Would You Eat Insects to Improve Your Gut Health?

Would You Eat Insects to Improve Your Gut Health?

A new study says that eating insects, particularly, crickets is good for you.

In fact, the study, done by the University of Wisconsin–Madison Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies, found that consuming crickets “can help support the growth of beneficial gut bacteria and that eating crickets is not only safe at high doses but may also reduce inflammation in the body.”

Are you bugging out yet?

Although devouring creepy crawlers seems like it’s something out of “Fear Factor,” the topic of edible insects has been circulating the news for the last few years, particularly as a sustainable source of nutrition for a growing population.

Before you order up some crickets at your next meal, here’s what you need to know about this new protein trend.

They’re Packed Full of Nutrients

“Edible insects are a good source of nutrition, and they compare quite favorably to other animal foods,” Valerie Stull, doctoral graduate of the University of Wisconsin–Madison Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies, and the study’s lead author, tells Organic Authority.

While she notes that the nutritional value of insects varies from species to species, most are packed full of protein and “characteristically contain all essential amino acids for human nutrition,” she says. “Generally, insects are also rich in healthy fatty acids, with numerous species containing polyunsaturated fatty acids including essential linoleic and linolenic acid. Further, many insects are a good source of minerals including copper, magnesium, manganese, phosphorous, and selenium, as well as iron and zinc. Some species are particularly high in B vitamins such as biotin, riboflavin, and folate.”

They Might Be Really Good for Your Gut

Stull also points out another nutritional benefit that insects have and animal products don’t: fiber.

“Unlike chicken, beef, or eggs, insects contain fiber, primarily in the form of chitin found in the exoskeleton,” she says. “My recent study suggests that eating crickets could have a prebiotic effect, meaning that it supports the growth of some beneficial gut bacteria. This is very exciting, and we need more research on the subject.”

They’re More Environmentally Efficient

“Edible insects offer a promising alternative to traditional livestock because of their nutritional quality and the fact that rearing them is very environmentally efficient,” Stull tells us.

Recent research from the Department of Nutrition, Exercise and Sports at the University of Copenhagen found that cricket farming uses 75 percent less carbon dioxide and 50 percent less water than chicken farming.

“Traditional farming involves a lot of environmental impacts in the form of both greenhouse gas emissions and water pollution by pesticides and fertilizer,” Ph.D. student Afton Halloran, who wrote the thesis, told Science Nordic. “It’s a massive problem and if we want to reduce the environmental impacts, insects can make a good contribution for both people and feed for animals, which our study shows has fewer environmental impacts.”

However, in recent years, the European Food Safety Authority has expressed concerns over insect farming, citing that risks to human and animal health depended on how the insects were reared and processed.

They Are More Accessible Than Ever

While it’s estimated that insects are consumed by at least 2 billion people around the world already, they are still new to those in North America.

However, Stull notes they are gaining traction here, especially crickets, thanks to a number of producers rearing crickets and making cricket-based food products, including Entomo Farms, which sells an array of products including cricket baking flour and whole roasted crickets.

The Takeaway

Though eating insects might not be for everyone, when you consider both their nutritional benefits and environmental efficiency, edible insects might end up as the leading source of protein our world needs.

Now that’s something to chirp about.

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Brianne Hogan is a Canadian writer, currently based in Prince Edward Island. A self-proclaimed "wellness freak," she has a... More about Brianne Hogan