2016 was a massive year for plant protein, but it was also a year in which one unusual protein powder grew in popularity. I’m talking, of course, about protein powder made from insects. Suffice to say the world’s weirdest protein powder divides opinion among those who’ve never before heard of it. Indeed, consumers tend to have one of two reactions: either they gag or they give a wry smile and a chirpy thumbs up.
The Seasonal Popularity of Protein
Protein is probably never more popular than in January, which should be renamed The Month of Atonement. Guilty parties, retrospectively horrified by their festive gluttony, instinctively cut down on carbs and make protein a mainstay of their diets – at least till February, when the guilt wears off and the excesses of Christmas recede into virtual nonexistence.
Why is it that protein becomes so popular in the New Year? Probably because a high-protein diet is associated with weight loss and muscle retention, while excess carbs are linked with, well, love handles. The macronutrients are sufficiently complex to make such simple characterisations laughably inadequate, but protein remains mightily important – particularly if you’re toiling in the gym to get back in shape.
Not only is protein essential for building lean muscle mass and balancing hormones, but it helps reduce hunger and tackle body fat. It also contributes towards healthy brain and cardiovascular function. Good sources of protein include meat, eggs, fish and dairy, as well as beans, seeds, tofu, nuts and of course super greens like kale, spinach and spirulina. But those are normal sources of protein, and for the purposes of this article, they don’t interest us. What we’re keen to talk about is the world’s weirdest protein powder – insect protein – and whether it’s a worthwhile alternative to animal or plant-based supplements.
It’s Not Cricket… It’s Cricket Protein Powder
Who’d have thunk it – insects scurrying in the undergrowth are packed with protein and bursting with valuable micronutrients, chief among them zinc and iron. There are several different arthropod powders out there (silkworm, anyone? How about locusts?), though ground crickets seems to be the most popular. The world's weirdest protein powder? Who's going to argue?
Before you click off this webpage in horror, bear in mind that insects can provide protein of comparable biological value to meat and fish. In fact, they provide twice as much protein as beef, ounce for ounce, and include all of the essential amino acids.
If your curiosity is getting the better of you, you can always turn to Google: a quick search will turn up milled cricket protein powders, energy bars, roasted crickets, cricket flour… even cricket brownie mix!
Speaking of Weird Protein Sources… What About Bone Broth?
Another peculiar protein source that we heard a lot about last year was bone broth. Like any faddish foodstuff, bone broth was cheered by a small army of health conscious celebs – in this case Gwyneth Paltrow and Salma Hayek. Described by Dr. Kellyann Petrucci as ‘liquid gold’, bone broth is made with animal bones and simmered for hours. A traditional, nutrient-rich meal that’s been repackaged as a millennial discovery, it is high in protein, good fats and easily absorbable minerals such as calcium, magnesium and phosphorus. Like cricket protein, the idea of bone broth turns many people’s stomach. But what is it they say – don’t knock it till you’ve tried it. Unless you’re vegetarian or vegan, of course.
Protein is Vital – Whatever the Month
Health, as they say, is wealth – and protein is an essential component of a healthy diet, whether you get it from the world’s weirdest protein powder, bone broth, pumpkin seeds, fish, chicken, eggs or milk.
Carbohydrates are not the enemy, but if you top-load your meals with refined carbs, weight gain is very likely – and you’ll miss out on the fibre, vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals present in whole grains, vegetables and fruits (so-called ‘good’ carbs).
Will crickets retain their title as the world’s weirdest protein in 2017, or will a new creation bump them off their pedestal? It’s going to be fun finding out.