“A friend convinced me to give a plant-based diet a chance for a few months, and I was willing to do it, but I didn’t want to stop eating insects,” Josh says. He had become fond of eating insects while living in Southeast Asia and believes that entomophagy is the future of food.
Entomophagy, or the practice of eating insects, has been growing in popularity in the West ever since the UN published a study on the benefits of insects. Not only is insect protein healthy for the human body, but replacing meat with insects is good for the environment as well as local economies.
“Insects are the most sustainable form of animal protein for human consumption,” Josh explains. “The comparison between 1kg of cricket protein (which can be grown literally in a concrete box) vs 1kg of beef protein is incredible. The contrast between the amount of feed, water, land and greenhouse gasses make insects far more sustainable.”
Although many of us have been taught from birth that putting insects in our mouths is ‘yucky’, entomophagy is considered completely normal in much of the world. Fried tarantulas are considered a delicacy in Cambodia, silk worms are a popular snack in parts of China, Mexican families come together to hunt giant winged ants to make a tahini-like sauce, and caterpillars are a favorite amongst the locals in West Africa.
Knowing that more than 2 billion people in the world eat insects, Josh decided to test just how far the health benefits of his six-legged twist on a vegan diet could take him. After a trip to Mexico that left him feeling flabby from eating mostly fried oily vegetables, he upped his cricket protein levels, hit the gym, and soon his abs were showing!
“My energy levels are great, and I sleep well,” Josh says, reflecting on the positive effects of his new diet. “My muscles recover quickly, and the cyst that I had on my back for a couple of years went away on its own in just a few weeks.”
Not everyone is impressed with this diet, especially the strict vegans who don’t approve of harming any living creatures at all. There are currently many debates among scientists on whether insects are even capable of feeling pain. At this point in time there is no conclusive answer, but this doesn’t worry Josh.
“Farmed insects are ‘put to sleep’ ethically, usually by putting them in large freezers where they simply go to sleep,” Josh explains. “I have to eat something, and the insects I eat are sustainable, healthy, and ethically raised and harvested. Harvesting vegetables and grains actually kills innumerable small animals including field mice, bunnies, birds and reptiles.”
Josh is working with an NGO in Cambodia with his friend, Chef Melgarejo, to improve insect farming methods and the sustainability of wild-caught insects. The crickets that Josh eats are also sourced locally in Cambodia, some farmed and others caught in humane traps that use lights to attract the insects. Although he primarily eats crickets, Josh also likes beetles or tarantulas for a treat, and he buys them from street vendors.
“Because insect protein is my primary protein source, it’s not feasible to grow them at home,” Josh explains. “I eat way too many kilos of crickets per week for that to work, so I need to buy them from farmers. For people who simply want to add insects to their meals for extra nutrition, using something like the Hive desktop farm at home is a great idea.”
Many people, Josh included, believe that eating insects can change the world. For example, if more meat eaters cut back on meat or changed from meat to insects, a lot of the environmental pollution caused by cattle would be eliminated.
“As the population grows, if entomophagy becomes more widely accepted and adopted from a young age, I believe that we could see a very positive impact on the planet and people’s health over the span of 2-3 generations.”
Given the necessary funding and research, there is a potential for more insect benefits to come to light. There are still many unknowns in the entomophagy industry, but the fact is that insects are an extremely promising food source. More studies are essential to determining whether insects contain the cure for diseases, or if there are insects that are high in antioxidants, or if there are superfood insects.
“If toasted cricket chips start to replace MSG-covered GMO corn chips, that would be a great thing for people’s diet,” Josh concludes. “Just 100 years ago lobster was the food of poor people. Now it’s paired with $1,000 bottles of champagne and eaten by celebrities. Insects are far more sustainable and nutritious than lobster, so I believe that the shift will happen with time.”
Photos: Website of Josh Galt