Everything You Want to Ask About Vegan Meat Substitutes
If you’re interested in the possibilities of a vegan diet, here’s what you need to know about vegan meat substitutes.
Why Eat it At All?
The answer is complicated and unique to each person, but it’s quite rare for someone to become a vegan solely because they hate the flavor of meat! Here are some of the many reasons people might choose vegan meat substitutes.
- They have gone vegan for their health. Just because you want to be healthy doesn’t mean you don’t want to enjoy all the delicious flavors of recipes that contain meat. While it’s possible to make those tacos with just beans, a pork substitute can give you the real flavor without the meat.
- They have gone vegan to protect the environment. There are plenty of people who have no real problem with meat, but are concerned that raising animals for food is damaging to the environment. They too enjoy the flavor of meat, but they choose to forgo it for the sake of the earth. Plant based beef products help them stick with this choice.
- They want to avoid eating living beings. For some vegans, perhaps the majority, this lifestyle choice is about avoiding eating another living creature. Since this choice is about sacrificing to do good for something or someone else, making that sacrifice doesn’t mean that a person hates the flavor of chicken! Having a plant based chicken substitute allows them to enjoy their favorite recipes while staying true to their personal commitment.
Do You Have to Be Vegan to Enjoy Vegan Meat Substitutes?
Certainly not. Almost 40% of food consumers are trying today to include more vegan foods in their everyday meals. Whether that is because of concern for the environment or concern for personal health, it means there’s plenty of opportunity to try vegan meat substitutes in your favorite recipes.
What Kinds of Vegan Meat Substitutes Are There?
A meat substitute is typically made soy, seitan, or tempeh. Many vegan meat substitutes use soy-based recipes to re-create the texture of meats for use in recipes or even in grilling, and also because soy has a good nutritional profile.
Are There Any Meat Substitutes I Should Avoid?
Whenever there’s any demand for any food, you can expect inferior substitutes to crop up. Here are a few things to watch out for when you’re looking at vegan meat substitutes.
- Frozen foods low in fat but with tons of salt. This is particularly a problem with veggie burgers. You also want to look carefully at the label, because a number of these veggie burgers actually contain animal sources of protein, though not actual meat.
- Deli meats made from tofu. The problem with deli meats is the high level of processing and the enormously high levels of sodium. Tofu deli meats that mimic pepperoni, baloney, or roast beef have all the same issues. They are highly processed and very high in sodium.
- Those delicious, delicious nuts. There’s nothing wrong with nuts by themselves. The problem comes when you entirely depend on roasted nuts for your protein. Many of these are covered in sugar and salt. Additionally, the process of roasting degrades the fat in the nuts turning it from a healthy profile to an unhealthy profile. Finally, nuts do not contain the full range of protein that the human animal needs to really thrive.
What Are the Best Vegan Meat Substitutes?
Soy and soy-based vegan meat substitutes are the number one choice for amino acid profile and vitamin and mineral composition. In addition to soy-based meat substitutes, it’s important to get plenty of lentils and beans, raw nuts, and whole grains. Just remember that most of these protein substitutes, other than soy, don’t have the full range of amino acid proteins that we need. This means you have to eat a variety in order to get all the nutrition and complete protein that you need to enjoy robust good health.
The research is controversial, but a number of studies have shown that people who replace meat in their diet with plant-based foods instead enjoy a 20% lower mortality rate. Whatever your reason for eating meat substitutes, make sure you’re eating the best.