This Unexpected Protein Could Help Heal Your Gut — And Save The Planet, Too
Would you eat bugs if your gut health depended on it? New research published in Scientific Reports1 has found that eating cricket powder might help decrease inflammation and make our microbiomes more diverse.
For the study, 20 healthy adults were split into two groups, both of which were given either a muffin or a smoothie to eat for breakfast. One group unknowingly had 15 grams of powdered cricket flour added to their morning meal, and after two weeks, the group took a break and then switched breakfasts. All the while, participants had their blood and GI activity measured to see how the bug protein was affecting them.
Researchers found that when people ate cricket flour, they had lower levels of an inflammatory blood protein called TNF-alpha, which has been associated with cancer2, IBS3, and Alzheimer's4. They also had higher levels of five gut bacteria—one of which was Bifidobacterium animalis, which has "been shown in clinical trials to improve gastrointestinal function, protect against diarrhea, reduce side effects of antibiotic treatment, and increase resistance to common respiratory infections," the study reads. On average, those who ate a cricket-heavy breakfast had 5.7 times more Bifidobacterium animalis in their systems than those who didn't.
Researchers suspect that cricket exoskeletons may be responsible for these healthy pedigrees since they're chock-full of a type of fiber that is hard to come by in other fruits, vegetables, or grains.
This was a small-scale study and researchers acknowledge that there are still questions on the long-term impacts of eating insects. However, it's just another reason to consider biting the buggy bullet and adding crickets to your routine. These days, brands like Chirps Chips, Bitty Foods, and EXO bars (whose tagline is "proudly strange") are adding cricket powder to their snack products, lauding it as a protein-rich and environmentally friendly ingredient.
One study out of Thailand5 found that poultry farming causes 89 percent more greenhouse gas emissions, on average, than cricket growing. And the United Nations has said that the bugs could be a viable solution in the race to feed a growing world, since they are so abundant and require very little land or water to harvest.
Learn all about how bugs are slowly starting to infiltrate the Western diet here.
Emma Loewe is the Sustainability and Health Director at mindbodygreen and the author of Return to Nature: The New Science of How Natural Landscapes Restore Us. She is also the co-author of The Spirit Almanac: A Modern Guide To Ancient Self Care, which she wrote alongside Lindsay Kellner.
Emma received her B.A. in Environmental Science & Policy with a specialty in environmental communications from Duke University. In addition to penning over 1,000 mbg articles on topics from the water crisis in California to the rise of urban beekeeping, her work has appeared on Grist, Bloomberg News, Bustle, and Forbes. She's spoken about the intersection of self-care and sustainability on podcasts and live events alongside environmental thought leaders like Marci Zaroff, Gay Browne, and Summer Rayne Oakes.