The new eco-protein: insects

Written by Professor David Russell and Charlotte Harbour FdSc Nutritional Therapeutics

When we think about protein, we often conjure images of chicken, beef, fish, eggs, beans, nuts and seeds – typical healthy staples of a western diet. However, travel 3,000 miles east and you’ll find crickets, mealworms, beetles and even moths on the table. Although a staple of many, in the west insects are becoming the new ‘eco protein’ due to their high amino acid content and sustainability compared to traditional meat products.

Formally described as entomophagy, consuming insects for food is more common than we may realise. According to the latest research, up to 80% of the global population deliberately consume insects as a source of nutrition and protein – and with good reason. Insects are a complete source of protein (having a complete amino acid profile) and contain vitamins such as iron, zinc and vitamin B12. The fats from insects are also approximately 70% polyunsaturated fats (PUFAs) – these types of fats you may recognise as omega-3 and omega-6. These PUFAs support bones and joints, sleep, mental health and heart health.

Insects also have a low-carbon footprint in comparison to other animal products such as beef or chicken. The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) predicts that the global population will rise to over 9 billion by 2050, and with our current environmental challenges, it will be imperative that we source sustainable protein sources to feed our growing world. 

The FAO states that “crickets need six times less feed than cattle, four times less than sheep, and twice less than pigs and broiler chickens to produce the same amount of protein”. Sounds like insects are a good idea.

Still not convinced that sprinkling mealworms on your morning porridge is for you? Us neither. Not to worry, there are many insect products that don’t turn the tummy. We’ve tried and sourced cricket flour to bake into bread and even chocolate-flavoured cricket protein bars – certainly worth trying and a nutrient-dense addition to the diet (they taste good too).

We spoke about insects at CUBO this year and if you saw us, we hope you got a chance to try the insect protein bars.


Don’t forget Russell Partnership Consulting can help with your nutritional strategy: www.russellpartnership.com