Incorporating Vegan Meat Substitutes into your Diet
It’s now become a reality to find oxymoron words like meat-free and chicken in the same sentence. You can find mock meat burgers in popular fast-food chain restaurants like KFC, Mcdonalds and the like. Millennials are gobbling up puffy pillow-soft burgers with brown patties made out of mock meat - a hip new thing spurring out of popularity. Especially since the pandemic that brought a scare of consuming poultry and the rumours of the china meat market. Mock duck, mock salami, mock fish, mock chicken are now trending in the market. I mean, who could say no to something that tastes, smells and feels exactly like its animal counterpart while also being cruelty-free. It’s every non-vegetarian turned vegan’s paradise.
Although this new thought process is well intentional, are these meat substitutes really healthy? Or is it one of those fad condiments that becomes popular for a certain period of time until the scientists pitch in and break our delusions? (do ya’ll remember the juice cleanse). Let’s find out more about this trendy plant meat.
What is Mock Meat Made of?
This popular meat substitute goes by many names like faux meat, fake meat, plant protein, vegan meat and plant-based meat. They are made out of various ingredients like soy, jackfruit, wheat gluten, seitan or pea protein and mimic the taste, smell and appearance of meat. Ingredients that are completely vegan but designed to taste like meat.
Mock meat is manufactured by alternating soy molecules to make it more fibrous that mimic the meat texture. Soy protein is exposed to heat, acid or a solvent and the mixture is then run through a food extruder that reshapes it. The de-natured molecules are held together by a xanthan gel and voila you get a condiment that resembles meat. This process is true not only for soy but for jackfruit, wheat gluten and other vegetable proteins too.
Reason Behind the Growing Popularity of Vegan Meat
Mock meats are slowly sneaking into Indian plates. There is a whole restaurant called mock chop in Koramangala Bengaluru dedicated solely to mock meat dishes. Sloppy joe burgers made out of mock meat at carrots cafe is one of the fast-moving dishes on the menu. India is on a cusp of an eco-friendly revolution with more and more people getting curious about plant-based derivatives. Consumers are making a conscious change to reduce environmental impact and stand against malpractice in the animal farming industry. Many people credit this liberal thinking to the Netflix documentary - ‘Game changer’. After being aware that meat consumption is a major factor for climate change, forest fires and animal abuse, more people have gone through a dramatic evolution of swearing off meat. Mock meat, which was first targeted to vegetarians, is now being marketed to hardcore non-vegetarians to replace the meat-eating customer’s purchases and has been receiving a positive review since most of them barely find the difference.
Is Mock Meat a Healthier Alternative?
Now that it’s established that mock meat tastes fabulous, let’s look at its nutritional profile. Yes, it’s made of all healthy ingredients like soy, tempeh, jack fruit and rice protein, but it has received some backlash and increased concerns about it being highly processed. Wanting to reduce meat intake is undoubtedly a worthy cause however, replacing it with high processed mock meat might leave you worse off. They are basically highly processed and textured forms of plant ingredients which are not exactly a pinnacle for health.
The takeaway here is not all mock meats are healthy, some should be eaten for just a matter of taste and then there are others that can be used for daily use. Pick mock meats that are low in cholesterol, saturated fats, high in protein and fibre. We recommend mock meats made out of soy flours, seitan or pea protein.
Is Mock Meat Highly Processed?
Yes, there are possibilities of certain brands pushing out highly processed meat in the market. Being aware of trustworthy mock meat companies and educating yourself would solve this concern. Vegan meats are not exactly designed for daily consumption or for eating multiple times a day. If you have recently turned into veganism, you will understand the struggle of missing the taste of chicken tikka and kebabs. It caters to vegetarians and vegans who mainly miss the texture and taste of meat. Veganism is based on the foundation that you do not have to rely on meat or meat substitutes to live a healthy life, so mock meat is not exactly a staple that vegans are looking to rely on. Other whole food options of meat substitutes concerning similar nutrition are lentils, mushrooms, oats, tempeh, tofu, black beans, kidney beans, chickpea, almonds, walnuts, cashews, sunflower seeds, hemp seeds, flaxseeds, pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds.
Mock Meat Finding its Way to the Indian Diet
Mock meat is sure to please those who are vegetarians for religious or ethical reasons but do not want to miss out on the experience of having kebabs and chicken roasts. Although the word meat in this completely plant-based ingredient is turning some heads and getting some worried looks from the Jain and vegetarian community of India. Now with open-minded millennials to be driving the trend, it has long passed the hesitancy stage and progressed on to a catchy trend with celebrity endorsements and cafes themed on this concept.
To put it simply, they are not exactly a good swap for your meat when it comes to healthier options. You can always try them out for those occasional cravings of juicy chicken wings and biryani rice. Our nutritionist, Shweta, suggests the whole food listed in the article better matches the same nutritional profile of your daily meat.