No matter what diet you follow, to be healthy and fit, you need to meet your nutritional needs by eating mostly whole foods. This refers to foods that retain their natural state or undergo minimal processing.
So whether you eat vegetarian or meat-based, the key is to stick to real foods.
Vegetarian meats (also known as vegan meats or lean meats) have become more popular in the past few years—even though they originated in the 1970s.
Some people switch from traditional burger patties, sausages, and other meats to meat farming for a variety of personal reasons. For example, they think it helps offset climate change, reduce saturated fat intake, or eat “cleaner” food.
But does it promote optimal health? This article answers the question “What is vegetarian meat?” It examines its ingredients, taste and quality compared to animal meat and its advantages and disadvantages.
What is vegetarian meat?
Vegetarian meats are basically meat substitutes that are made by combining different plant sources such as soybeans, potatoes, and canola, as well as other ingredients. This is to make it look, feel and taste like real meat and achieve a macronutrient profile comparable to popular processed meat products.
You’ll find vegans of anything, from ground beef to burger patties to hot dogs to chicken nuggets. Vegetarian meats are aimed not only at vegetarians and vegans, but also omnivores who might be curious to try these cheaper and more convenient meatless options.
While eating vegan alternatives like Beyond Burger and Impossible Burger—two of today’s most popular meat replacement brands—allows you to skip ready-to-eat meats, the truth is that these products are still considered highly processed or ultra-processed.
However, plant-based meats aren’t exactly the best foods for your health.
Some components of plant-based meat products are either associated with health problems or have untested health effects. These include:
1. Genetically modified crops such as soybeans, corn, canola and beets
While GM crops tolerate herbicides without causing harm to the soybean plant itself, there is concern that GM crops may cause food allergies (*).
2. Whole grains like quinoa and barley
Whole grains contain antioxidants such as phytic acid, saponins, and oxalates. Antinutrients are substances that hinder the absorption of nutrients. Consuming them frequently and in large quantities can lead to a loss of nutrients, especially in people who are at risk of developing them
This includes pregnant women, children, adolescents, obese and critically ill patients
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3. Sunflower oil
Sunflower oil is intended to replace the animal fats found in pancakes and vegetable cuts, and to raise the fat content of these foods. Unfortunately, sunflower oil (and other vegetable oils like canola and corn oil) are high in linoleic acid (omega-6). Too much omega-6 in your diet causes inflammation, which increases your risk of being overweight or obese
4. Dextrose cultured
Cultured dextrose has been advertised as a natural way to sweeten and preserve processed foods. It’s made by combining glucose, a simple sugar, with Propionibacterium freudenreichii. It may increase blood sugar levels and cause symptoms of food intolerance such as headache, fatigue and joint pain
This is an additive that improves the texture of plant-based meats and keeps their shape together. There is evidence to suggest that carrageenan can cause digestive issues, such as bloating and inflammation. It is also linked to ulcerative colitis and bowel cancer
6. Flour and starches that create a structure in vegetarian meat
Potato starch and yellow cornmeal are commonly used as gluten-free alternatives to plant-based meats. It is derived from potatoes and corn respectively. In addition to being genetically modified crops, they contain high amounts of carbohydrates. These aren’t exactly the kind of ingredients you want in a product when you’re on a ketogenic diet.
Just because it’s meat-free, doesn’t mean it’s good for your body.
Vegetarian meats fall into the ultra-processed category (as do instant snacks, breakfast cereals, sodas, and prepackaged burgers).
The NOVA Food Classification defines processed foods as artificial formulations that include sugar, starch, proteins, oils, colors, flavor enhancers and other additives. In addition, it undergoes an extensive manufacturing and manufacturing process.
But at the end of the day, everyone has their own opinion on the taste of vegetarian meat. You may want to consider trying it out for yourself and see if there is a difference.
Imitating the taste of meat is a difficult process and requires trial and error. To achieve the right taste, food companies need to understand and use the Maillard reaction (which is subject to roast steak and roast chicken, among many other foods) (
*). This is a “brown reaction” that occurs when amino acids and sugar molecules react to form a darker color, along with the kind of flavor and aroma that makes food delicious.
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Is plant meat healthier than animal meat?
Focusing on whole foods — foods without added starches and flavor and color enhancers — helps improve your health and avoid disease.
In other words, meat of plant origin is highly processed and is inferior to animal meat, including vegetables and fruits in their natural forms. Animal meat is all but animal meat, while “healthier” plant-based meats have a long list of ingredients, which you may not understand or let alone pronounce.
Eating unprocessed foods allows you to maximize your intake of vitamins and minerals to support basic body functions, from energy production to tissue repair. This is also why we encourage a
A clean keto approach while on the keto diet.
What you should know about animal foods and saturated fats:
Contrary to popular belief, saturated fats (mainly found in animal foods) do not contribute to coronary plaque formation. Instead, what clogs your arteries is a combination of insulin resistance and systemic inflammation, which results from too much omega-6 and refined carbohydrates in your diet.
If you’ve been staying away from animal meats because of saturated fats, maybe it’s time to re-evaluate that belief.
Here is an article that discusses saturated fats in detail with a link to the Journal of the American College of Cardiology which states that unprocessed red meat and full-fat dairy products are not linked to heart disease
What are the advantages of vegetarian meat?
There are no advantages to plant-based meat when it comes to long-term health.
However, like other processed foods such as packaged snacks, energy drinks, and frozen meals, they may save time and reduce meal prep. This allows you to meet your macros (whether you’re on the keto diet or not) and stay vegan if that’s your preferred way of eating.
Moreover, if you are interested in giving it a try, it will surely take off. Just don’t rely on plant-based meats to meet your usual nutritional requirements. Always prioritize whole, natural, nutritious foods.
What are the disadvantages of vegetarian meat?
The risks of plant-based meats—consuming them in excess in particular—include potential nutrient deficiencies, food allergies, infections, weight gain, heart disease, and other health risks associated with ultra-processed foods.
Limiting highly processed foods, including deli meats and not just vegetarian meats, is one of the things you can do to achieve optimal health that is backed by research.
How to choose the healthiest vegetarian meat option
Processed foods such as plant-based meats can remain a part of your diet as long as whole foods are your primary focus. But when it comes to choosing plant-based meats, it’s still important to make sure you don’t get too much of the artificial stuff.
It pays to do more than just check the health claims on the front of a package of vegan meats. Common examples of these health claims include “gluten-free,” “non-GMO,” and “enriched.” As a best practice, carefully examine each ingredient on the list.
Processed plant-based meats cannot be compared to vegetables, fruits and real animal meat that are full of high-quality nutrients. On the topic of helping the environment, eating vegetarian meat isn’t necessarily better. While companies claim to reduce the footprint, they may not always be transparent about production and how it actually affects the environment. In turn, renewable agriculture, which includes practices such as reducing tillage and avoiding fertilizers, can help solve climate change and improve soil health and crop yields. Ultimately, whole foods as a focal point of your diet can boost your health in many ways and reduce your risk of disease. However, it is also necessary to avoid an all-or-nothing or a perfectionist mentality. For times when meal prep is impossible, have something ready to eat still in line with your dietary preferences. The key is to make clean eating a lifestyle (not a short-term fix) for the best results. Add more delicious dishes to your inbox Get new simple, easy, and insanely delicious keto recipes every week. Hey, you! We will send you delicious recipes once a week 🙂12 References