Why not meat?
There’s a lot of talk about beef being harmful to our environment through its methane production. Though you can find reasons for ruminants to exist as a part of a healthy ecosystem that keep our soil fertile, you cannot justify concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs), those are just plain horrible. The way they feed, treat, and kill animals is inexcusable. Most store-bought meat unfortunately comes from CAFOs, so unless you farm your own meat or have a reliable organic source, meat sounds like a bad idea.
Why not plants?
Plants are in many ways more sustainable than meat, but there are other issues with relying solely on them. Several studies have shown that both vegetarians and vegans are prone to deficiencies in fatty acids EPA and DHA, calcium, iron, zinc, and vitamins A, D, and B12. On top of that, most plant proteins have an incomplete amino acid profile, and their absorption is not ideal. Popular protein sources like legumes, nuts and seeds also contain a lot of anti-nutrients and nutrient inhibitors which can cause digestive issues. So, unless you really know what you’re doing, plant sources might not be the right way either.
The forgotten food group – Insects
Insects are among the oldest foods we still eat today. I’m not exaggerating; insects are still a staple food for about 2 billion people around the world, and it’s not a coincidence. They are a very nutrient-dense food. For example, cricket has more iron than beef, more calcium than milk, and plenty of B vitamins that many plant-based protein sources lack. It is also full of highly bioavailable protein with a full amino acid profile. An average person needs roughly 90g of protein a day, look at how much he or she would have to eat to cover the daily needs.
Beef steak – 27.2g of complete protein per 100g = 331g of meat
Cooked chickpeas – 8.9g of incomplete protein per 100g = 1011g of chickpeas
Raw broccoli – 2.8g of incomplete protein per 100g = 3214g of broccoli
Dried crickets – 67.8g of complete protein per 100g = 133g of dried crickets
Insects are not just nutritious; they are amazingly sustainable to farm, too. To produce the same amount of protein they need 12x less feed, 15x less land, 2000x less water, and they produce 100x less greenhouse gasses than cattle. And they can be fed food waste.
For some, insects are a great choice because they are so good for our planet. For others, it’s a way to add variety or cover the nutritional holes. Either way, insects are the future. Give them a try!