Are Fake Meats Healthy?

Dear Davey,

I recently became a vegetarian for health and moral reasons and have been eating a lot of fake meat products. Though they are vegetarian, the products try to mimic the taste and texture of real meat. From a health perspective, are these fake meat products any better?


fakemeatDear Jeff,

It’s true that plant-based diets are associated with a number of health benefits – and that most Americans would be well served by cutting their red meat consumption. But not all vegetarian foods are created equal.

When we talk about fake or mock meat products, we’re not talking about tofu or tempeh. We’re talking about vegetarian foods that are specifically created to imitate the look and feel of real meat. Like tofurkey, fakin’ bacon, chick’n and veggie burgers that are intended to taste like meat.

On the one hand, mock meats can be helpful when transitioning to a vegetarian diet. They’re like a stepping stone and can serve as a gateway to a plant-based diet, especially if and individual is craving the flavor or texture of meat. And, because mock meats are entirely vegetarian, there’s no guilt or possibility of animal cruelty.

On the other hand, mock meats really aren’t that healthy. Let’s compare real chicken to the vegetarian product, chick’n. Real chicken is a healthy, lean meat that contains only one ingredient… chicken. Chick’n, conversely, contains the following ingredients:



Masquerading plants as meat takes a lot of processing. Fake meat products often contain many artificial ingredients and preservatives, lots of sodium and sometimes MSG. From a purely health perspective, you’re better off eating chicken.

The reality is, mock meat products are never going to taste like real meat. Though I’m not a vegetarian, I’ve tried many of these products. At best, they’re mediocre. And I don’t think anyone wants to settle for a mediocre diet.

Instead of disguising plants as meat, why not enjoy the delicious flavor that fruits, beans, nuts, vegetables and grains have to offer? Processed vegetables will never taste as good as a burger – but a burger will never taste as good as a fresh, colorful and delicious salad! Rather than settle for a veggie burger, grill up a flavorful portobello mushroom topped with tomatoes, avocado and lettuce. Sandwich the mushroom between two whole wheat buns.

Rather than eat fake meat products that fall short, celebrate vegetables and grains and fruits for the delicious and nourishing foods that they are.


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  1. Sorry Davey, you’re wrong.

    None of your suggested alternatives have anywhere near enough protein in them. Most vegetarian diets are severely lacking protein. Vegans even more so. Fake meats are an excellent way for non meat eaters to get enough protein while still eating a more or less western diet.

    Nothing in that ingredient list is artificial or dangerous – the wholewheat bun you recommended would contain many of those things.

    • Tanner says:

      Actually the list of alternatives has plenty of protein options if you’re eating the right things. I’m vegan and I’ve gained more muscle mass since going vegan than I had when I wasn’t.

      Beans and grains have an incredible amount of protein in them. And if they’re your primary sources of protein as opposed to animal products, then naturally you would eat a lot more of them because they’re part of a main course not a side dish. Lentils for instance have 18g of protein per cup. Most beans have anywhere from 15g-17g of protein per cup. And every vegetable you eat has some protein in it. Peas, corn, leafy greens, and mushrooms all have a good amount of protein.

      I’m not a fan of fake meats but using tofu, tempeh, and seitan as additions to your diet is another great way of adding protein. Seitan has 18g of protein per 3oz serving. Thats only 5g less than chicken and its cholesterol free. So no you do not need fake meats to have an adequate protein intake.

  2. Brian Connor says:

    Sorry, I don’t agree. You said “Real chicken is a healthy, lean meat that contains only one ingredient… chicken.” Conventional chicken meat typically contains a whole lot more than just chicken, as it is often “plumped” up with brine (salt water), chicken stock, flavor and texture-enhancing chemicals, and even the waste byproducts of other animals that can constitute as much as 30 percent of the meat’s total weight.

    Many conventional chicken producers inject all sorts of liquid fillers and chemicals into the meat prior to packaging it, all for the purpose of making poor quality meat appear and taste superior. The process is not only deceptive, as it tricks consumers into thinking they are getting more chicken than they really are, but it also increases the sodium content of chicken by as much as 500 percent.

    Perhaps the worst part about plumping, though, is the fact that chicken producers can still label their plumped chicken as being “100 percent natural. And don’t get me started on the levels of arsenic, growth hormone, antibiotics and hundreds of other chemicals infused in the meat. Now I’m not say that plant based meat products are any better; but I would argue that they are not any worse.

    • Sorry did davey say “conventional chicken”? No he said “real chicken” real chicken isn’t conventional, it’s harvested straight from the chicken without being processed, if you’re sourcing it from the correct places!

  3. christopher says:

    real chicken is good to eat.a bocaburger is ok-once in a while.

  4. Thomas says:

    recently, 3 of my vegan friends have been told by doctors/hospital, that they need to eat real meet. 2 of them had severe deficiency disease, the last one on edge of getting it.
    If the human race was ment to be vegans, we wouldn’t be born with teeth.

    Modesty and variety in food intake gives a better health result.

    • That is not true… if horses, elephants, cows, etc didn’t have their teeth, how would they eat their plants? They ARE vegetarians and have teeth.
      Carnivores, on the other hand have pointed sharp teeth different from ours, since ours resemble the horses’ teeth and not the lions’ teeth. So the fact that an animal has teeth does not mean he is supposed to eat meat. If you are carnivore, go hunting and eat the animal you eat right there, after you shoot him. No seasoning, no grilling, no disguising…
      No wonder so many carnivores these past decades have been having colon, intestine, rectum cancers… eating food that will stay inside their body for DAYS whereas a lion ( a real carnivore ) eats an animal and disposes of it is shortly for having a short intestine system ( different from ours, which is long and the meat rottens inside people before people eliminate the meat )…

      • Cidalia Martins says:

        “These past decades.” And, yet, the human race has been consuming meat and other animal products for as long as it has existed. It’s not the meat causing cancer. It’s the amount of processed garbage, lack of plant foods in most people’s diets, and poor quality of meats (processed and conventional meats) causing problems. Additionally, our teeth are neither like true carnivores nor are they like true herbivores and neither are our intestines. We’re somewhere in the middle. Meat does not rot inside people. It has a standard transit/digestion time.

  5. Vegetarian meat substitutes are better for people than ‘real’ meats on many levels. As part of a healthy diet, they are an important protein source, and usually come with no to very little fat, cholesterol, arsenic, mercury, carcinogens, etc. They do not involve the murdering of our fellow beings. Feeding a person with plant based protein takes 1/6 the resources of meat. Additionally, I am not up for eating 2-3 CUPS of lentils, beans or whatever else for each of my meals (in addition to the rest of the meal, no less). That’s simply more volume than is feasible, hence I would never get enough protein that way.

    • Cidalia Martins says:

      Eating vegan for ethical reasons is one thing, and a valid reason for many, but that doesn’t make it an optimal human diet. Non-conventional, naturally raised meats do not contain carcinogens and other poisons and, in moderation, do not use a lot of resources. A grass-grazing animal in its natural environment will not use the same amount of resources as a factory-farmed animal. On the other hand, mock meats require processing and large-scale agriculture of grains and/or soy, which is detrimental to the environment. The whole dietary fat and cholesterol thing has been long debunked and was junk science. Dietary cholesterol and natural fats do not raise levels of bad cholesterol. The greatest factor in increased bad cholesterol and lowered good cholesterol is an excess of carbs beyond what the body can use for energy, particularly refined and grain-based carbs. What ee need to to do is eat more local and naturally grown food, be it vegan or not, and limit processed foods to the occasional treat.

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  8. I support your arguments. Never eat fake meat, it’s the same junk food! better eat beans, a lot of beans! And play oddsdigger for a lot of fun, a lot of fun!

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