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What Are Meat Substitutes And Their Alternatives?

Meat substitutes are meat-free alternatives to animal meat. They consist of a plant-based basis such as soybeans, wheat, sweet lupine, or even peas. These are processed into products using various processes. But be careful: some meat substitute products still contain animal ingredients such as egg white for binding. Processed meat substitute products in particular, such as meat imitations in the form of meat-free sausage, mince, or schnitzel, often contain animal ingredients.

Why Use Meat Alternatives?

Meat eaters, in particular, often ask why one does without meat and then eat meat-like products. Refraining from meat is often associated with an increased awareness of the environment and animal welfare. You don’t want to do without, but instead, find suitable healthy alternatives for yourself. 

Meat substitute products make switching to a vegan or vegetarian diet easier and reducing animal products with an existing omnivorous diet. The diversity in the diet can be maintained, and the absorption of essential nutrients can be guaranteed. Not only weight but also blood pressure and cholesterol levels can benefit from a change. 

What Meat Alternatives Are There?

Tofu

Tofu is made from soybeans and water. The beans are pressed and filtered with water, creating soy milk. With the addition of coagulants such as magnesium chloride and calcium sulfate, this flocculates. The result is soy protein, which is pressed into a solid block of soy. The natural tofu can be smoked further or seasoned in various ways. This meat alternative is vegan and low in calories, rich in high-quality vegetable protein and unsaturated fatty acids. Tofu also contains a lot of iron, which you should pay particular attention to in a meat-free diet. 

However, unfermented soy is rich in lectins and phytic acids. These are attributed to an attack on the intestinal wall and a restriction in the absorption of minerals. The evidence on soy consumption is very inconsistent and ranges from harmful to beneficial. Therefore, attention should be paid to the amount consumed, and fermented meat substitutes made from soy should be prioritized, provided that this is the primary source of protein. 

Tempeh

This meat substitute is made almost entirely from soybeans or sweet lupine seeds. There is also apple cider vinegar and the mold Rhizopus. But don’t worry – you won’t get sick from this one! The starting products are boiled, dried, and then inoculated with the starter culture and packaged during production. The product ferments, making it a probiotic meat substitute. Fermentation refers to the microbiological degradation of the substances it contains by living bacteria and fungi. Probiotic foods contain microorganisms that, in sufficient quantities, contribute to a healthy intestine. 

During the fermentation process, they reduce the number of lectins and phytic acids. This meat substitute is also low in calories, carbohydrates, and fat. What is extraordinary is the high proportion of protein with all essential amino acids and the limiting amino acid lysine. Tempeh contains many B vitamins, calcium, iron, and antioxidants. Another bonus of this nutrient bomb: it is also vegan, lactose, and gluten-free. 

Seitan

The following meat substitute in our top five is seitan. To do this, wheat flour is rinsed with water until all of the starch is removed. Wheat protein – so-called gluten – remains. This is the water-insoluble gluten protein in wheat. It can then be processed further as a sausage with just a few other ingredients. It is also straightforward to make yourself. With 30 grams of protein per 100 grams, seitan as a meat substitute is the winner among the meat substitute products. 

Due to its low fat and carbohydrate content, it is common in calories and has low nutrient density and low fiber content. Its taste is rather bland, which is why it is advisable to season or marinate seitan. A warning to all people with gluten intolerance and celiac disease: Although this meat substitute is vegan and lactose-free, it is pure gluten.

Jackfruit

A fruit that has it all! It is the largest and heaviest tree fruit in the world. It is used as a meat substitute in an unripe state. It is green on the outside and white on the inside. The texture is similar to chicken and tastes neutral to slightly sour. It should not be eaten raw as it will be difficult to digest. Unripe jackfruit is available shredded in bags or canned pieces with brine. 

This meat substitute product is also low in calories with just 30 calories per 100 grams and therefore ideal for losing weight! It also contains a lot of fiber, Vitamin C, Beta Carotene, Magnesium, and Potassium. However, it hardly has any protein and iron. If you want to incorporate jackfruit into your dishes, you should therefore make sure to add legumes as a source of protein.

Vegan Hack

The last alternative on our list is a meat-free hack. This meat substitute is mainly based on soy. Depending on the manufacturer, it contains drinking water, soy protein isolate, concentrate, and various vegetable oils. But also, many additives such as flavors, stabilizers, and flavor enhancers are on the list of ingredients. To achieve a meat-like consistency, this meat substitute product is heavily processed. 

Therefore, it is very different in its nutritional values ​​from largely unprocessed alternatives. The fat content is very variable, which contains a high proportion of saturated fatty acids. If consumed in excess, these can harm weight and the cardiovascular system. Compared to ground beef, meat-free ground meat contains fewer calories due to the vegetable base, more fiber, and similarly high protein content. However, you should note that the biological value of vegetable protein is lower.

Are Meat Alternatives Healthy?

You are probably wondering now whether meat substitutes are not only healthier for the climate but also you. Here we answer with a very clear “yes.” If the alternatives have a low degree of processing, they provide you with health-related added value. Due to their low-fat content, the high proportion of fiber, nutrients, and high-quality vegetable protein, they positively affect your weight, heart health, and physical performance.

On the other hand, it must be made clear that adverse health effects are mainly due to red and heavily processed meat. White meat from poultry could not be shown in studies to have significant cardiovascular disease or type 2 diabetes consequences. Nevertheless, the consumption of meat should be reduced. Meat substitute products can make it easier to switch to a meat-free or meat-poor diet. Nevertheless, a nutrient-rich and varied diet can be guaranteed. To increase protein intake, you can combine two sources of protein. 

For more heavily processed meat alternatives, it is worth taking a look at the list of ingredients. Natural flavors and non-chemical additives are harmless. Care should be taken with a long list of ingredients with artificial flavors, additives, flavor enhancers, or thickeners. These meat substitutes also often have higher fat, salt, and sugar content: excessive salt consumption can increase blood pressure. 

Too much-saturated fat increases the risk of coronary artery disease and can promote diabetes and obesity. Especially in vegan mince, due to increased levels of saturated mineral oil hydrocarbons , coconut oil, or lubricating oils get into the food during production and transfer from packaging made of recycled paper.

Conclusion On Meat Substitute Products

You can safely incorporate meat substitutes into your daily diet. Especially tofu and tempeh or jackfruit are suitable for a nutrient-rich and balanced diet. You don’t have to do without anything, you are doing something good for the environment, and you can continue to enjoy in various ways.

Also Read: SOY – HEALTHY OR UNHEALTHY? THE FACT CHECK

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