I hate to break it to you, but it turns out that might only be a Western problem. It is estimated that around 2 billion people, more than a quarter of the world’s population, already dine on insects. In fact, the creepy crawlers that you fear may be coming to a plate near you—much sooner than you think.
Before you immediately say “ewwww” and shut your mind to the idea, I want you to hear me out. Bugs are the future. They are high in protein, eco-friendly, and cost-efficient. According to The United Nations, by the year 2050 the world’s population will clock in at a whopping 9.7 billion people. In order to feed all of our new neighbors, we will have to double the amount of food that we are currently producing. Our current methods are pretty inefficient. With a shortage of land, we need to get creative in solving this problem. Scientists seem to think that turning to bugs is a viable option.
For one, there are currently over 2,000 types of edible insects including beetles, caterpillars, cicadas, and crickets which are currently leading the growing trend. That’s a lot of variety to appease a lot of different palates, and people aren’t passing them up. People eat bee larvae straight from the honeycomb in Vietnam. Dragonflies are a popular delicacy in China and Indonesia. in Africa, people compress midge flies into solid blocks and bake them into cakes.
Secondly, they are safer for the environment. They require less water and land usage than many of our current sources. Crickets produce 80x less methane gas than cows. This decrease could have an enormous impact on the battle against global warming.
Finally and most importantly for the wellness space, insect protein is high-quality protein. The average insect is nearly half protein in dry weight. They either compare or outperform their competitors in this aspect. In a comparison with beef protein, crickets are 69% protein, while beef comes in at only 29%. (Cricket burritos or a bag of mealworms anyone?) On top of that, insects are extremely nutritious. They come packed with crucial vitamins and nutrients such as calcium, zinc, vitamin B, and magnesium.
Now I don’t expect you to go sprinting into your nearest forest to forage for bugs just yet, but I want you to give it a little thought. Some companies are already going the extra mile to make the bug to consumption process a smooth one. The company Exo makes a cricket flour-based protein bar that comes in a cocoa-nut flavor. The company Cowboy Cricket Farm even makes its signature chocolate chirp cookie (which currently has 4 out of 5 stars on Amazon. Get them while they’re hot).
After diving in headfirst in Thailand, I came back to the states looking to ease into the water gradually. I wasn’t exactly ready to pull out a cricket protein bar post-workout at the gym. I wanted something a little bit more discreet. So I picked up the cricket protein powder from “Chirps” (Check It out here, $39.99). With the powder form, I could easily blend this protein into a post-workout shake or slip it into other dishes like pancake batter for a high powered breakfast. I opted for the chocolate flavored cricket protein to keep things safe and I was pleasantly surprised. For one, there isn’t really an overwhelming “cricket” taste, so you don’t have to worry about your smoothies tasting awkward. It wasn’t too sweet and also didn’t leave me with any digestive issues like some animal-based proteins can do.
They live up to their tagline: “Turns Out Bugs Are Good For You.” Each serving packs around 20g of protein. They sold me. I’m not sure if I’ll go strictly insect-based any time soon, but it definitely was a viable option. My only knock on it was the cost. It’s a little pricey for the size that you get, but as this trend becomes more mainstream and less of a “side act,” this should change. It’s also not strictly cricket-based, as there is a blend of plant-based proteins in the mix as well, but that’s not the end of the world by any means.
If you are looking to break into the insect-eating world in a more subtle manner, this could definitely be an amazing option for you. I give it 4 out of 5 stars easily.
I understand jumping on trends early can be a little intimidating. If you would rather go the more traditional route, make sure you choose a protein powder with minimal ingredients that doesn’t sacrifice taste. I’m a huge fan of Naked Whey protein. It isn’t dressed up in additives and is made of only one ingredient.