Should you switch from meat to plant-based alternatives?

Plant-based meats, considered substitutes for animal meats, are processed and industrially manufactured products. Their market is growing by the day

The global estimated value of the plant-based meat market is a staggering USD 5 billion currently. North America is one of the hubs of the plant-based meat market

Excessive consumption of animal meat may result in obesity, type-2 diabetes, heart disease, and certain cancers. So, many people are switching to plant-based meat

Plant-based meats’ nutrition is similar to that of animal meat and manufacturers try to make them similar to meat in terms of texture, colour, flavour, and taste

However, most consumers are disappointed by the taste and variety of meat substitutes. They believe that meat substitutes are either too gummy or too chewy

Consumers find they are making a significant compromise in taste when opting for meat substitutes. However, soy’s high nutritional value has raised its demand

Plant-based meats available as burgers, sausages, ham, chicken nuggets, fish fingers, meatballs, etc are made from jackfruit, wheat gluten, legumes, nuts & seeds

Other ingredients include seitan, coconut oil, veg protein extract, beet juice, yeasts and so on. They also contain unhealthy additives such as extra sugar, salt, and oil

Seitan is made from vital wheat gluten. It has a savoury flavour and chewy texture that works well in stir-fry, sandwiches, stews, and pasta dishes

Jackfruit, because of its texture and mild flavour, is used in place of meat dishes such as pulled pork. It has fibre and micronutrients like iron, potassium and calcium

Jackfruit is low in calories and doesn’t have much protein or fat compared to other plant-based meat alternatives. Soy is one of the original plant-based alternatives

Soy-based foods’ mild flavour and texture make them ideal for traditionally meat-based dishes. But plant-based meat derived from soybeans are not eco-friendly at all

Moreover, plant-based meat is expensive compared to animal meat, which is likely to impact its growth in price-sensitive markets such as India, China, and South Africa

As with any food, the healthiest options among plant-based meat alternatives are the ones that are as close to their original form as possible. Also, eat in moderation

Not all plant-based meat alternatives are inherently healthy. Some contain large amounts of saturated fat and sodium, as well as other ingredients to avoid

Peas are also being used to make plant-based meat. Peas are an alternative for those with a soy allergy. Pea protein lends a chewy, meat-like texture to products

Plant-based meats are highly processed (frozen, canned, dried, baked pasteurised). It has high amounts of sodium to make it more palatable and have greater shelf-life

Too much sodium can cause high blood pressure and stroke. Watch out for refined coconut oil, modified food starch, sugars, hydrogenated oils & artificial ingredients

The recommended daily limit of sodium is 2,300 mg. So, look for plant-based meats with no more than 20% of the Daily Value (DV) per serving

Also look for low saturated fat and a short ingredient list with real food like organic soy, peas, vital wheat gluten (if you don’t have celiac disease), seeds and vegetables

Fibre, protein, and vitamin B12 should be high, if possible. Aim for at least 3-5 grams of fibre per serving, 9 or more grams of protein, and 20% DV of vitamin B12