In my hand is potentially the greatest post-workout food ever found. It contains every amino acid under the sun, is 70 percent protein, contains almost no fat and is high in iron, calcium, vitamin B12 and fibre.
You may think I’m describing the latest form of protein powder or muscle bar, but what I’m holding is a bug, a single cricket to be precise – and it just may be the muscle-building food of the future.
Humans have been eating bugs for as long as we’ve been eating. If it crawled, buzzed or burrowed around our homes, it’s bound to have ended up in our mouths – but thanks to the rise of airborne disease carried by insects like cockroaches, eating bugs has fallen out of favour.
Spend some time aboard however, and you’ll see that our aversion to eating creepy crawlies is strictly a Western one: in Vietnam they snack on grasshoppers when drinking beer, in Thailand they sizzle up tiny woodworms with noodles, and in Cambodia a deep-fried tarantula is a delicacy reserved only for special guests.
Hell, even in our backyard indigenous Australians have been tucking into witchetty grubs (essentially a form of large, wriggling maggot) since time immemorial.
And now, thanks to our ever-insatiable thirst for foods that are “ancient” and “mystic” (just think about any superfood you’ve seen in the last three years), Western society is back onto bugs.
Jane Abma is co-founder of a company called Primal Collective that packages and sells roasted crickets. She believes that the potential – and need – for us to eat bugs is higher than ever before.
“We believe insects are the protein of the future,” Abma tells Coach.
“People all over the world (particularly South-East Asia and Central America) enjoy insects as part of their everyday diet, so it’s not as crazy as it sounds.”
Bugs are a nutritional powerhouse
Of course it wouldn’t make sense to eat insects if they didn’t a) taste fantastic or b) give you so much nutrition that you couldn’t ignore them.
While the taste verdict is still out to pasture, the nutritional side of creepy crawlies makes them more deserving of a superfood title than any other hyped berry or herb.
Take crickets for example – in just a 5g serving (roughly a teaspoon’s worth of little legs and wings) there’s 2.9 grams of protein – enough to make any bodybuilder’s eyebrows perk up with interest. It’s this muscle-building potential that’s really fuelling the buggy banquet movement amongst fitness fanatics.
“As far as percentage protein goes, crickets are very high: 68 percent, in fact,” Abma tells us.
“Eating bugs is definitely blowing up in areas like in the US — in the last few years we’ve seen products like cricket protein bars and powders come onto the market, more recently in Australia.”
“We are finding that there is an increasing number of people trying to source higher hits of protein, or more sustainable options (or both).”
Speaking of sustainability…
Have a think about where your last source of protein came from. It may have been eggs with breakfast, chicken for lunch or even a hearty steak for dinner. All of these things require livestock, which require farms – and a lot of food, water and land.
As Abma explains, while eating crickets sounds pretty gross, it’s actually pretty environmentally friendly.
“Crickets in particular are far more sustainable than other protein sources such as beef, salmon or chicken,” says Abma.
“For example, to make one kilo of crickets you need about one litre of water, versus 22,000 litres for the equivalent of beef.”
“Crickets require about six times less feed and produce 80 percent less greenhouse gasses than cows, adding to the list of benefits for the future of our environment.”
What about the yuck factor? You (surprisingly) get over it pretty quickly
After tasting the crickets ourselves here in the Coach office, the verdict is amazingly “normal”: once you get over the fact that you’re eating bugs, they’re surprisingly easy to eat, and taste a little bit like the crumbs at the bottom of a chip packet.
As Abma explains, because the crickets have been roasted, there’s no squirting abdomens or thoraxes exploding in your mouth and spraying bug guts all over your teeth.
“We’ve had a lot of great (and hilarious) feedback via social media and from people at health events trying them out at our booths,” says Abma.
“I think after they get over the fact that yes, it’s an insect and yes, it’s whole and there are legs and wings involved, they are pleasantly surprised by the crispy crunch and nutty flavour.”
“There’s also no green juice or guts spilling out, which is what a lot of people panic about.”
By Stuart Marsh