All About Meat Alternatives

Meat alternatives have gained popularity over the past few years. As more people choose plant-based diets, the demand for meat alternatives continues to grow. Vegans and vegetarians have a variety of meat-alternatives at their fingertips these days.

With all of the meat alternatives available, it can be difficult to select the one that’s best for your diet. Additionally, some meat alternatives are more nutritious than others.

We’ve looked into the standard meat substitutes, as well as the newfangled ones, and everywhere in between to create an informative guide to meat alternatives. We’ll tell you which ingredients make up each meat alternative and if they’re good for you. We’ve also got a few serving suggestions for some of our favorite ways to use them.

Mycoprotein

Mycoprotein is somewhat new on the scene in the world of meat alternatives. Mycoprotein is a type of fungal protein. According to Quorn, the largest producer of mycoprotein, it is found in the soil and fermented to produce a dough that is high in fiber and protein, low in saturated fat and cholesterol-free.

Mycoprotein ferments in large vats. As the fungus ferments, it doubles in size every five hours. The researchers who discovered mycoprotein in the 1980s were hoping to find a more sustainable way to grow protein, and they succeeded. According to Quorn’s website, mycoprotein requires 90 percent less land and water to produce, than certain animal protein.

Is Mycoprotein Healthy?

As far as we can tell, mycoprotein is a very good protein source. It is a complete protein, which means it contains all of the amino acids required by the body. Also, a study out of the University of London found that mycoprotein may also help lower LDL (bad) cholesterol and raise HDL (good) cholesterol. Mycoprotein is a fermented food, which is good for your digestion. Even though mycoprotein comes in patties and ready-to-cook portions, the ingredient list is composed of natural, whole foods.

Are There Negative Effects of Mycoprotein?

The main problem with mycoprotein is that some people are allergic to it. Because mycoprotein hasn’t been around for a very long time, many people who are allergic to it do not know it. Some people have reported asthma attacks after consuming products containing mycoprotein. However, most people can safely consume mycoprotein with no problems at all. More people are allergic to shellfish and peanuts than mycoprotein.

What Are Some Good Ways to Serve Mycoprotein?

Mycoprotein is sold under the brand name Quorn. They sell vegetarian and vegan items like meatless “fish” sticks and “chicken” patties. They also sell mycoprotein crumbles to make dishes that call for ground beef. You can use mycoprotein for a quick bite to eat or in a recipe that calls for meat.

Tofu

Tofu is an often used meat substitute that’s made from coagulated soymilk pressed into curds. Most tofu is somewhat bland, but it takes on the flavor of other foods and sauces cooked alongside it.

Is Tofu Healthy?

If you search around the web, you’ll find that some well-regarded experts view tofu as a poison that should always be avoided. Other experts say that tofu is an excellent, heart-healthy, high-protein food.

Because of the uncertainty, we say that tofu and other processed soy products should be used sparingly or avoided entirely. There has been a significant link between soy and breast cancer, thyroid dysfunction and dementia.

As soy is often a genetically modified organism (GMO) crop, most non-organic tofu products contain GMOs. If you do eat tofu, buy organic or non-GMO tofu.

Tempeh

Tempeh is made from fermented whole soybeans. It has an earthy flavor that intensifies with age. Tempeh is often marinated and fried.

Is Tempeh Healthy?

While processed soy products like tofu are linked to cancer and other health problems, fermented whole soy products like tempeh have a higher protein and vitamin content. Tempeh is commonly known to be a food that helps reduce cholesterol, promote hormone balance and increase bone density. Experts have found tempeh to be a very healthy meat alternative.

What Are Some Good Ways to Serve Tempeh?

Tempeh has a mild flavor and soaks up sauces and marinades easily. It is often seasoned and fried. Some cooks use tempeh in stir-fry dishes. Tempeh is also easy to grind up and substitute for ground meat in chili and tacos. Whenever a recipe calls for tofu, you can substitute with tempeh easily.

Jackfruit

Jackfruit is a member of the fig and mulberry family, native to southwestern India. However, it is much larger than a fig or a mulberry. Mature jackfruit can weigh up to 120 pounds each. Jackfruit has a very mild, sweet flavor and it shreds easily like beef or chicken after it’s been cooked.

Is Jackfruit Healthy?

Jackfruit is healthy. It isn’t high in protein. However, jackfruit is high in vitamin B-6, vitamin C and potassium. Jackfruit is also high in dietary fiber.

What Are Some Good Ways to Serve Jackfruit?

Because of the meat-like texture jackfruit has when it’s cooked, it makes an excellent substitute for barbecued pulled pork sandwiches. It is also very good in enchiladas, stews, and curries.

Seitan

Seitan is made from pure, vital, wheat gluten. Whole wheat dough is rinsed of its starch, and what is left behind is called seitan. The texture of seitan is very close to that of meat. So, it is often used as a meat substitute.

Is Seitan Healthy?

Seitan is made from wheat gluten. So, if you have a gluten intolerance, allergy or have celiac disease, this food is not healthy for you. However, if you are not sensitive to wheat gluten, seitan is perfectly healthy food. Seitan has just as much protein as chicken. It is low in carbohydrates and fat. Seitan does contain iron.

What Are Some Good Ways to Serve Seitan?

Seitan has an excellent, meat-like texture. It can be marinated and fried, then coated with buffalo sauce to mimic chicken wings. It is also great in stews, curries and stir-fry dishes. When a recipe calls for tofu, you can substitute seitan easily.

Textured Vegetable Protein

Textured vegetable protein (TVP, also known as textured soy protein (TSP), is a highly processed soy product. According to Bob’s Red Mill, a leading manufacturer of textured vegetable protein, “TVP is made from defatted soy flour that has been cooked under pressure and then dried.” TVP is used in many processed meat substitutes. It is sold as vegetarian crumbles to use in chili, taco filling, sloppy joes, and marinara sauce.

Is Textured Vegetable Protein Healthy?

We’re going to give this one a hard pass. TVP is processed heavily. In fact, in the manufacturing of TVP, hexane is used in the extraction of fat from the soy flour. Hexane is the chemical byproduct of gasoline refining.

As we mentioned before, processed soy products have been linked to cancer, thyroid dysfunction, and dementia. Soy is also normally a GMO crop. So, unless you’re buying organic TVP, it is probably made from GMO soy.

Mushrooms

Mushrooms are fungal growths on soil, trees or other food sources. Mushrooms are meaty and will soak up the flavor of sauces and marinades easily. They have long been compared to meat in both texture and nutrition. Mushrooms come in many varieties and are easy to grow at home in straw, sawdust or coffee grounds.

Are Mushrooms Healthy?

Mushrooms are very healthy foods. Each variety has slightly different nutritional strengths. For instance, Portobello mushrooms are very high in selenium, copper, B vitamins, and protein. They are low in calories and carbohydrates and a good source of fiber. The chanterelle mushroom, which looks a little like a trumpet, is high in vitamin C, vitamin D, and potassium. All mushrooms are healthy foods and excellent meat substitutes.

Are There Any Negative Effects of Mushrooms?

Mushrooms are a fairly common allergen. If you’re allergic to mushrooms, stay away from them. Also, mushrooms must be cooked prior to eating. Raw mushrooms are indigestible. Your body can’t use them in their raw state. When they are cooked, even slightly, their nutrients are released and transformed into fuel the body can use. Uncooked mushrooms are also carcinogenic. Always cook mushrooms that you plan to eat.

What Are Some Good Ways to Serve Mushrooms?

Meaty Portobello mushrooms can be marinated in red wine vinegar, olive oil, garlic, salt, and black pepper for a few hours and then pan-fried and served alongside rice and vegetables. You can also grind mushrooms and combine them with other ingredients to make meatless meatballs, burgers or meatloaf. Diced mushrooms can be seasoned and cooked to make taco filling or a Bolognese sauce. Mushrooms are also excellent on their own.

Meat Alternatives Can Be Tasty and Very Nutritious

Research tells us that meat at every meal, or even every day, does not benefit our health. With vegan or vegetarian diets becoming more popular, you’ll see more excellent meat substitutes in your local grocery store. Try observing Meatless Monday this week and enjoy one of these delicious options.