What even is a superfood? According to it’s official definition a superfood is a particularly nutrient-dense food beneficial for health and well-being. We used to attribute the term superfood to everyday easily accessible foods such as nuts, fish, berries and vegetables. However, more recently it seems to be the more obscure the food, the more difficult it is to get hold of and the more ‘super’ it becomes. Take maca powder, wheatgrass shots, spirulina tablets and now we’re even talking about cricket flour.
Are insects really worthy of their superfood status or are they just another ploy to ensure we dig deeper into our pockets burning an even larger hole? Let’s find out.
There are around 1700 insect species which are safe for human consumption. You may be asking why on earth we would want to eat locusts, crickets and even scorpions.. Well, let me explain. I’m going to turn our attention to crickets as they seem to be gathering the most attention at the moment.
Research has suggested that insects are super high in protein. Cricket flour is the latest protein powder which people are adding to their post workout shakes. 100g of cricket flour contains around 68g of protein. However, when compared to whey which contains around 80g per 100g, soy (around 80g per 100g), pea (around 50g per 100g) and hemp (around 60g per 100g) it doesn’t look so triumphant after all.
Research has suggested that crickets are high in calcium, B12 and iron. However, even if you’re trying to cut back on your red meat consumption it is possible to obtain these vitamins from dairy sources, nuts and green leafy vegetables. If you’re following a plant based diet B12 may be more difficult to obtain, but crickets wouldn’t suffice anyway. I always recommend taking a B12 supplement if you’re following a plant-based diet. It seems crickets do not triumph in this one either. Lets try the environmental game.
Studies have identified that 1kg of insects require around 1.7kg of feed, however, livestock require around 6kg of feed for every 1kg. It is suggested that insects convert food more efficiently into body mass. Additionally, researchers have shown that livestock produce significantly more greenhouse gasses and ammonia than insects.
The water requirements to produce a kilo of beef is also drastically higher than that required to produce a kilo of insects. This is due to the water required for the animal and the feed. Evidently, it may be more beneficial to eat insects rather than livestock from an environmental point of view.
Studies have found that the risks of diseases associated with livestock are increasing due to the emergence of antibiotic resistant pathogens. However, insects are taxinomically so different to humans and livestock that these disease risks are significantly lower.
So to conclude, are we being robbed of our money or do insects really deserve their superfoodstatus? In terms of health benefits, insects have not proven to be anymore nutritious than some of the most popular foods on our supermarket shelves. Yes they are a source of protein, calcium, iron and B12 but, they do not appear to be anymore ‘super’ than thesources we've been eating for years. In regards to environmental benefits it seems that insects may in fact triumph over our traditional livestock. So if the environment is your number one priority then you’ll be spending wisely on your cricket flour, although, if you’re more concerned about whacking in the protein after a lifting session then insects don’t appear to be worthy of their superfood status.
Personally, I’d rather eat a little less meat and obtain my protein for more plant-based sources in order to look after our environment and I’ll pass up on the crickets, thank you. Now you are informed you can make up your own mind.