Meat-free diets are becoming increasingly common these days. With all of the concerns about the ethical treatment of animals and animal agriculture’s part in global warming, many people are deciding to eat less meat or eliminate it from their diet altogether. If you’ve been thinking about making the meat-free jump but are concerned about what you’ll eat without meat, there are a few alternatives that can take the place of the foods you love. Here are four of the most common meat substitutes and some of their health benefits.
Tofu is the most common of all meat substitutes. It’s made from curdling soy milk and pressing the curds into soft blocks. It’s high in both protein and calcium and is an excellent substitute for pork, chicken and beef. Tofu contains all eight essential amino acids and is an excellent source of iron, manganese, selenium and phosphorus. It’s often disregarding as being bland and spongy, but it can absorb any flavor through spices and marinade.
Tempeh, similar to tofu, is made from soybeans. However, tempeh is fermented, meaning it’s rich in probiotics which aid in digestive health. Tempeh is also high in calcium, antioxidants and soy isoflavones which have been linked to lower cholesterol. Tempeh has a firmer and grainier texture than tofu and a nutty flavor. It can be used as imitation fish, or as ground beef in chilis and pasta sauces.
Out of all of the meat substitutes, seitan has the most authentic meat texture. It’s made of processed wheat gluten and is full of protein. It has a neutral taste and a dense, chewy texture that’s perfect for grilling, frying, braising or pretty much any method of preparation you can imagine. Because it’s made of gluten, it should be avoided by those with Celiac disease or those who follow a gluten-free diet.
Textured Vegetable Protein
Textured Soy Protein, or Textured Vegetable Protein as it’s more commonly called, is made from a soy protein isolate. Because it’s made from soybeans, it contains all of the essential amino acids to make it a complete protein. TVP does not have much of a flavor on its own, so it’s great as a meat substitute as it will take on the flavor of whatever dish you add it too. Its texture resembles ground beef, so it works well in sauces, tacos and hamburgers.
There’s a lot of controversy revolved around if soy is actually good or bad for you, with research supporting both sides. While there’s no conclusive answer about the healthiness of the product, if you’ve done some research and feel soy is safe to eat, tofu, tempeh and TVP are great alternatives for those looking to reduce their meat consumption.