Being in the field of nutrition, I frequent a number of conferences and trade shows throughout the year in order to stay up to date on the latest in the industry.
Lately, I noticed a growing trend towards using crickets (and other bugs) as a source of protein. Yep you read that right – cricket protein! Cricket protein appeared in everything from crackers to snack bars. Each product proclaiming the health benefits of crickets. So what do I make of this trend using crickets as a source of protein in foods – fact or fad?
Surprisingly crickets are actually pretty nutritious. They are consumed by over 2 billion people as a primary food source. They contain 2 times more complete protein than beef, 9 times more omega 3s than wild salmon, 2 times more iron than spinach, and 1.5 times more calcium than milk! And they are a sustainable food source taking up far less resources to produce then other protein sources. So there certainly is merit in the use of crickets as a protein source.
Despite these merits, when I looked at the ingredients and nutritional content on the label I wasn’t overly impressed with the products that I saw. For the most part, they were nothing more than processed, packaged goods with the addition of some cricket protein to differentiate the product in the market and capitalize on the hype.
Take for instance one nutritional bar I looked at. The nutritional content broke down as follows: fat 7g, carbohydrates 30g, of which 20g of sugar and 7g of fibre, 10g protein. I personally feel the sugar content in the bar is too high. Although the ingredients were not bad, there are other nutritional bars on the market that have better nutritional profiles. This bar seemed more like a treat than a nutritional snack bar. Given the high carbohydrate and sugar content perhaps it would be an appropriate post-workout snack, but then again there are 7g of fat so you might rightly argue it’s not. The addition of the dextrose likely makes this bar higher in GI (glycemic index). I looked at another snack bar with cricket protein, and although the nutritional content was better, it still wouldn’t be something I would recommend as a good snack option over other available protein snack bars.
I also checked out another new product with cricket protein – cricket crackers. Now these crackers actually had good ingredients and a good nutritional profile. The addition of the cricket protein helped to boost the protein content which is typically low in crackers. These crackers contained 6 g of protein per serving and tasted great too! While 6g of protein doesn’t sound like much, when you compare it to the protein contained in most crackers you will find it actually to be quite good.
The bottom line for me is that although there are benefits in the use of crickets as a source of protein, don’t be fooled by the marketing hype. Look at the ingredients and nutrient profile of any product you are considering. Just because something is the new trend doesn’t mean it’s better for you. While it is true that crickets are a healthy and sustainable source of protein, it doesn’t mean that the products they’re contained in are. So buyer beware! If you are really interested in trying out this new source of protein, I’d recommend looking for cricket flour to add to your baking or a cricket protein powder (again check the ingredients in the protein) to add to your shakes.
To fitness with love,