Let me start by saying I'm not a particularly daring person. I hate roller coasters, I definitely will not go skydiving, and my idea of "adventurous eating" is ordering sushi. The irony of me recommending Hi! Human Improvement Cricket Protein Powder (Buy It, $12 for a 3-pack, amazon.com) — yes, cricket, as in the actual bug — is not lost on me.
Why cricket-based powder when there are so many insect-free options readily available? Because whey-based protein powders upset my stomach, plant-based protein powders are too grainy, and I can't hop on the bovine collagen train because I avoid eating beef. I was searching for a protein powder that was just right for my gut, taste buds, and personal values, which is how I Goldilocks-ed my way to insects. (Related: The Best Protein Powders for Women, According to Nutritionists)
Two former Starbucks employees were on a similar hunt for a better protein powder, which is how Hi! protein powder came to be. Through extensive research, they discovered that crickets are made of up to 70 percent protein (in both their whole and powder form), making for a surprisingly perfect ingredient. The founders combined cricket powder (which makes up approximately 20 percent of the mixture) with an organic base of brown rice, pumpkin, and pea protein to create their nutritious powder, packed with an impressive 21 grams of protein per 1.4-ounce serving. In contrast, the whey powder sitting in my pantry has just 12 grams for the same serving size.
If you're thinking that's bananas, I have some news for you: cricket powder is actually pretty healthy. "Cricket powder is very high in certain micronutrients," says Joel B. Mason, M.D., a gastroenterologist and professor at Tufts University Schools of Medicine. Hi! protein powder specifically has as much iron and vitamin B12 (if not more) than beef, and provides an alternative rich source of protein to eating meat in general. "There's evidence supporting other health benefits such as decreasing serum cholesterol and decreasing high blood pressure, but learnings are still preliminary at present," he adds. (Related: Unflavored Protein Powder You Can Add to Anything and Everything)
Not to mention, unlike traditional livestock, crickets are a more sustainably-minded option. They use 93 percent less land, consume 80 percent less water, and emit nearly 100 percent less greenhouse gas compared to beef, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. On top of the admirable nutritional and ethical elements of crickets themselves, HI! also opted to make sure their single-serve packets are completely recyclable and use 90 percent less packaging than traditional tub-and-scoop protein powders.
The first time I tried this cricket protein powder, I decided to bury it in a rich smoothie, because I really didn't want to feel like I was eating crickets; I combined a packet of the vanilla-flavored blend with peanut butter, almond milk, and a banana. My first sip was creamy and tasted vanilla-y and sweet, just like a milkshake, and the texture of the cricket powder was completely unnoticeable (really, a make or break for me, considering the chalky texture of plant-based proteins is why I'm not a fan of those). And unlike other protein smoothies that I suck down in minutes, this one was so filling that I couldn't finish the whole thing.
I had hoped the cricket protein powder — which doesn't contain GMOs, soy, dairy, gluten, or added sugars — would feel easy on my gut, but I was surprised by just how little it affected my stomach. I felt no bloating, no discomfort, and was full for hours. I tested the chocolate protein powder the next day and was just as pleased with the taste and results. I'm a smoothie gal and haven't tried the buggy powder in plain water or milk yet, so TBD on the taste, but I will say that it tastes damn delicious in my morning blends. (Related: This Is the Tastiest and Most Satisfying Protein Powder I've Ever Tried — and It's On Sale at Walmart)
The powder is admittedly expensive at $4 per single-serve packet, but it's more affordable than my local smoothie shops, and I like supporting sustainably-minded businesses. The protein powder also makes me feel so great that it's worth the splurge, IMO. If you want to try this ethical and gut-friendly protein alternative, you can snag a package of three servings on Amazon for $12 — and then if you decide you love it, you can invest in a 20-count pack for $60. It sounds crazy, but I truly suggest adding edible insects to your life — you won't be sorry.