Crickets: The nutrient booster you might be missing
You may have not tried crickets yet, but you have probably heard about it, seen them for sale on the streets in Thailand or Cambodia, watched on the news, or read on a newspaper or blog. Have you actually thought through the idea of eating bugs? Can you picture yourself adding cricket powder to your recipes? I know I couldn’t when I first heard about it. I’m Camila, Grilo co-founder, by the way 😉 As into the ‘healthy and sustainable combo’ as I am, I was intrigued and read everything I could possibly find online about the crunchy nutrient-dense insects. It felt like a whole new world to me! And it didn’t take long to be convinced: I HAD to try them. Since then, crickets became my main source of protein and essential nutrients like vitamin B12 and iron.
This is one of my all-time favourite recipes! Brekkie banana pancakes powered by crickets
As a former bug-eater, I guarantee it’s easy to start using cricket in your recipes, and it has more health benefits for you and your family than you might think. These are the things about them that caught my attention straight away.
Health benefits of eating crickets
Most people may think first of the protein contents, probably because every time you find a beetle in your leafy salad or an ant walking on your cookies, there is usually someone promptly saying with a sarcastic tone: “Don’t be fussy, eat it! It’s extra protein!”. Ha-ha. Yeah, right! But it turns out that bugs are indeed more efficient and actually higher in protein than your succulent medium-rare steak or your grilled chicken breast. Gram per gram, crickets actually have 2x more protein than beef!
But not only that…
Vitamin B12 deficiency?
Maybe you’re not aware, but feeling weak and fatigued are the most common symptoms of B12 deficiency, and that happens because your body doesn’t have enough vitamin B12 to make red blood cells, which transport oxygen throughout your body. As a result, you’re unable to efficiently transport oxygen to your body’s cells, and this makes you feel tired and weak. Tell me about it!
Vitamin B12 is naturally found in animal products, including meat, fish, poultry, eggs, and dairy products. It is generally not present in plant foods – that is probably the reason why my naturopath found myself to be so low in B12 after 4 months following a vegan diet.
Now, can you name other foods that are naturally high in vitamin B12? Crickets! And when I say high in B12, I mean it. One tablespoon of cricket powder (approx. 10g) supplies your body with over 155% of your recommended dietary intake (aka RDI) for B12. And as you saw, it’s pretty easy to consume 10g of cricket powder a day – be it in a pancake, banana bread, a smoothie or a veggie patty.
High in Antioxidants
The process of oxidation in the human body damages cell membranes and other structures. Our bodies can cope with some free radicals and we actually need them to function effectively. However, the damage caused by an overload of free radicals over time may become irreversible and lead to certain diseases, including heart disease, liver disease and even some cancers.
This is why you need antioxidants: to scavenge free radicals from the body cells, preventing or reducing the damage caused by oxidation.
A recent study published by Frontiers in Nutrition have brought good news for open-minded health conscious people: crickets pack 5-fold higher antioxidant power of fresh orange juice!
“For perspective, using the same setup we tested the antioxidant capacity of fresh orange juice and olive oil – functional foods that are known to exert antioxidant effects in humans,” Serafini explains. The first insect antioxidant rankings water-soluble extracts of grasshoppers, silkworms and crickets displayed the highest values of antioxidant capacity: higher than fresh orange juice!
Good for your gut!
Being such a novelty food, more and more studies are being done around edible bugs, and we have recently come across this one published by Scientific Reports about gut health, which has particularly caught my attention.
Participants consuming 25g of cricket powder everyday for 14 days showed a significant growth of the probiotic bacterium, Bifidobacterium animalis, which increased 5.7-fold. Cricket consumption was also associated with reduced plasma TNF-α. These results suggest that eating crickets may improve gut health and reduce systemic inflammation.
As we know, an imbalance of unhealthy and healthy microbes in the intestines may contribute to weight gain, high blood sugar, high cholesterol and several other disorders. Gut microbiome plays an extremely important role in our health by helping control digestion and benefiting our immune system, and as Hippocrates put it: “All Disease Begins in The Gut.”, we better not to overlook our gut health!
An eco-friendly food: crickets require way less resources to end up in your plate!
If you’re not entirely sold by the health benefits of cricket powder, I consider this one a good reason to try it. The ecological side of eating bugs was a big one for me to want to make crickets a part of my daily diet.
When facing their foods, most people don’t ask themselves where it’s coming from and how much resources it’s taken for it to end up on their plates. If you care about the health of the Planet, then your should definitely consider asking yourself: What is the footprint of the food I choose to put on my plate? You have a choice. We all do.
Crickets are incredibly sustainable, a truly future-forward food. An efficient, simple way to reduce the amount of resources used to bring our main nutrients to our plates. More about bugs and sustainability here.
How to get started on eating crickets?
Now that you know the several health benefits, you gotta understand that there is actually no mystery on how to start including crickets in your daily recipes. It’s pretty straight-forward: a powerful add-on ingredient that can be used in sweet or savoury dishes, everyday.
I get it. Getting started is not an easy task! There is the called “ick factor”, but hey… you have certainly been eating bugs without knowing your entire life! Before trying crickets I was dying to find out: What would it taste like? Would I ever get over that “ick factor”? What would be the best ways to include crickets in my diet? Would I be able to blend it in my current daily food? Would I rather eat crickets in powder form or get adventurous with the crunchy whole bugs? Lots of questions flowing through my intrigued mind!
I do have some golden tips help you get started on eating crickets:
Crickets taste… nutty and earthy!
What do crickets taste like? When eating crickets for the first time, be open! Like babies turn their nose to every food they taste for the first time, some grown-ups also have the tendency to not love unknown tastes at first. And like most natural foods that are actually very good for your body, crickets do have a bit of a particular taste, at first. I found plain cricket powder smelled and tasted quite earthy, but honestly, I enjoyed the taste! You just have to be open to experiment with using it and trying it in different recipes! We have tried it in all ways – from plain in water to a crickety cream cheese – and in my opinion, taste-wise, cricket powder works amazingly well mixed in simple baked goods like pancakes, cakes and breads, and also blends very well in smoothies.
Start with something that doesn’t look like a bug!
That’s simple! Instead of going straight to trying roasted whole crickets, choose to go get started with cricket powder, or even something more subtle like a high protein chocolate blend with cricket powder or a super greens blend. This way you add the benefits of crickets to your diet seamlessly!
Start with little and increase as you go
Some people think they can simply replace any flour in a recipe with cricket powder. I tasted that theory before, and even though I am an edible bug advocate, I must say it doesn’t really work this way. Cricket powder is meant to be an add-on to boost your recipes, not a replacement of an existing ingredient in a recipe. That’s actually what makes it so easy to use! And as mentioned before, you don’t need much to get great benefits. No one better than yourself to notice if your taste buds are happy or not, so my best advice is to start with little and increase the serve as you go!
To get you started inspired, here are some of my favourite recipes using cricket powder: