Millions of people around the world are now actively reducing or eliminating meat from their diet, mainly to improve their health, to reduce the impact it has on the environment and out of concern for animal welfare.
Think of the rise in the products that look like meat, taste like meat and cook like meat, but without an animal in sight! So, what exactly are these meat alternatives? They’re plant-based foods that provide a similar taste and texture to meat, and they’re made from protein that’s been extracted from plants, usually wheat, pea or soy.
Are they better for the planet?
Did you know that a whopping 14.5 per cent of global greenhouse emissions are due to livestock and their by-products? Not only do plant-based foods have no methane emissions, they typically require less water to produce and ship right through the supply chain. So, it’s a win for the environment!
Are they really better for me?
Research shows that people following a balanced, plant-based diet are healthier and often slimmer than meat eaters. However, are these meat alternatives healthier than the real deal? Plant-based meats are typically lower in total fat and calories when compared to meat. They provide an additional source of protein without the cholesterol typically associated with meat products. To make the best choice, look for those lower in saturated fat and sodium. When eaten occasionally, along with a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts and seeds, meat alternatives add convenience, variety and new flavours to your diet. Meat alternative products are not a replacement for the whole food plant proteins that you may have been eating, such as legumes, soy and nuts. However, if you want to have the occasional meal that has a similar taste and texture to meat, but without eating animals, then that’s when meat alternatives are a great addition to the menu.
Other types of plant-based protein
These tasty little morsels are the perfect package, providing the awesome combination of plant protein, iron and zinc, all of which are important nutrients for those who follow a vegetarian diet. Pistachios and almonds have the most protein of all nuts, with just one handful containing six grams. Another nutty option is cashews, providing five grams of protein in one handful.
Budget-friendly nutrition at its best! Chickpeas are cheap to buy, low in fat, low GI and a good source of B-group vitamins. They’re also a good source of iron, zinc, folate and magnesium, and a great way to add amino acids to your diet. Mix them with tahini (sesame paste) to make hummous, and you’ll tick the box for a nutritious spread that’s a complete protein.
This ancient bean was one of the first crops to be farmed. Known as the king of beans, fava beans are full of nutrients with a 150-gram serving providing 11 grams of protein as well as fibre, folate, vitamin C, iron, riboflavin and thiamine.
Article courtesy of Sanitarium Health & Wellbeing. Visit sanitarium.com.au or sanitarium.co.nz and subscribe to Wholicious living for more great health and nutrition info each month