Why eat insects? If you’re reading popular media or social media the benefit often get boiled down to one thing, protein. Let’s get the most popular reason of why to eat insects out of the way so we can discuss other aspects of why eating insects as part of a nourishing well rounded diet is a winner.
Instagram and infographics all over the inter-webs wax lyrical on why eating insects is the place for health conscious protein seekers. There are gram comparisons with beef, chicken and pork and other traditional western livestock.
Which is all well and good, but let’s be honest, what we are missing most from our diets is not just good sources of protein. It’s nourishing whole food that gives us the amino acids, vitamins, minerals, fibre and other naturally occurring building blocks of real food that we are meant to eat. Edible insects like crickets fulfill those real food benefits, well beyond just the protein count.
We have thousands of years worth of historical records of people eating insects, farming insects (hello honey bees) and understanding that insects are a cornerstone of our food systems.
Insects like crickets contain all nine of the essential amino acids our bodies require. Essential amino acids cannot be made by the human body. As a result, they must come from food.
Scientists have discovered over 50 amino acids, while only 20 are used to make proteins in the human body. Only nine of those 20 are essential for humans; histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan, and valine. Amino acids bond together to make long chains called proteins.
A large proportion of our cells, muscles, and tissue is made up of amino acids, giving cells their structure. They also play a key role in the transport and the storage of nutrients. Amino acids influence the function of organs, glands, tendons, and arteries. They are central for fast healing wounds and repairing tissue, especially in the muscles, bones, skin, and hair. Also playing a central role in the removal of all kinds of waste deposits produced in connection with metabolism.
Vitamin K2, what is that?
Vitamin K2 is a nutrient that most people don't know about, but it is one of the most important nutrients in the diet for heart and bone health. Vitamin K was initially discovered as a nutrient involved in blood clotting. There are two forms, K1 (plants) and K2 (animal foods). The main function of Vitamin K is to activate the calcium-binding properties of proteins. K1 is mostly involved in blood clotting, while K2 helps regulate where calcium ends up in the body.
A higher intake of vitamin K2 is strongly associated with a reduced risk of heart disease. Vitamin K1 appears to be less useful. Vitamin K2 plays an essential role in bone metabolism and studies suggest that it can help prevent osteoporosis and fractures.
Humans can partly convert vitamin K1 to K2 in the body. This is useful because the amount of vitamin K1 in a typical diet is ten times that of vitamin K2.
However, current evidence indicates that the conversion process is inefficient, because we benefit much more from eating vitamin K2 directly. Vitamin K2 is also produced by gut bacteria in the large intestine, and there is some evidence that broad-spectrum antibiotics can contribute to K2 deficiency (1, 2).
The average intake of this crucial nutrient is incredibly low in the modern diet. Vitamin K2 is mainly found in certain animal foods, insects and fermented foods, which most people consuming a western diet don't that eat much of.
Vitamin K is fat-soluble, which means low-fat and lean animal products don't contain much of it. Animal foods contain the MK-4 subtype, while fermented foods like sauerkraut, natto and miso contain more of the longer subtypes, MK-5 to MK-14 (3 ).
As we learn more about our bodies, and the nutrients we are missing out on if eating highly processed and refined foods, getting back to basics with real whole food like crickets makes sense. This is why we are working on raising crickets from real food. Using leftovers from local farm and food systems in Tasmania. Our edible insects are eating real food, giving them what they need to be healthy and nourished. By taking extra time and care to source real whole food we are growing micro herds, that are macro healthy.