Meat alternatives have been around for quite some time now, and we are always looking for the healthiest food option to incorporate in our diet. Plant-based meat alternatives offer so many new and creative ways for food to be more plant based, and grocery stores and restaurants are selling more and more plant-based products due to its increase in popularity. The annual retail food market saw an increase of plant based food options by 11.4% . Although plant-based foods are filled with nutrients and is environmentally friendly, is it the healthiest option? Let's find out!
A Deeper Look in Plant-Based Foods
For the most part, plant-based foods are filled with protein, minerals and vitamins including zinc, niacin, and B vitamins. These nutrients can improve your health, especially lowering the risk of cardiovascular diseases. Also, when you eat plant-based meat you help the environment. They help lower greenhouse gasses and carbon emissions. Less energy is used for making plant-based meats which keeps our planet green.
On the other hand, they can also include high contents of saturated fats and have sodium levels. Additionally there are other chemicals including magnesium carbonate, propylene glycol and Ferric orthophosphate. But take this with a grain of salt -- many of these chemicals aren’t harmful to the human body, but just know that being plant-based doesn't mean it's organic.
Our Favorite Plant-Based Meat Alternatives
Here five of our favorite plant-based options that you should integrate into your next meal!
Black Bean Burgers
Black bean burgers are a great starting point if you are going the plant-based food route. They are very rich in protein, and fiber and are typically made out of black beans, corn, and lentils. Like meat burgers, they can be seasoned in many ways. Black bean burgers are a great affordable option if you are trying to eat meatless on a budget.
Textured Vegetable Protein
Textured vegetable proteins (TVP) is a low-calorie and nutrient rich meatless option. TVP is one of the most popular types of plant-based meats, especially when it comes to Impossible Burgers. So how do grains make such delicious plant-based meats? Making TVP is very simple. It is produced while making soybean oil. Once the oil is removed from the soybeans the remaining paste, like beans, are made into patties, nuggets, or any meatless meal you desire. TVP can also be made with:
TVP is great because you can use it for anything from sloppy joes, pasta "meat" sauces, tacos, and more.
Soy or Tofu
Tofu is made out of condensed soybeans and is a great source of low-calorie protein. Tofu is very versatile and easily absorbs aromas, marinades, or spices to make a delicious dish. Be aware, though, that most soy products in the US use GMOs. In 2014, 82% of soybeans produced were genetically modified , but most agricultural scientists say that GMOs are safe to eat . If you are strictly on an organic diet be aware of the tofu you purchase at the grocery store
Plant Based Tuna
You read that right – plant-based tuna! If you are trying to be wary of the environmental state of the ocean or if you are trying to cut out fish in your diet, plant-based tuna is for you! Filled with protein and fiber, this soy and bean base is another great way to incorporate plant-based nutrients in your meals.
Jackfruit is a giant fruit with a meat like texture that is a great replacement for most meats. It’s native to India and China, predominantly Sri Lanka, South China, Malaysia, and Myanmar. Jackfruit is often difficult to find in the US, but can be grown in areas like Hawaii and South Florida.
The texture is equivalent to pulled pork, so they are great for sandwiches or tacos. Jackfruit is packed with protein and fiber, including proteins that can help prevent high-blood sugar levels after a meal.
Try Plant- Based for a Change!
There are many plant-based meat options to incorporate into your diet. This is a healthy alternative but be aware of artificial ingredients if you are trying to eat clean. Next time you run to the store try these non-meat options!