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5 Healthy Plant-Based Meat Substitutes

Wong Shu Lee  

|

  April 07, 2022

There are so many reasons to go plant-based. It's good for the environment, it reduces animal cruelty, it lowers your cholesterol, and you might generally feel much better. But let’s be real: Giving up your favorite foods can be a real challenge, especially if you’re used to chowing down on chicken and burgers on the regular.

 

But vegan and vegetarian meat alternatives have come a long way from sad veggie burgers or tofu cubes. Now, there are never-ending options available, from savory tempeh bacon to vegan burgers that look (almost eerily) like beef. 

 

Meat substitutes can be very helpful for those who are transitioning to a plant-based, vegetarian diet, and usually rely heavily on meat for their meals. These plant-based subs help satisfy meat cravings without really chowing down on the real thing.

 

These are a few dietician-approved options that taste as good as meat. 

 

Tempeh

 

Not to be confused with tofu, tempeh is made of fermented soybeans. The result is a thick, loaf-like substance that tastes delicious sliced in sandwiches, cubed in salads, or sizzled and smoked on a pan in place of bacon strips.

 

It’s a complete protein, and the fact that it's fermented helps maintain healthy gut bacteria. It’s high in calcium, which promotes strong bones, and contains antioxidants, which help ward off a variety of diseases. Tempeh is also rich in isoflavones, which may help fight certain cancers, while its high manganese levels might help regulate blood sugar and, again, promote bone health.

 

Jackfruit

 

Jackfruit mimics the texture of pulled beef. The India-native fruit has a slightly sweet flavor, but if you braise it in the right savory sauces, you’ll hardly be able to tell the difference. Jackfruit is high in magnesium, fiber, B6, and antioxidants, while also being fairly low-carb in nature. The fiber content also helps with bowel regularity, weight loss, and cholesterol levels. 

 

However, it’s not as high in protein as other meat alternatives. Thus, pair it with other sources of plant-based protein like ancient grains and legumes for a complete, balanced meal.

 

Tofu

 

Tofu is made from congealed soy milk. It’s the chameleon of vegan meat substitutes, picking up virtually any flavor. Soy from tofu is a complete protein since it contains all nine essential amino acids, which is a rarity in plant-based foods. It’s also high in minerals like iron and calcium, which are particularly crucial for vegan diets. Tofu is often fortified with vitamin B12, which is not bioavailable in plant-based foods.

 

Black Beans

 

Black beans are unprocessed and very high in plant protein. In addition, their carbs, fiber, and antioxidants make black beans nutritional powerhouses. Even though they don’t have all the essential amino acids that make up a complete protein, a cup of black beans can have as much as 15 grams of protein and fiber.

 

Chickpeas

 

A cup of garbanzos has about 35 grams of fiber and 39 grams of protein, making them a satiating option for any meal. However, the high carb and fiber content can lead to gas and other gastrointestinal issues in people with sensitive guts, as a lot of the sugars found in chickpeas are indigestible. If you experience gastrointestinal issues, it’s probably better to skip chickpeas and go with other protein options, like tofu and tempeh, instead.



 

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