Do Vegans Eat Bugs?
The vegan diet has been very popular in Australia and now we are the third-fastest growing vegan market in the world. And also one of the biggest meat consumer country on the Planet. How curious!
At Grilo we always get that question: are crickets vegan? Many people get very confused regards crickets and in theory the answer for this question is “NO”. Vegans don’t eat animals. Crickets are insects, insects are animals, vegans therefore don’t eat crickets. End of story.
I have seen many vegans considering eatings bugs – because of their high vitamin B12 levels – instead of taking B12 injections. Crickets for example have 155% of RDI of vit B12. People who are into the vegan diet are more likely to suffer from a vitamin B12 deficiency than people who eat meat because, as you might know, B12 “is found naturally in a wide variety of animal foods and is added to some fortified foods. Plant foods have no vitamin B12 unless they are fortified”. Many vegans are looking to get their vitamin B12 from a natural source and crickets and other edible insects sound like a healthier way to increase B12 intake in this population.
Ok! You are convinced that the best way to get your daily intake of vitamin B12 is eating bugs. But how would you call yourself now? A vegan who eats bugs? Or what about “entovegan”? Oh yeah, that sounds like a thing! And it’s already out there.
Check out our interview with Josh Galt and discover the Entovegan lifestyle!
Q: How did you get into eating bugs?
A: It started off quite by accident, actually. Though I’m very glad I stumbled upon it when I did.
I moved from Latin America to Asia in 2013, and while subconsciously I was suddenly exposed to people eating insects on a daily basis – and consciously I was grossed out by the idea – I never really gave them much thought beyond being a weird local street food. I’d previously had some fried ants many years ago in Colombia, but that was the extent of my foray into Entomophagy.
Then in early 2016 as I was researching vertical farming methods, and looking for potential ideas around sustainable food production within cities, I ended up on a google deep dive on that topic that led me to a random article about farming insects in an abandoned warehouse.
There was some mention about sustainability and nutritional benefits, so I followed that rabbit trail from site to site and article to article, and – no joke – within 2 hours I was on the street excitedly buying fried crickets and mealworms to taste!
In all honesty, in that moment I was still really grossed out by the idea of eating insects. The crickets were palatable, the mealworms I thought tasted horrible.
So when I talk to people now, like when I was giving speeches with Chef Melgarejo last year at universities in Mexico, I can still easily relate to people’s disgust at the idea of crunching down on some of these crazy-looking critters. I was there myself, not too long ago! (People close to me in Cambodia still like to bring that up and remind me of how grossed-out I was just a couple of years ago at the idea of eating insects. I do get it! But I also know how easy it is to change that mindset, because they actually taste good, and they’re healthy, so…)
But the more I researched over the course of the year, the more I talked to locals – including expat friends who had way more insect-eating experience than me – and the more I just kept sampling different insects, I realized that there are a lot of good reasons why a large percentage of the planet eats bugs regularly.
Q: What’s entovegan?
A: Entovegan is my way of describing a plant-based diet boosted by entomophagy. I say “boosted” because a purely plant-based diet does have some notable deficiencies, especially in the vitamins and minerals area, along with protein challenges. Edible insects, and especially crickets, drastically improve the nutritional intake in those areas.
Veggies with roasted crickets by Entovegan.com
Q: How did you become an entovegan?
A: Well, I’ve always eaten healthy, but had never tried a fully plant-based diet before, almost a raw diet. A friend sent me a bunch of reading material and I thought it looked really interesting and worth a shot.
The one thing I didn’t want to give up though was eating insects, since I’d been enjoying them for like 8 months at that point, and from that basis as I started looking at the nutritional impact of combining entomophagy with a vegan diet it felt like I was stumbling onto the holy grail of sustainable food combining.
I knew people would ask me though (because I have always gotten repetitive questions about why I don’t drink, or why I do eat quinoa, etc) so it had to be easily explainable and needed a concise, catchy term – thus the word entovegan.
Q: How long have you being an entovegan for?
A: I’ve been an entovegan full time for more than a year now.
Q: How does your body feel having insects as main protein source?
A: I feel great, actually. I think it’s more than just eating bugs though, and more than just being “vegan”. Because a person could eat kale chips sprinkled with cricket dust, but if they’re also sitting on the couch binge-watching netflix and stuffing their face with oreos (but, but, they’re “vegan”!), that’s not very healthy.
So my regular exercise – lifting, cardio, playing sports like basketball and flag football (american football), biking everywhere – plays a big role in why I feel great naturally.
What the insects add though is a really healthy, natural protein source that is easy to mix with other foods and in smoothies. It’s all natural and minimally processed, while being really high in minerals, omegas, vitamin B12, etc.
Q: What’s your favourite ento dish?
A: I’ve had some great dishes, I think some of the recipes that Mario (Chef Melgarejo) made in Mexico when I was there last year are up there near the top. Crickets and avocado toast in Cambodia are good and pretty much the most #instaworthy dish one can eat these days, right? 😉
Being an entovegan is starting to catch on I’m seeing online, which is cool, so hopefully there will be more dishes to try. Because it seems that most recipes to date haven’t given much thought to trying to be vegan, just to making the insects taste great and look amazing.
The cricket flour is very high in protein, and it’s easy to mix it into or onto virtually any dish you want, because it’s slightly nutty flavor means it goes well with sweet or savory.
Q: What do you think it’s the hardest part of being entovegan?
A: Eating out is the hardest part, for sure. At home I can control the process, but at a restaurant it’s harder and there are no entovegan restaurants here (or anywhere?) yet!
Some restaurants don’t appreciate me bringing my own insects in and supplementing my food, either. Particularly vegan restaurants haha. I do it anyway though, discreetly. Although I have been confronted by the owner of one vegan place in Phnom Penh, but that’s because I’d been tagging them in my posts on instagram. My bad! After talking for about 20 minutes though I think he had a genuine curiosity about the idea of eating insects, though he said he probably wouldn’t do it himself as he was strictly vegan.
Q: I saw you did a 30 days challenge. Tell us more about it, how did you feel? Was it hard?
Yes, I did a 90 days ento challenge for myself to get back into shape when I came back to Cambodia after Mexico last year.
It went well overall, I was able to gain a few kilos of muscle and make gains in terms of strength. But in terms of energy and strength and vitality for life, it was great. Read more about the 90 days entovegan challenge here!
My main protein is drawn from insects, mainly crickets, and I’ve lowered my overall calorie intake quite a bit, yet I still feel great. Part of that is eating really clean with a very good protein source, and part of it I attribute to the 16:8 method of eating.
I’ll workout in the morning but then not eat anything until my cricket + fruit smoothie around 11am, then usually have a single big lunch/dinner combined meal in the afternoon or early evening. I don’t snack much but when I do it’s dried crickets usually, though on the road the next couple of months it’ll also be cricket bars and other insect-based snack products.
Honestly I never really believed that a low-calorie diet based on raw whole foods would work, but combined with insect protein, it really does. I don’t have cravings for any bad foods, and I don’t feel lethargic at all, at any time of the day. I sleep well, wake up early, have energy all day, and even if I workout in the morning and then do something active later in the day, like play basketball, I feel like my body’s firing on all cylinders.
I’m hoping to meet some ento-scientists at these entomophagy conferences that I’m going to in August and September, because I’m totally fascinated with the potential for insects as a superfood, and for discovering new previously unknown superfood properties that insects might contain.
There’s an entire hidden world of insect nutrition that we’re only just beginning to scratch the surface of, and I can honestly say that making myself a guinea pig to trial an insect-protein boosted plant-based diet has been one of the best experiments I’ve done.
Long term ramifications, we’ll see. But after more than a year I have no desire to change it, as I really feel great.
For anyone who’s curious about insects, I would say give it a shot! You don’t need to drastically change your diet, but substitute 15-30 grams (or more!) of your regular daily protein for insect protein and be consistent for a month – Grilo makes that easy for you to do! – and see how you feel.
I’m betting that you will notice a difference, because you get so much more from insects beyond just protein, and that so much more is all highly nutritious and beneficial for the human body.
Q: Your message for people who are thinking about starting to eat insects?
A: For the skeptics who look at the hype surrounding insect protein and see it as just that – hype – I would say look beyond the infographics and “eating insects will save the planet!” rhetoric, because while there’s definite truth to the sustainability aspect, the real impact it’s true isn’t going to come from using a single funky-looking insect as a lonely garnish on top of a less-than-sustainable dish. The real impact is going to come when more and more people begin to use insects as a true protein source, substituting it in quantities large enough to make a difference in their diet and lower their consumption of both unsustainable meat proteins and plant proteins.
Insect protein contains enormous potential to benefit humanity and be a strong ally in building a more sustainable future. Give it a taste, and put it to the test in your own body! I think you’ll find, like I did, that ento gains are real and that you’re going to feel healthier and stronger than ever, while also feeling good about doing your part for the planet.
Josh has been an Entovegan the last 15 months on a journey to demonstrate the efficacy of using insects as the body’s primary protein source. Based in Cambodia, he works as a developmental consultant with an organization focused on alleviating rural poverty and empowering social entrepreneurship through sustainable insect farming. Check out the Entovegan website here.