If you want to include more plant-based foods in your diet or switch to a vegan diet, you may be curious about meat alternatives. There are now a variety of meat substitutes on the market, making choosing the right product for you and your family more difficult.
In this article, we’ll take a look at the most common meat substitutes so you can make an informed decision about which product matches your preferences.
As impressive as they may look and sound, meat substitutes have been around since the 1960s, and in Asian culture, tofu and tempeh are on the menu as a standard dish. You can also often find vegan burgers or bites based on nuts, seeds, whole grains, lentils and other legumes at the market. They are delicious, but the final taste is very different from that of real meat. However, since then, vegan products have come a long way and evolved into meat alternatives that are indistinguishable in taste and texture.
Let’s take a look at some of the plant-based meat alternatives:
Tempeh: One of the first plant-based meat substitutes. Tempeh is made from fermented soybeans. It is a good substitute for ground meat and will take on the flavor of what it is cooked with – spices, flavorings, etc.
Seitan: Seitan is another meat alternative that has been around for hundreds of years and is made by rinsing the starch out of wheat dough. You may also see it labeled as wheat protein or wheat gluten.
Tofu: Like tempeh, tofu will take on the flavor of whatever it’s cooked with. Tofu is produced by coagulation of soy milk with subsequent draining and pressing into blocks.
Nuts, seeds and legumes: These food ingredients are high in protein, fiber and other nutrients. You may see them listed on product labels for veggie burgers, bites, and more. The final taste and texture, however, is distinguishable from that of meat.
Jackfruit: jackfruit is the largest fruit growing on a tree and its grated texture is very similar to real meat. Its origin is the region between the Western Ghats of southern India and the tropical forests of Malaysia.
Pea Protein: Pea protein is another plant-based meat base with a consistency very close to beef and even the fibrous texture of real chicken. Pea protein is also an excellent gluten-free option.
A variety of whole foods and plant-based proteins can give you a range of nutrients like calcium, potassium, iron and more, and boost your fiber intake. Some meat substitutes even have the same protein and iron content as regular meat, but without the saturated fat. On the other hand, meat-free alternatives can be deceiving if you don’t carefully review the nutritional ingredients before you buy. It’s not uncommon for them to be very high in sodium—pretty much the opposite of what you’d want if you were hoping to prevent cardiovascular disease. If you’re not sure how to incorporate plant-based meats into your diet, don’t hesitate to consult a nutritionist.