In May of 2019, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations hosted the first international ‘Insects to Feed the World’ conference, promoting edible insects as a low-fat, high-protein, sustainable food source. Meanwhile, US manufacturers have begun producing foods made from dried or roasted crickets. In December 2019, cricket snack bars and cookies passed a Consumer Reports’ taste test. If you’re not squeamish about eating insects (not really all that different from eating shrimp), crickets have several nutritional benefits to offer.
1. Crickets are a whole food
Most of the animal protein consumed in the US is muscle. When you eat crickets, you consume the entire creature including the exoskeleton and internal organs. Nothing goes to waste and you benefit from a wide range of nutrients. Crickets contain many of the B vitamins including B12, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin and pantothenic acid. They also deliver a variety of minerals such as such a phosphorous, zinc, selenium and iodine. Advocates of cricket consumption point out that crickets offer nearly five times as much magnesium as beef.
2. Crickets are a low-calorie source of protein
Crickets are low in fat compared to many other sources of animal protein. In fact, a serving of crickets could give you almost as much protein as a hamburger for less than half the calories. Crickets contain 126 calories, 6 grams of fat, and 13 grams of protein per 100 grams. Ground beef (70% lean) contains 332 calories, 30 grams of fat and 14 grams of protein per 100 grams. Unlike other low-fat protein sources such as beans, crickets provide complete protein containing all nine of the essential amino acids.
3. Crickets are a good source of omega-3
Aside from oily fish, not many common protein foods are rich in omega-3 essential fatty acids. Crickets could provide another option. Omega-3 reduces inflammation and can help to lower the risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease, cancer, and arthritis. Omega-3 is also important for memory and cognitive performance. The typical American diet contains far too many sources of omega-6 fats and is deficient in omega-3. Eating crickets could help you to restore a healthy omega 3/6 balance.
4. Crickets are rich in iron
A ¾ cup serving of roasted crickets contains 53% of your RDA for iron. In comparison, a three ounce serving of sirloin steak provides only 14% of your daily iron requirement. Iron deficiency is the most common nutritional deficiency and the leading cause of anemia in the US. Women of child-bearing age need more dietary iron than men, and are more likely to suffer from low levels of this mineral. Including cricket-based snacks in your diet could help ensure that you don’t develop mild anemia symptoms such as persistent fatigue and lack of concentration.
5. Crickets are a non-dairy source of calcium
Whether you choose to eat crickets whole or ground into flour, you will consume the exoskeleton or ‘bones’ of the insect. This provides an alternative source of calcium for people who are lactose intolerant or choose a dairy-free diet Crickets have 75.8 mg of calcium per 100 grams, similar to the amount found in leafy green vegetables. Adequate calcium in the diet helps to slow age-related bone loss and prevent osteoporosis.
6. Crickets have dietary fiber
Unlike common animal foods in the standard Western diet, crickets provide dietary fiber. The exoskeleton of crickets is made up of chitin, the same biopolymer that makes up the cell walls of mushrooms. Chitin is classified as a functional fiber and research indicates that it can help to lower LDL ‘bad’ cholesterol. A ¾ cup serving of crickets contains 3 grams of fiber, about the same amount you’d find in a ¾ cup serving of green beans, corn or cabbage.
7. Crickets can help you to cut down on carbs
Crickets are the ultimate paleo food and contain only 5 grams of carbohydrate per 100 grams. Cricket flour is made by milling whole crickets into a coarse or fine grain powder. It can be used to substitute for some or all of the wheat flour in recipes such as pizza crust, muffins, and brownies. Cricket flour increases the protein content and nutrient profile of baked goods while reducing the number of carbohydrates. It is naturally gluten-free and can be eaten by people with a wheat intolerance or coeliac disease.
8. Crickets are a clean source of muscle-building protein
Cricket protein powder is becoming popular amongst body-builders as an alternative to highly processed whey protein isolate. Because cricket protein powder and supplements use whole crickets, they provide a cleaner source of digestible protein. Like whey protein, cricket protein powder supplies a complete profile of amino acids including the branched-chain amino acids. It also contains a wider range of naturally occurring nutrients.