The word “superfood” may ring a bell since this term has become increasingly popularized in the media. Although there is no accepted medical definition of the term, superfoods are essentially foods that are nutritionally dense and carry health-promoting properties, thus are labeled as good for your health. The most common health promoting foods that have been referred to as superfoods include: blueberries, kale, walnuts, and acai. These foods contain unusually high amounts of antioxidants, vitamins, essential fats, and other nutrients. Perhaps a less commonly known superfood are crickets!
At least 2 billion people (a quarter of the world’s population) eat insects on a regular basis, and for a good reason too! Edible insects are a fantastic source of complete protein, polyunsaturated fatty acids, minerals, vitamins, and fiber. But how do they compare against more commonly known health foods? Keep reading to find out!
Antioxidants are substances that protect your cells against free radicals. Free radicals occur as a result of normal metabolic processes or external sources such as air pollutants, cigarette smoking, or industrial chemicals. Antioxidants are important to add to your diet as they may reduce the risk of diseases such as cancer, diabetes, and heart disease, and can prevent or delay cell damage. So what do antioxidants have to do with cricket flour? Well, a 2019 study measured antioxidant levels in commercially available edible insects, and the results are quite impressive. These research results show that crickets contain 5X the antioxidant capacity compared to orange juice! Perhaps it's time to substitute your morning juice for a cricket powder berry smoothie!
For any athlete, getting in adequate amounts of protein is critical for optimal muscle recovery. But not just any type protein will suffice: a complete source of protein is one that contains a sufficient proportion of each of the nine essential amino acids necessary in the human diet. While animal products are good sources of complete protein, plant products often lack several essential amino acids. What about crickets? Well, cricket protein is an excellent source of complete protein. Crickets are 60% protein by weight, meaning that if you consume 100 grams of cricket powder, you’re getting 60 grams of high quality protein! In comparison, identical servings of chicken and dried beef provides 31 grams and 43 grams respectively. This means that crickets have nearly 2X the amount of protein compared to conventional protein sources!
This important nutrient helps keep the body’s nerve and blood cells healthy. Without vitamin B12, you are unable to synthesize the red blood cells that transport oxygen throughout your body, causing weakness and fatigue. Thankfully, cricket flour contains B12 on a whole different level. Specifically, they contain about 12X more vitamin B12 than beef and salmon, 20X more than eggs, 50X more than pork, and 100X more than chicken. In just 100 grams of cricket powder, there are 24 micrograms of vitamin B12: that’s 1000% of your recommended daily intake!
Iron is an essential mineral we need to carry oxygen throughout the body. Why is iron so important? Well, it is a component of hemoglobin, which is the substance in red blood cells that transports the oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the body. When you don’t have enough iron, your body can no longer generate enough healthy oxygen-carrying red blood cells. This could lead to iron deficiency anemia, causing fatigue during physical activities as your tissues and muscle won’t get enough oxygen to work effectively. Fortunately, cricket flour contains plenty of heme iron, which is the type of iron that is better absorbed by your body (the other type being non heme iron). Crickets also contain nearly 3X as much soluble iron than sirloin and have more iron than traditional animal sources.
A mineral critical for life, calcium is vital to building bones and keeping them healthy, making it all the more important for athletes. In addition to its job in your bones, calcium enables our blood to clot, our muscles to contract, and our heart to beat. Most of the calcium in your body is stored in the bones and teeth, with some found in body fluids. An insufficient amount of calcium in your diet can be detrimental: while short term issues include muscle cramps/spasms, fatigue, and loss in bone mass, overtime, inadequate calcium intake can cause osteopenia which if left untreated can lead to osteoporosis. It’s a good thing that crickets contain calcium, in fact, it may come as a shock to find out how much better cricket flour is at providing calcium than cow’s milk: crickets contain 1.6X more calcium than milk!
Fiber is a carbohydrate that mostly goes through the digestive system without breaking down. It travels through the body undigested which eases bowel movements and flushes cholesterol and harmful carcinogens out of the body, keeping your digestive system clean and healthy. There are two types of fiber: soluble fiber, which helps your body absorb nutrients from foods, and insoluble fiber, which helps food pass through the digestive system and adds bulk to the stool. Eating high fiber foods helps add bulk to your meals, helping you feel fuller for longer. Although crickets are usually thought of as a protein product, they carry fiber as well! What makes the fiber in cricket powder so unique is that it is composed of chitin and chitosan, types of insoluble fiber, which influences gut health and reduces systemic inflammation.
We’ve already covered how crickets are a great source of protein, but they also contain the essential fatty acids omega-3 and omega-6. These fats are essential because the body cannot produce them on its own, and are needed to form healthy cell membranes, produce hormones, support healthy skin and hair, and so much more. Additionally, cricket powder contains the recommended 3:1 ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids. Maintaining this balanced ratio is important for health and in the prevention and management of obesity. However, studies have shown that the Western diet has a much higher ratio, suggesting that most people in the developed world should aim to reduce their omega-6 intake and increase omega-3 intake.
Crickets contain a variety of nutrients that are essential to everybody but especially athletes. They carry a great source of antioxidants, high quality protein, vitamins, minerals, and fatty acids. Packed with all of these amazing qualities, it is no wonder why crickets are thought to be the superfood of the future! Additionally, farming crickets has low environmental impact, making them a sustainable food option in comparison to conventional livestock. Consuming foods that are packed with nutrients is a no-brainer, but remember that the key to a healthy diet is to consume a variety of nutritious foods in healthy quantities!
Näak was founded by two endurance athletes who wanted to improve their nutrition and minimize their impact on the environment. When they discovered the benefits of crickets, Näak bars were created! Now, thousands of professional and amateur athletes use Näak to explore new playground and redefine what is physically possible. Want to be #cricketpowered too? Try our energy and protein bars!
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