Veganuary is far behind us, but it’s never too late to explore a vegan diet. With so many vegan meat alternatives available today, it’s actually easier than ever. Out of Impossible And Beyond meat From burgers to Gardein Chick’n and Tofurky, plant-based meats are everywhere.
It’s not just in the supermarket. With more and more plants Meal delivery services and vegan options at dine-in and fast-food restaurants, it’s getting easier to go vegan every day.
All of that said, there’s a big question about vegan meat that a lot of people ask Just starting ask: is it healthy?
What is plant-based meat made of?
Of course, that depends on the meat alternative. Some plant-based meat options are nutrient dense and consist mostly of minimally processed whole foods. But many of the most popular options on the market – and especially the ones that look and taste great real meat – aren’t great for you.
In general, vegan meat consists mainly of the following ingredients:
- Vegetables like peas or broccoli
- fruits like jackfruit
That all sounds good, doesn’t it? So why are we debating unhealthy plant-based meats? It’s about what happens to those basic ingredients.
To make things look and taste like meat, food manufacturers add fillers like wheat gluten, lots of salt, and artificial colors. In other words, if you choose a meat alternative that seems pretty darn similar to real meat, it’s probably because that “meat” has been heavily processed.
That’s not to say that all vegan meat options are just as bad for your health as processed meat. But yes, this vegan hot dog is probably just as unhealthy as a regular hot dog.
Plant-based meat can certainly make a major contribution to reducing the burden on the environment, support for animal welfare And You save money. But if you’re making the switch for health reasons, you should be conscientious about which meat alternative you choose.
Health concerns about vegan meat
Let’s list some of the biggest risks associated with unhealthy plant-based meats.
As we mentioned earlier, taking something that isn’t meat and making it taste and look like real meat requires quite a bit of processing. Foods are more processed when they contain artificial ingredients or “natural flavors.” Specifically for meat substitutes, ingredients such as soy protein isolate, soy protein concentrate, and textured vegetable protein are processed ingredients.
That’s bad news, because highly processed foods increase your risk of:
- high blood pressure
- Type 2 diabetes
- Reduced life expectancy
Missing key nutrients
Beef, pork, and poultry provide your body with a complete protein, meaning they contain all nine amino acids you need but can’t make yourself.
Many plant-based meats come from ingredients that aren’t complete proteins themselves, like legumes and vegetables. If you choose vegan meat, find out what nutrients it doesn’t have so you can supplement them. You should also know about plant-based protein options like quinoa, tofu, and tempeh.
Most adults should consume 0.8 grams of protein for every pound you weigh, plus more if you’re active. The US Department of Agriculture has a handy calculator to work out how much you should be getting.
Some vegan meats contain less protein than real meat, although this has gotten better in recent years. To maintain a complete, healthy diet, you’ll likely want to supplement with vegan high-protein foods like legumes and nuts.
High in sodium and saturated fats
One of the biggest problems with plant-based meat is its sodium content. Just like processed animal meat, most vegan meat contains a fair amount of salt. Most of the sodium in our diet comes from processed foods. Read the label and especially check the sodium content before assuming a meat alternative is a healthy substitute.
This is especially true if you have high blood pressure or other heart problems.
Meat alternatives also often contain saturated fats type of oils used, especially coconut oil. Saturated fats are unhealthy fats that can increase your risk of heart disease and high cholesterol.
Many vegan meat alternatives that are highly processed are not good for you. However, not all meat substitutes are unhealthy. If you know how to read labels and choose healthier, plant-based meat options, you’ll be able to find vegan meats made with organic, whole-food ingredients that are lower in sodium and higher in fiber and iron.
A plant-based diet can be incredibly healthy — plus cheaper and more eco-friendly and animal-friendly — as long as you stick to whole foods. Equip your kitchen with the right tools Preparing nutritious meals with minimally processed ingredients can help you feel good. Homemade vegan meat made from vegetables and legumes is ideal, but tofu, tempeh, and seitan are less processed, high-protein meat alternatives.
The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions about a medical condition or health goals.