Archive for the tag - plant-based diet

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?

From,
Jeff

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:

PATTY – WATER, SOY PROTEIN CONCENTRATE, SOY PROTEIN ISOLATE, TEXTURED WHEAT PROTEIN (WHEAT GLUTEN, WHEAT FLOUR), CONTAINS LESS THAN 2% OF WHEAT GLUTEN, YEAST EXTRACT, METHYLCELLULOSE, SALT, SPICE (CONTAINS BLACK PEPPER), NATURAL FLAVOR (NON-MEAT), HYDROLYZED SOYBEAN AND CORN PROTEIN, HYDROLYZED CORN GLUTEN, ONION POWDER, SUGAR, SUCCINIC ACID, THIAMINE HYDROCHLORIDE (VITAMIN B1). BATTER – WATER, WHEAT FLOUR, YELLOW CORN FLOUR, SALT. BREADING – WHEAT FLOUR, DEXTROSE, SALT, DRIED YEAST, CARAMEL COLOR, YELLOW CORN FLOUR, EXTRACTIVES OF PAPRIKA AND ANNATTO FOR COLOR. BROWNED IN CORN OIL.

Yikes.

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.

Love,
Davey