You’ve probably noticed a rise in the availability of plant-based meats. These are vegan or vegetarian goods that are created from plant-based ingredients and can be used in recipes that usually call for meat.
I can vouch for the fact that many meatless substitutes can be used in the same ways as meat because I consume a plant-based diet. Burgers, hot dogs, bacon, ground crumbles, meatballs, and even deli slices are available without meat.
Many of them are so adaptable and delectable that individuals who don’t always have a plant-based diet also love eating them.
You might be curious as to whether plant-based meat substitutes are healthful despite their widespread use.
The nutritional content of some of the most popular plant-based meat substitutes is examined in this article, along with advantages and drawbacks to take into account.
Types of meat substitutes made from plants
Today, there are an increasing variety of meat substitutes made from plants. Let’s examine some of the more well-known variations.
Created from essential wheat gluten, seitan is a meat replacement made from plants. Its chewy texture and savoury flavour make it a good addition to pasta meals, sandwiches, stews, and stir-fries.
Seitan is a high-protein plant-based alternative to meat in terms of nutrition. Iron, calcium, and potassium are typically present in trace amounts as well (1 Trusted Source, 2).
Seitan is available in many grocery stores as ready-to-use cubes, strips, or thin deli slices.
Additionally, essential wheat gluten, vegetable broth, flavourings like soy sauce or liquid aminos, and garlic can be used to produce seitan at home. Simply mix the ingredients in a mixer to make a dough, cut the dough into slices, then boil the slices to cook them.
Seitan is not suitable for anyone with celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity, though, as it is manufactured with gluten.
Beyond Meat merchandise
Popular plant-based meat substitutes are sold under the Beyond Meat brand. This company now produces plant-based ground meat, sausage, meatballs, and chicken, while it was first known for its vegan burger, the Beyond Burger.
Pea protein is the main component of a Beyond Burger. Additionally, it includes dry yeast, rice protein, cocoa butter, and refined coconut oil.
Gluten-free and soy-free, Beyond Burgers are naturally coloured with beet juice. One patty has 40% zinc, 20% iron, and 100% of the daily recommended amount of vitamin B12 in it (3).
The Beyond Burger and Impossible Burger have a similar idea. The company that creates these burgers, Impossible Foods, also uses plant-based ingredients to create vegetarian sausage, chicken-style nuggets, and hog substitutes.
Impossible Burgers contain soy and potato proteins rather of pea protein.
Heme iron gives them a taste that resembles meat. The heme iron utilised in Impossible Burgers is often made from animal sources, however it is instead made from the root nodules of soybean plants and fermented using genetically modified yeast (4Trusted Source).
Numerous micronutrients are present in The Impossible Burger. One patty, for instance, contains 25% of iron, 130% of the daily value for vitamin B12, and 50% of the daily value for zinc (5).
Large tropical fruits like the jackfruit can be found throughout South America, Africa, and Asia. Its edible seeds are embedded in a soft, stringy inner flesh that bears a thick, green, rough skin (6Trusted Source).
Jackfruit flesh is frequently utilised in place of meat dishes like pulled pork due to its consistency and mild flavour. For instance, I enjoy putting plain jackfruit, onions, and barbecue sauce in the slow cooker to make sandwiches.
In contrast to other plant-based meat substitutes, jackfruit is low in calories and has a relatively low protein and fat content. It does, however, provide some fibre and a scant amount of minerals, including calcium, potassium, and iron (7).
Also Read ABout How to Be an Ethical Omnivore.
Foods based on soy
A legume, soy is one of the first plant-based meat substitutes. The mild flavour and adaptable texture of soy-based foods make them perfect for use in a variety of cuisines that normally contain meat.
Popular options made using soy include the following:
- Soybeans. Also called edamame, soybeans are a great addition to stir-fry. You can also cook them and eat them as a snack.
- Tofu. A spongy cake made from soybeans and water, tofu can be pressed, cubed, and cooked. You can use it in stir-fry or salads, slice it and add it to sandwiches, or crumble it and cook it with vegetables (similar to the way some folks might use scrambled eggs).
- Tempeh. This is a fermented soybean product sold in long blocks. Tempeh works well sliced into thin strips and added to stir-fry or crumbled and used in stews, chilis, tacos, or sloppy joes.
- Soy-containing meat alternatives. Some of the more processed plant-based meat alternatives, such as premade veggie burgers, use soy protein in their recipes.
Today, there are more plant-based meat substitutes than ever. Seitan, jackfruit, soy products, and prepared goods that resemble traditional meats, such those from the companies Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat, are some of the most popular.
Nutritional characteristics of meat substitutes made from plants
The basic nutritional makeup of the plant-based meat substitutes outlined above is compared in the table below.
The size of the serving is given below and can vary between products and brands; the nutritional data is for one serving.
Seitan, Beyond Burgers, and Impossible Burgers are the meat substitutes with the greatest levels of sodium, protein, and calories. Both total and saturated fat levels are high in the latter two. Tofu and jackfruit have no saturated fat and are low in calories and salt.
Advantages of plant-based meat substitutes
Since many people opt to eat plant-based meat substitutes for a variety of reasons, some of the key advantages are arbitrary.
For instance, I eat plant-based meat substitutes since they are more consistent with my ethical principles than meat.
By consuming vegetables, I demonstrate my opposition to industrialised animal agriculture and its negative consequences on human health, the environment, and animal welfare (10Trusted Source, 11Trusted Source).
Additionally, certain plant-based meats are devoid of elements like sodium and saturated fat that some individuals may want to avoid for heart health, but the levels vary depending on the product (12Trusted Source).
According to recent studies, eating a lot of processed and red meat raises your risk of getting several malignancies, including colon and breast cancer (13Trusted Source, 14Trusted Source).
Contrarily, the majority of Western diets lack essential nutrients like fibre, which is known to lower the risk of developing a number of chronic diseases (15Trusted Source, 16Trusted Source).
The only natural sources of fibre are plants, so switching to a more whole-food-based, plant-centric diet is an easy approach to acquire more fibre while also receiving more vitamins, minerals, and other substances that provide further health protection (17Trusted Source).
Additionally, a benefit of plant-based meats is that a lot of them offer a taste, texture, and adaptability that is comparable to meat, making them a good option for people who don’t want to eat animal products.
Also Read ABout How to Be an Ethical Omnivore.
Due to their views on animal welfare and the environment, many people opt to eat plant-based meat substitutes. Some meat substitutes are also devoid of elements like salt and saturated fat that some people try to avoid eating.
Cons of plant-based meat substitutes
While plant-based meat substitutes may have a lot of advantages, there may also be some drawbacks to take into account.
For instance, there are several kinds of plant-based meats.
Some highly processed foods, such those made by Beyond Meat and Impossible Burger, have saturated and total fat content that is comparable to that of meat. The burgers even have higher sodium content per serving than a single beef patty (12Trusted Source, 18Trusted Source, 19Trusted Source).
Many packaged meat substitutes also have other components that some people don’t want to eat, like processed oils, cornstarch that has been changed, dextrose, or added sugar.
Read the ingredient label on any packaged plant-based meat substitute in order to avoid any ingredients that worry you.
Finally, various plant-based meat substitutes may be more expensive per serving even though tofu is cheap.
Not all meat substitutes made from plants are automatically healthy. Some nevertheless include high levels of sodium and saturated fat in addition to other components you might want to stay away from. The cost of some of the more processed choices might also be high.
What vegan meat substitute is the healthiest?
The healthiest plant-based meat substitutes are those that you can consume in as close to their natural, entire state as you can.
For instance, less processing is used to foods like tofu or jackfruit meat than it is to foods like the Beyond Burger and Impossible Burger.
The other plant-based meat substitutes can still be incorporated into a balanced diet, despite this. Impossible and Beyond Burgers are excellent sources of plant protein despite being more processed. They might be more wholesome options than hamburgers from fast food restaurants.
It’s a good idea to choose plant-based meat substitutes like jackfruit and soy meals most of the time and include highly processed substitutes in your diet less frequently.
Remember that many recipes call for legumes like beans, peas, and lentils in place of meat. These are cheap, packed with healthy nutrients, and simple to add to homemade veggie burgers, chilli, soups, stews, tacos, and salads.
Premade burgers and other meat substitutes should be consumed less frequently in favour of less processed options such whole soy meals, jackfruit, and legumes. This is the best way to enjoy plant-based meat substitutes.
Today, there are an increasing variety of meat substitutes made from plants. Even people who don’t eat a plant-based diet like eating many of them since they are so delectable and convenient.
Many of the more heavily processed meat substitutes aren’t necessarily nutritious options from a nutritional sense. For example, they frequently have excessive sodium and saturated fat content.
While I often advise focusing on less-processed meat substitutes, such as seitan and whole soy meals, Beyond Burger and Impossible Burger can still be occasionally enjoyed as part of a generally healthy diet.
Also Read ABout How to Be an Ethical Omnivore.