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Vegan Meat Substitutes: What Are the Best Alternatives?

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Vegan meat substitutes are ideal for a variety of recipes without sacrificing taste. What are the best options? We will tell you all about them in this article.

In a report published in the Revista Chilena de Nutrición, a group of nutritionists states that the market has increased the availability of vegan meat substitutes and other enriched products. These products make it easier to avoid deficiencies and possible health problems for people who choose to follow a vegetarian or vegan diet.

In addition, this commercial trend also responds to an increase in the number of people choosing to eat vegetarian and vegan in Western countries. They also do so within the framework of a healthy, varied, and adapted diet, as pointed out by the medical journal Pediatría Integral.

Vegan meat substitutes must meet certain requirements for ingredients, and nutrients, and have flavors and textures similar to meat. But since not everyone does, you need to pay attention to choose the best option.

So what are the best options?

Here you can read more about this.

What are vegan meat substitutes?

According to Andújar and other experts, meat substitute products are ” foods that have a texture, taste, appearance and nutritional values ​​similar to meat “. Generally, they are made with ingredients of vegetable origin.

The market for these foods has grown as more and more people have become vegetarians and vegans. It is common to find hamburgers or sausages based on legumes, grains, and other vegetable ingredients.

These in turn have certain advantages compared to traditional meat products. For example, they contain less saturated fat and cholesterol, as well as fewer calories. For this reason, they are considered more beneficial and healthier.

The most common vegan meat substitutes

Today it is possible to find a variety of products that claim to replace meat in the vegan diet. These mainly consist of vegetable proteins such as soy, gluten, nuts, and beans among others. To discover the options so you can include them in your diet too!

Beans and legumes

Legumes – such as beans, lentils, chickpeas, and soybeans among many others – represent the main source of vegetable proteins, with values ​​similar to those we find in meat.

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has designated them a “superfood” due to their nutritional content and favorable growing characteristics.

These foods offer a wide range of different flavors and go well with different dishes and cuisines. Chickpeas and cannellini beans go well with the Mediterranean diet, while black and red beans complement Mexican recipes.

Although the proteins in these foods require supplementation to increase their nutritional value, they are a rich source of fiber and minerals, especially iron and zinc. Let’s look at the nutrition table of 100 grams of uncooked lentils:

  • Calories: 352
  • Protein: 24,6 g
  • Fett: 1,06 g
  • Carbohydrates: 63.25 g
  • Fiber: 10,7 g
  • Iron: 6.51 mg, 72% of the daily recommended values ​​for men and 43% for women
  • Zink: 3,27 mg

They are very versatile in the kitchen and are good in the following recipes:

  • Casseroles with various vegetables
  • Salads
  • Pasta sauces
  • Soups
  • Hamburger
  • Tacos

Tempeh

Tempeh is a food that is produced by fermenting soybeans with the help of a fungus called Rhizopus. The whole bean is used, so its nutritional profile is similar to the raw material.

In a publication on the benefits of tempeh, researchers conclude that it can stimulate the growth of intestinal bacteria such as bifidobacterium, with positive effects on health.

The US Department of Agriculture USDA tells us about the nutritional content of 100 grams of this meat substitute. The values ​​of proteins of high biological quality, polyunsaturated fats, and high mineral content are the ones that stand out the most.

  • Calories: 192
  • Proteins: 20.3 g
  • Fett: 10,8 g
  • Carbohydrates: 7.64 g
  • Iron: 2.7 mg
  • Phosphorus: 266 mg
  • Potassium: 412 mg

You can mix tempeh with grains, such as barley or oats, to improve the content and composition of the amino acids. This product goes very well with peanut-based sauces and dressings and is also very good with French fries or Thai salad.

Vegan meat substitutes: Tofu

Tofu, or vegetarian cheese, is the classic alternative to meat for many vegans. It is a soy product without a defined taste, but you can combine it with a variety of sauces, vegetables, and grains to intensify the taste.

Cerdán and Rosell explain how to make tofu. It is made by coagulating soy milk with some special calcium and magnesium salts. After coagulation of the proteins, the pulp is pressed just as in traditional cheese making, which makes it possible to produce different consistencies, such as extra firm, firm, and soft varieties.

How tofu is made affects the nutritional properties of the final product. In addition, there are some varieties that are enriched with calcium, iron, or magnesium, which you can also read about on the USDA’s website.

A portion of 85 grams provides the following nutrients and calories per 100 grams of tofu. The percentage of the recommended daily intake (RDI) can also be read out:

  • Calories: 70
  • Protein: 9 g – 18% of the RDI
  • Fat: 2 g – 3% of the RDI
  • Carbohydrates: 3 g – 1% of the RDI
  • Fiber: 1 g – 3% of the RDI
  • Calcium: 100 mg – 10% of the RDI
  • Iron: 2.8 mg – 16% of the RDI

Tofu is excellent for grilling, frying, or baking and you should press it for a while before cooking. You can sauté it with other vegetables, or grate or crumble it to replace cheese or eggs.

I argue

Seitan is the wheat protein better known as gluten. A vegetarian diet is also sometimes called “vegetable meat”. It comes from a wheat flour dough, from which the starch is extracted by continuous washing.

Seitan has a texture similar to meat protein and is usually flavored with certain spices such as soy sauce. You can buy it in the form of strips or pieces. According to the food table, a portion of 90 grams contains the following nutrients:

  • Calories: 108
  • Carbohydrates: 4.8 g
  • Protein: 20 g
  • Fett: 1,2 g
  • Fiber: 1,2 g
  • Iron: 8 mg – 100% of the RDI for men and 44% for women

You can grill, stir fry, stew or use it in casseroles or other recipes. It has a complex flavor similar to mushrooms, but when seasoned it takes on a flavor that many liken to chicken. People with gluten intolerance, gluten allergy, or celiac disease should not choose to include this food in their diet.

Vegan Meat Substitutes: Textured Vegetable Protein (TVP)

Textured vegetable protein (TVP) is an ultra-processed soy product, according to the scientific journal Research and Science. It comes from the extrusion of fat-free soy flour, that is, a protein concentrate. High temperatures and pressures are applied inside industrial equipment to give it a fibrous, meat-like texture.

This textured substitute varies in size, color, flavor, and shape. It all depends on the added ingredients. It is available as a dehydrated product and in processed and frozen foods. Nutritionally, 100 grams of textured vegetable protein provides the following:

  • Calories: 327
  • Protein: 51,46 g
  • Fett: 1,22 g
  • Carbohydrates: 33.92 g
  • Fiber: 17,5 grams
  • Iron: 9.4 mg – 100% of the RDI for men and 50% for women
  • Phosphorus: 674 mg
  • Niacin: 2,6 mg

In TVP, more than half of the product is protein, and the fiber content is very high, as is the content of the minerals iron and phosphorus. Niacin or vitamin B6 is one of the most prominent nutrients in this product.

You can find this product as minced meat, cutlets, or meatballs, and spices and sauces are added to enhance the aroma and taste. It is a common ingredient in vegan burgers, chops, ground beef sauce, and as taco filling.

Jackfruit ( Artocarpus heterophyllus )

Jackfruit has been popular in Southeast Asian cuisine since ancient times but has recently become popular in the United States as a meat substitute. It has a taste similar to pineapple and other tropical fruits, which is why it is known as “the fruit with the taste of all fruits”.

It is popular to use jackfruit as a substitute for pork to put on the barbecue. Being a fruit, it is high in carbohydrates and low in protein. Therefore, it is not the best option when replacing an animal protein with a vegetable one. A portion of 150 grams of raw jackfruit contains the following nutrients:

  • Calories: 143
  • Carbohydrates: 35.1 g
  • Sugar: 28.8 g
  • Protein: 2,6 g
  • Fett: 1,0 g
  • Fiber: 2,2 g
  • Iron: 1.0 mg – 13% of the RDI for men and 6% for women

The high content of simple sugars, such as glucose and fructose, gives it its fruity taste. It has moderate fiber content but contains few minerals.

Oatmeal

Oatmeal flakes can be used to prepare delicious vegetarian steaks. You prepare a dough with the product and mix in, for example, vegetable stock, fat, grated carrots or squash, and other vegetable proteins.

This product is a good source of protein, complex carbohydrates, and soluble fibers, such as beta-glucans, which are related to health benefits. It also provides iron with a value similar to meat. 100 grams of oatmeal contains:

  • Calories: 375
  • Protein: 12,5 g
  • Fett: 7,5 g
  • Carbohydrates: 70 g
  • Fiber: 7,5 g
  • Iron: 3.6 mg

What should you pay attention to when choosing among vegan meat substitutes?

According to the Chilean Journal of Nutrition, some vegan meat substitutes have the same amount of protein as meat, but the quality of these amino acids is not the same as that of meat. In many cases, they provide smaller amounts of essential amino acids. Additionally, people who follow a vegan diet may be more likely to develop iron deficiency.

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