When you think about getting your protein fix on, do you think crickets? Well, it wouldn’t be totally off the wall if you do—it’s definitely having a moment.
Cricket protein packs a nutritional punch. And for some people—from those with ethical issues around dairy to folks with dietary allergies—crickets may help fill a real dietary gap.
We’re sure you’re wondering: Is it really made from crickets? Answer: yes, yes it is. Dried, whole crickets, in fact. They’re ground up into a fine powder that can be blended into smoothies or baked into your protein-rich treats, just like any other protein powder.
If you aren’t dry-heaving yet, read on.
Crickets’ Nutritional Profile
People need around 0.8 grams of protein per every kilogram of bodyweight, says the USDA. So, if you’re 145 pounds (or 66kg) you’ll need about 53 grams of protein per day. But if you’re especially active (think: endurance athletes or weight lifters) or over the age of 50, especially if you’re a woman, you’ll want to up the amount.
So how much protein are you getting from these little critters? According to Keri Gans, RDN, and author of The Small Change Diet, three and a half ounces of crickets contain approximately 13 grams of protein. Not too shabby.
Related: How Much Protein Do You Really Need?
Some powders contain even more. In CrikNutrition’s vanilla cricket powder, one scoop of the stuff will yield a whopping 20 grams of protein, which can help go a long way towards meeting your daily recommended goals. Crickets are also considered a complete protein (meaning it contains all nine essential amino acids that humans need) and they contain high levels of iron and calcium. (Cricks for the win!)
Cricket protein isn’t just for drinking. Some companies sell pure-milled cricket flour, which can be used in baking recipes as a substitution for part of the regular flour, in order to boost nutritional value. “However, cricket flour is becoming a little more mainstream with 10 grams of protein for 2 TBSP,” says Gans.
There are also cricket protein bars, which appeal to the paleo community as a non-dairy, soy-free source of protein.
The Crick-Ick Factor
If you’re shuddering as you read this, you’re not alone. For most Westerners, insect consumption isn’t typical. But what’s interesting is that eating crickets (or caterpillars, or even termites) is pretty common in other parts of the world. In fact, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, as many as 1900 insect species around the world can be—and are—eaten on the regular.
Crickets in particular are readily consumed in Thailand, the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, and Cambodia. In fact, Thailand is home to approximately 20,000 cricket farmers. Yum!
The Bottom Line
So, who is cricket right for? Everyone—if you’re willing to get over the stigma.
According to Brian Tanzer, M.S., nutritionist and manager of scientific affairs for The Vitamin Shoppe, “If people have allergies to dairy or typical protein sources, it can’t hurt to try cricket. It’s been around for a little while, and maybe down the road it could be more widely accepted.”
And that could be a very good thing for all of us. According to PlosOne, cricket protein may provide a more ecologically sustainable protein option.
There are plenty of other variables to consider if you’re looking to make the switch to cricket protein, including how the crickets themselves are fed, and what sources of protein the crickets are being compared to. Ultimately, the efficacy of cricket protein largely depends on its quality, and more research needs to be done to confirm its benefits.