I have this issue with bugs. It’s something I can’t control. I just don’t like to look at them or to be near them. I think many people are like me but not to the point were they would get goose bumps and squirm just to pass near one. Even though I enjoy escaping the city and being outdoors as much as I can, a few bugs can spoil my not so risky outdoor adventures.
So, How did I end up eating insects?
Well, it starts with me being interested in everything related to wellness and learning about food and habits that promote our health and the health of the environment. I have read on many occasions about how bugs are said to be the way of the future as a sustainable food supply. I completely understand the facts and reasoning why (more on this later). I’ve also learned that it’s perfectly safe for humans to eat insects as a source of complete protein and I know that cultures around the world have consumed insects for centuries. I’m conscious that the only reason why others and me find it strange (and may I say, gross!) is because we were not exposed to this idea in our culture when we were children.
I’m fully aware that we all eat bugs already. Yes, I hate to break it to you, but without knowing it, we all consume massive amounts of insects in the “normal” food we eat all the time. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has established guidelines for the amount of insects (or insect fragments) that can be present in different food. Cacao, tomato sauce, grains, etc., they all have some (or a lot!). Did you know that the FDA’s limit on hops that are used to make that refreshing beer that most people enjoy is 5%? It’s all laid out in the FDA’s Defect Levels Handbook if you want to read about it.
The benefits to the environment of insect agriculture vs conventional agriculture are enormous. A cricket is 80% protein. They are ten times more efficient at using water to convert to protein than beef. You need 10 pounds of feed to produce about 1 pound of protein from beef. Those same 10 pounds of feed produce about 6 pounds of protein from crickets. Insects emit far less greenhouse gas, and use up less agricultural space, water and food. Insect farming is a very kind sustainable source of high quality protein.
So, I tried to be rational about this matter, and since I am a very curious person, it was only a matter of time for me to explore this alternative food option. The universe has amazing ways of making things happen, and this is when a fellow Integrative Nutrition Health Coach let me know about the opportunity to try insects in a more socially acceptable way that didn’t involve me looking at any bugs. So I jumped at the opportunity without thinking it twice and waited for the samples to arrive.
What did I do next?
Well, I researched the brand like the crazy food nerd that I have become. The company’s name is Chapul, the products that I was going to try out were their energy bars made out of cricket protein powder (four different flavors). This company appeared in the ABC reality TV program Shark Tank. This was an attention grabber for me, especially when I found out that my favorite shark investor, Mark Cuban, invested in the company.
But something that grabbed even more of my attention where the following facts about cricket flour. They are amazing! Crickets have all essential amino acids that we need for healthy growth and development. In fact, they have two times more protein than beef. Crickets also have plenty of Omega 3 fatty acids and other essential nutrients than are lacking in most plants, like vitamin B12. This makes it especially convenient for people on vegan or vegetarians diets that don’t include animal products in their diets. Our body doesn’t produce B12 so we need to get it from animal products or take a supplement for it to keep our optimal levels. Vitamin B12 helps keep the body’s nerve and blood cells healthy and helps make DNA so it’s very important that we don’t become deficient of it. Who would have thought that we would get the same amount of B12 from crickets that we would get from salmon! Cricket flour also has high amounts of bioavailable iron. Fifteen times more iron than spinach sound amazing to me!
How did the tasting go?
I’m not going to lie, the package of four dairy free, soy free, all natural, gourmet energy bars made with cricket protein powder sat at my desk for more days that I will admit. Remember my dislike for bugs? Well, every day I would say I would try the nicely packaged bars but I just wouldn’t do it. I kept thinking to myself: how can the cultural weight be so heavy? I mean, think about it, I’m sure I must have eaten far worst things in my life. Besides, I like seafood and my mom always says that shrimp are the sea’s crickets. Finally, just without thinking much about it any more, one day I just decided to get it over with. I guess that day my curiosity was bigger than my prejudice, and the fact that I was really hungry for a mid afternoon snack got me opening the four bar flavors and placing them on a plate. I just wanted to make sure I saw what I was eating and to my surprise, they looked perfectly normal, as many other energy bars would look. I took a knife and cut a piece of each one (I was really examining these bars). I decided to try them without reading the different flavors. I wanted to make sure I wasn’t bias about what said in the package. I started with the one I now know was the Thai Bar. It was delicious. It had coconut, ginger and lime. As soon as I savor it, it hit me! I felt like a complete fool. I had suffered for days over-thinking about this cricket issue and this bar tasted absolutely better than most protein bars I have tried before. This happened to be my favorite flavor of the four, closely followed by the Chaco Bar, which is made with a combination that few people can resist: peanut butter and chocolate. Next flavor (in order of my preference) was one made out of dark chocolate, coffee and cayenne pepper. I loved the combination of chocolate with the cayenne kick. The last bar was matcha tea and banana, which also tasted great but without reading the label, I had guessed it was green tea and apples. As soon as I read the label I could taste the banana. I’m not by any mean an expert guessing flavors. It was also delicious. I don’t over do it with energy or protein bars because most of them have too much sugar and chemicals but these where surprisingly great in this department too!
So, here it is, my absolutely positive experience trying out energy bars made out of cricket protein powder (it sounds a little better than saying grounded crickets). The only bad thing about it was everything that was going up in my head before actually trying them out. Once I did, eating crickets in this form is not an issue at all for me anymore. As long as it tastes as good as these bars, I’m open to eating anything made with cricket flour. I understand if you squirm. That was me until I tried it. I don’t think I will be buying insects to cook any time soon. I still don’t want to see them, and even less in my kitchen. But adding to my diet convenient energy bars made out of high quality cricket protein powder that is good for me and for the environment…I will be doing that for sure!