Why Eat Bugs #4: Sustainable Paleo

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There is a great article in the July 28th New Yorker overviewing the concepts and history of the paleo diet movement as writer (and environmental expert) Elizabeth Kolbert goes full paleo for her family for  a week.

With Kolbert’s entertaining and informative flair, she runs through the highlights and arguments for the paleo diet (namely, how agriculture is the worst mistake man has ever made…an idea popularized in the landmark piece by Jared Diamond).

Although she comes across cautiously supportive of the diet, she nonetheless ends the article by dismissing it for its unsustainability:

Whether or not agriculture was the worst mistake in the history of the human race, the choice, once made, was for the good. With a global population of 7 billion people, heading rapidly to toward 8 billion, there’s certainly no turning back now. Pound for pound, beef production demands at least 10x as much water as wheat production, and, calorie for calorie, it demands almost 20x as much energy…All of which to say that, from an environmental standpoint, paleo’s “let them eat steak” approach is a disaster.

I wonder if she conferred with her New Yorker counterpart Dana Goodyear, who’s awesome 2011 article on entomophagy got me thinking about the whole bug thing.

I’ve already written about the sustainability advantages of insect husbandry over traditional forms of animal protein production. But I’m only now realizing how well bugs fit in the paleo lifestyle.

I’m not super into paleo, but I do the Crossfit thing and it’s inevitable that you get introduced to the diet at your local box. I agree with a lot of paleo principles and did try going full paleo for a month. It took a lot of adjusting with me doing a lot of cooking and working with a lot of new grocery (coconut flour… who knew?). After going through a sluggish period of what I can only understand as “gluten-withdrawal,” I felt awesome and lost a few pounds.

Although I continue to try new paleo dishes and limit my intake of processed flour (but not sugar… holy moly I have a problem there), ultimately it’s a pretty time-consuming, repetitive, and expensive diet to maintain whole hog.

But if I had access to a cheap, healthy, and very paleo food source…

Insects were most definitely part of the original paleo diet. Cavedudes were more likely crunching on cicadas than they were on bacon-wrapped avocados.

And certain bugs are very nutritious food sources with high protein, fiber, vitamin, and mineral content. For example, the recent United Nations report calls out mealworms as having a similar offering of protein, vitamin and minerals as in fish and meat. Furthermore, the Robb Wolf blog also makes the paleo-bug connection and posts some actual numbers on the nutritional content of a variety of bugs. For example, see how well some bugs compare protien-wise to beef and fish…

 

From the great The Food Insects Newsletter, July 1996

 

Insect Protein (g)
Giant Water Beetle 19.8
Grasshopper 20.6
Caterpillar 28.2
Beef (Lean Ground) 27.4
Fish (Broiled Cod) 28.5

Already, the savvy Exo are selling on the paleo-bug connection with their protein bars made from nuts and cricket flour, with each bar consisting of an equivalent of 25 crickets. (BTW…If anyone has tried these things, let me know. I’m on the fence on going all in on a $40 box.)

However, I’m guessing the production costs and processing involved with getting crickets into the protein bar form would limit the sustainability. (Please correct me if I’m wrong.)

But a cricket that is straight-up simply roasted with a little chili-lime flavoring might prove to be a very “sustainable paleo” offering.

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Luckily, the San Francisco food cart Don Bugito is offering this online. I just bought some for a very reasonable $5. Will let you know how it goes…

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One Response to “Why Eat Bugs #4: Sustainable Paleo”

  1. I was in the news over the weekend… | Eric Bescak's Online Journal Says:

    […] in the article. Although I’ve written about some of these benefits in previous posts (“Sustainable Paleo” and “No Mad Mealworm Disease“), I’ll add here the awesome table published […]

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