Entomophagy, or eating insects, is a practice that dates back to prehistoric times.

Crickets are one of the most common insects people consume. Products containing cricket protein have grown in popularity due to consumer demand for more sustainable protein options.

Insects like crickets are rich in nutrients, especially protein, and may be more sustainable than other protein sources, such as beef.

However, some people aren’t comfortable eating crickets because they’re concerned about food safety.

This article explains the benefits and potential risks of using crickets as a food source.

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People have used crickets as a food source in many parts of the world for thousands of years. In fact, biblical scriptures dating back from the third to the first century B.C. mention cricket consumption (1).

In Africa, Asia, and Latin America, eating insects is part of traditional cultures (2).

People use about 2,100 species of insects for food, with crickets being the most common insect food source worldwide (1).

Insects are a cheap, sustainable, and easy-to-produce source of nutrients and are especially rich in protein.

People most commonly eat crickets in under-resourced countries, where many people experience food insecurity and other animal sources of protein, like cattle, poultry, and fish, are scarce.

Research shows that people in Western countries aren’t entirely comfortable eating insects because they tend to view insects as unclean or potentially dangerous (2).

However, more people have begun to accept cricket consumption in Europe, the United States, and Canada as food companies have created user-friendly cricket-based products like protein powders and protein bars (3).

Summary

Eating insects is a practice that dates back thousands of years. It’s more common in certain parts of the world, such as Africa and Asia, but is becoming more accepted in other countries as well.

There are a number of benefits to eating crickets.

Crickets may offer health benefits and provide a more sustainable and environmentally friendly source of protein than other animal-based protein sources.

Crickets are rich in protein

The main reason people use crickets as a food source is that they’re rich in many nutrients, especially protein.

In fact, one 2020 review found that most edible crickets have a higher protein content than more common animal-based protein sources, such as goat, chicken, and pork (1).

The review found that the body can digest a slightly lower proportion of the protein from crickets than from eggs, milk, or beef. However, it also showed that the body digested cricket protein better than popular plant-based sources of protein, such as rice and corn (1).

Crickets have a hard exoskeleton that contains chitin, a type of insoluble fiber that’s hard to digest. This is why cricket protein digestibility varies. When the exoskeleton is removed, the digestibility of protein from crickets increases dramatically (4).

Studies show that cricket protein powder contains about 65.5% protein and adult crickets provide 13.2–20.3 grams of protein per 100-gram serving (5, 6).

Interestingly, some species of cricket are complete protein sources, meaning they contain all nine essential amino acids in ideal proportions. Others are incomplete sources of protein due to their low levels of amino acids like tryptophan and lysine (5).

As long as your diet contains multiple sources of protein, you don’t need to be overly concerned with getting adequate amounts of amino acids, because they are available in many foods (7).

Regardless, crickets are rich in protein. Therefore, cricket-based products, like protein powders and protein bars, would benefit you if you’re looking to increase your daily protein intake.

Crickets are a good source of vitamins, minerals, and fiber

In addition to protein, crickets are high in many other nutrients, including fat, calcium, potassium, zinc, magnesium, copper, folate, biotin, pantothenic acid, and iron.

One study found that the iron content of crickets was 180% higher than that of beef. Plus, the crickets were higher in calcium and the B vitamin riboflavin than meat products like chicken, pork, and beef (6).

What’s more, crickets are a rich source of fiber, a nutrient that other sources of animal protein lack. Studies show that the fiber content of crickets can be as high as 13.4% in a 100-gram serving (1).

Additionally, crickets provide fat, mostly in the form of polyunsaturated fatty acids. Studies have linked these to health benefits, including improvements in risk factors for heart disease (1, 8, 9, 10).

Environmentally friendly protein alternative

Farming insects such as crickets for food may be more sustainable and environmentally friendly than raising animals such as chicken, pigs, and cattle.

For example, one study found that broiler chickens were associated with 89% higher greenhouse gas emissions than crickets, per unit of edible protein produced (11).

According to the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), livestock account for 14.5% of all global greenhouse gas emissions (12).

Reducing your red meat intake and replacing it with more sustainable options like insect or plant protein is a smart way to help the environment (2).

Insect farming could also help reduce food waste if farmers choose to feed food waste to their insects (2).

Including insects as part of the diet may help industrialized countries create a more sustainable food system and make a dent in greenhouse gas emissions.

May benefit gut health

Some research suggests that chitin, the insoluble fiber found in crickets, may be beneficial for gut health. Chitin may act as a prebiotic, promoting the growth of beneficial bacteria in the gut.

A small 2018 study that included 20 healthy people found that consuming 25 grams of whole cricket powder per day for 2 weeks led to increased growth of beneficial gut bacteria and reduced inflammatory markers (13).

In the study, Bifidobacterium animalis, a beneficial strain of gut bacteria, increased by 5.7 times (13).

At the same time, tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-α), which is linked to inflammatory gut conditions, was reduced in people who consumed cricket powder compared with people who ate a control diet (13).

These findings suggest that eating crickets may benefit gut health. However, research is limited at this time, and scientists need to do more studies to fully understand how consuming crickets may affect gut health.

Summary

Crickets are a good source of protein, fat, vitamins, minerals, and fiber and may help promote gut health. Plus, they could be a more environmentally friendly protein source than other animal proteins such as chicken.

Even though crickets offer a number of potential health benefits, many consumers in Western countries remain skeptical of cricket-based food products due to safety concerns.

As mentioned above, insects have been safely used as food for thousands of years and are commonly consumed in many parts of the world.

Plus, limited research suggests that consumption of cricket products, such as cricket protein powder, is safe and does not cause adverse health effects in healthy people (13).

But eating insects may come with some other safety concerns.

For example, studies suggest that people who are allergic to shellfish or dust mites could also have allergic reactions when eating insects (14).

However, there is currently a lack of research in this area, and scientists need to do more studies to fully understand the potential for allergic reactions related to eating insects.

Some researchers caution that insects such as crickets may act as carriers of pathogens that could infect humans and animals.

In a 2019 study, researchers analyzed insect samples from 300 household insect farms and pet stores in Central Europe, including 75 cricket farms (15).

The study found parasites in more than 81% of the insect farms. In 30% of those cases, the researchers found parasites that could potentially cause disease in humans (15).

This doesn’t necessarily mean eating insects is dangerous. It simply points out that, like eating livestock, eating insects has the potential to make you sick. Therefore, insect farms should implement strict safety guidelines if they’re producing crickets for food (15).

Overall, scientists need to do more research to better understand the potential risks of eating insects such as crickets.

Summary

Even though people around the world consume insects safely, there is a lack of research about the potential risks of eating them. Scientists need to do more high quality studies to determine the safety of regularly eating crickets.

Crickets are highly nutritious and affordable, which is why people eat them in many areas of the world.

Crickets are a good source of protein, fat, vitamins, minerals, and fiber and may benefit gut health. Plus, they’re a more environmentally friendly protein option than other animal-based proteins, such as chicken or beef.

However, eating insects may come with potential health risks, such as allergic reactions and pathogen contamination. For this reason, you should purchase cricket products only from trusted sources.

If you’re interested in trying cricket products, consider a cricket-based protein powder or protein bars from brands like hi! or EXO.