Cockroaches — yes, those disgusting insects you find loitering around your garbage — could be the source of the next superfood trend, according to scientists. In fact, cockroach “milk” is made up of nutrient-rich crystals reported to have three times the energy of the equivalent mass of normal dairy milk. In 2004, Subramanian Ramaswamy started studying crystals that are found inside the guts of cockroach embryos. At the time, he was teaching biochemistry at the University of Iowa in Iowa City. (Now Ramaswamy studies a host of topics — including infectious diseases — at the Institute for Stem Cell Science and Regenerative Medicine. It’s in Bangalore, India.)The crystals had come from the Pacific beetle cockroach. This is the only cockroach species that’s viviparous (Vy-VIP-er-us). That means it gives birth to live young. The cockroach mothers feed the babies growing inside them with a milk-like liquid. That milk contains the crystals, which are made of protein. To learn more about these milk crystals, the scientists needed to study them up close. “To see an object, you will throw light on it,” Ramaswamy says. “To look at atoms or molecules, you’d want to use wavelengths of [light] that are smaller than the distances between atoms and molecules.” X-rays are a form of light, he explains. And their wavelengths are the right size to see atoms in a crystal of some protein.The atoms in the crystal will cause any x-rays beamed at it to scatter somewhat. That’s why this scanning technique is known as x-ray diffraction. And the scatter pattern that emerges helps scientists map the placement of those atoms making up the crystal’s structure. But for those who struggle to get the amount of calories required per day, this could be a quick and easy way to get calories and nutrients.“They’re very stable. They can be a fantastic protein supplement,” said Ramaswamy.Now the researchers have the sequence, they are hoping to get yeast to produce the crystal in much larger quantities – making it slightly more efficient (and less gross) than extracting crystals from cockroach’s guts.Who needs kale and quinoa when you have cockroach milk supplements?…Yeah, we aren’t 100 percent convinced either. But if it helps alleviate the food shortages we’ll have to deal with this generation, we’ll take it.The research was published in IUCrJ, the journal of the International Union of Crystallography.