Vegan meat, also known as fake meat, mock meat, faux meat, meatless meat, has recently become a bit of a phenomenon. Made using fully plant-based ingredients, mock meats have been hailed as a healthier option to animal meats. It is typically made using plant-based protein such as soy, wheat protein, and pea protein. Plant-based meat alternatives have been said to provide many health benefits for both the people consuming it and for the environment as well. Yet, many still question whether vegan meat substitutes are truly healthier than their animal-based counterparts. In this article, we’ll address the following topics about vegan meat:
- Types of Vegan Meat Substitutes
- Health Benefits Of Plant-Based Meat Alternatives vs Real Meat
- Vegan Meat Brands
Types of Vegan Meat Substitutes
- Tofu: A centuries-old staple in Asian cuisines, tofu is one of the most common and popular meat substitutes. It’s made similar to how cheese is made using cow’s milk. Once the soy milk is coagulated the curds are then molded into blocks. It may also contain additional nutrients including protein and calcium.
Unfortunately, tofu has been called bland and tasteless. While this may be true, tofu is a very versatile ingredient that has an amazing ability to soak up a lot of flavours thus making it great when used with spices and marinades. Moreover, using extra firm tofu and then pressing it down will help the tofu be more firm and chewy thus resembling meat. In fact, tofu is often used as a meat substitute for chicken, seafood, beef, and pork!
- Texturized Vegetable Protein (TVP): Texturized vegetable protein (TVP), also known as textured soy protein, is a fairly simple ingredient to cook with. It’s typically made from soy flour. It’s made from soybeans that have been dehulled, ground into a meal and have had oil extracted from them. TVP is usually sold in dried chunks, flakes, granules, slices or even powder and they often have to be rehydrated before cooking. While bland on their own, this particular vegan meat substitute, like tofu, will really absorb the flavours from the liquids it’s soaked or cooked in and are high in both fiber and protein and fairly low in fat. It works great as a substitute for dishes that require ground meat such as cutlets, lasagnas or burgers.
- Tempeh: While tofu is made from soy milk, this soy-derived mock meat is made using whole, slightly fermented soybeans. One advantage of this particular fake meat is that the fermentation of the soybeans used to make tempeh break down the phytic acid in the beans thus the starches in tempeh may be easier to digest.
Tempeh also has a firmer and grainier texture than tofu. In addition, you don’t have to press on it like you would tofu. Simply slice or dice it before cooking. Packed with protein, fiber, calcium, and vitamins, tempeh is often used to mimic fish and ground meat in various dishes. However, one downside to tempeh is that there have been some complaints of a little bitterness when cooking with it. One solution for this issue is to steam the ingredient for a few minutes before using it.
- Seitan: Seitan is most renowned for being meat-like in texture. This mock meat is derived from processed wheat gluten. It is made by kneading both water and wheat flour together in order to form sticky strands of gluten protein. Then, the dough is rinsed in order to wash out all the starch. What’s left is a sticky bundle of pure gluten protein.
Based on how it’s flavoured, seitan can be made to resemble chicken, beef or pork. It’s dense, chewy texture means that it fares well when grilled, fried, braised or any other means of cooking. If gluten is not a problem for you, seitan makes for a great healthy alternative to animal protein that is filled with lots of protein but low in carbohydrates.
- Jackfruit: Indigenous to India, jackfruit has quickly gained popularity in the vegan and vegetarian community as a plant-based alternative to meat. This tropical fruit has a mild taste and a texture that makes it work excellently as a meat alternative. Its texture is fairly similar to chicken and pork. Moreover, it’s stringy consistency makes it great for dishes that call for shredded chicken or pulled pork. Although it may be relatively low in protein, jackfruit is high in various other nutrients including fiber and potassium and makes for a welcome change to the numerous soy-derived vegan meat substitutes.
Health Benefits Of Plant-Based Meat Alternatives vs Real Meat
Vegan Meat May Help Reduce Cancer Risk
As research into the topic increases, there’s an increasing amount of correlation between meat intake and illnesses such as cancer. In 2015, red meats such as beef, veal, and lamb were all labeled a Group 2 carcinogen by the World Health Organization (WHO), which means that it may probably cause cancer in humans. In addition, processed meats including hot dogs, bacon, and pepperoni were classified as a Group 1 carcinogen, which means that it does cause cancer. To compare, both asbestos and smoking tobacco also fall under the same category. Replacing animal protein with plant-based proteins such as mock meat may help decrease cancer risk.
Vegan Meat May Be Better For Your Heart
In 2018, the Cleveland Clinic conducted a study that revealed that red meat could increase the risk of developing heart disease 1000 percent more than plant-based alternatives. The reason for this increase in risk is because when you are on a meat-heavy diet, your body produces a chemical compound known as trimethylamine N-oxide (TMAO). It forms when bacteria in your gut digest compounds in animal products such as choline, lecithin, and carnitine. Consequently, TMAO in your gut can result in cardiovascular disease, cardiac arrests, and strokes. Many medical professionals may check for high levels of TMAO in your blood as a way of predicting any potential heart issues.
Furthermore, meat usually consists of copious amounts of saturated and trans fast, which leads to significant increases in blood cholesterol levels. On the other hand, plant-based foods such as mock meat contain zero dietary cholesterol, which is typically only found in animal-based foods. Having high cholesterol can lead to the build-up of plaque within arterial walls thus increasing the likelihood of stroke, peripheral artery disease, and heart disease.
The American Heart Association reported last year that plant-based food may be one of the most effective methods of reducing risk heart disease. Additionally, research published in the Journal of American College of Cardiology also states that going plant-based could help protect people from illnesses such as heart diseases more effectively than vitamins and mineral supplements.
Vegan Meat May Be More Effective In Preventing Diabetes
Avoiding the consumption of meat may help manage, prevent or, in some cases, even reverse diabetes. The Global Diabetes Community states that following a balanced and healthy vegan diet that consists of sufficient amounts of protein and fiber and is low in cholesterol and saturated fats may facilitate the management of blood glucose levels.
Studies have shown that following a predominantly plant-based diet may reduce the risk of diabetes as much as 60 percent. In fact, studies have revealed that eating red and processed meats may actually increase the chances of developing type 2 diabetes.
Vegan Meat Alternatives May Be Better For The Environment
Not only is mock meat better for your health, but it’s also better for the planet! Producing meat takes up a huge amount of land, for example, beef production takes up 36 times more land than what would be required to produce plant-based proteins such as peas. In addition, meat production is responsible for kilotons of methane release into the atmosphere. In fact, it accounts for two-thirds of all greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture. In contrast, vegan meat substitutes, such as Beyond Meat, uses 90 percent less fossil fuel emissions, 93 percent less land, and 99 percent less water.
Vegan Meat Brands
- Good Dot: Based in Udaipur, Good Dot specializes in producing mock meats that are healthier for both you and the environment. For instance, the popular Vegetarian Bytz serves as an excellent replacement for boneless strips of red meat such as boneless mutton. It’s made from a variety of different proteins including soy, wheat, and pea protein. Its firm texture is great for kebabs, grills or curry.
Proteiz is another mock product that is most similar to chicken. Its neutral flavour makes it a blank slate that you can mold into any flavour profile you like; be it in salads, wraps, bhurji or curry.
- Vezlay: Vezlay Foods produced a plethora of different soy-derived mock meats. Some of their popular and unique meatless meats include Veg Meat, Veg Chicken, Soya Seekh Kabab, Soya Indi Chop, Soya Vegget, Soya Chikka, Soya Nuggets, Soya Shami Kabab, Soya Chop and Soya Burger. All of their mock meat products are completely plant-based and are very easy to work with. These low fat and protein-filled vegan meat substitutes are versatile enough to be used in a variety of different recipes from curry to fried rice.
- Urban Platter: Based in Mumbai, Urban Platter provides products such as Vegan Mayo, Soy Milk, Coconut Milk, Nutritional Yeast, Peanut Butter and mock meat! Some of their vegan meat products include Soya Chaap in Brine, Texturized Vegan Protein Bits, Vegan Meat (Jackfruit) and soy-based Vegan Meat Tikka and Vegan Meat Chops.
Should You Be Eating Vegan Meat
Vegan meat substitutes are a healthier alternative to animal-based proteins. They provide a plethora of both environmental and health benefits such as the reduced likelihood of developing cancer, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes, which trumps the cholesterol-filled animal meat. Moreover, with veganism on the rise, there is now a wide variety of meatless meat alternatives on the market, which are highly nutritious and loaded with important nutrients such as protein, fiber, and vitamins. Some mock meats such as Good Dot’s Proteiz Plus, are even fortified with nutrients such as Vitamin B12. However, it’s important to moderate foods such as vegan burgers, hot dogs or bacon and so on. Processed plant-based meat may be healthier than animal meat but vegan fast food is still considered fast food. Thus, it’s important to ensure that you follow a well-balanced diet with occasional treats every now and then.