What would your answer be if someone asked you if you would eat crickets? Would you be definitive in your answer with a resounding ‘no’ (or ‘yes’?), or would the question catch you so off guard that you respond with, well, crickets? Crickets are being touted as a nutrient-packed, environmentally-friendly alternative to meat. Here's what you should know about this potential health food.
While insects may not be found on many menus in the United States, they’re a customary food in different cultures around the world. In fact, due to their iron and protein content, insects are a popular alternative to meat in many parts of the world where meat products are either unavailable or too expensive. An estimated two billion people regularly eat crickets and other insects.
According to a study out of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, consuming crickets can help support the growth of healthy gut bacteria. This study also showed that eating crickets at high doses is not only safe, but may also inhibit harmful inflammation in the body.
This is especially compelling since healthy gut flora has been shown to help prevent many harmful diseases. In fact, Harvard Medical School cites research showing that beneficial gut bacteria can boost the body's immune system and protect our bodies from developing rheumatoid arthritis, heart disease, and certain forms of cancer.
Other research has also linked inflammation to numerous health problems. If eating crickets can reduce inflammation, it may very well be a health food option with long-term benefits.
Crickets and other insects could also offer benefits for the environment. Insects are reported to create fewer greenhouse gases compared to cattle. They also require much less water and land for rearing. Part of this advantage results from a high feed conversion efficiency, which basically means insects convert feed into protein better than livestock.
In the U.S., insects are currently not typically embraced as a viable food choice; however, there are signs this may be changing in certain parts of the country. In the Pacific Northwest, toasted grasshoppers have become quite popular at Mariners baseball games. Chefs are also beginning to include crickets and other nutritious insects in menus at some of New York's fancier restaurants.Some enterprising companies are also trying to ride this growing trend by providing apps that promote cricket and other insect recipes.