What Is Plant-Based Meat, And Is It Healthy?
Even though plant-based meat has been gaining popularity it’s still somewhat surprising to hear about meat made of plants. Creating meat from plants seems like science fiction, but with the increasing demand for more sustainable and ethically produced food, its become more popular. Plant-based meat accounts for only less than 1% of meat sales in the US in 2018, but the industry has been consistently on the rise in recent years.
Despite the hurdles in different parts of the world such as cultural barriers and objections from the traditional meal industry, the global meat substitute market is already valued at $20.7 Billion and is predicted to be worth $23.2 by 2024.
So, What Is Plant-Based Meat?
Plant-based meat is products without a drop of animal meat or even fats. Brands like Beyond Meat and the Impossible Burger are designed to look, taste, and smell like real meat, but are made entirely of plant products like beans, grains, and legumes. These meats should also cook like the real deal, mimicking the juice, and recreating a flavorful sear that meat lovers enjoy.
They come in all shapes and sizes — patties, nuggets, crumbles, in sausages — so they can mimic the real meat dishes and complement any side dish. One of the most popular varieties is the vegan patty that is used in — you guessed it — vegan burgers.
Depending on the meat that’s being produced, plant proteins, fibers, and starches are isolated to form flours or concentrates for the meat-making process. To achieve the same texture as meat, the plant products undergo a process called extrusion. This involves hydration, shearing, and cooking that get rid of “plant” aromas, flavors, and textures.
To achieve the juiciness of real meat, the company Impossible Foods developed a process of creating a plant-based heme molecule, the red molecule that you see in animal blood. It’s part of the flavorful juice that comes out when you squeeze a slice of meat. What’s more, it contains iron, one of the important key vitamins that we get from meat products.
Is Plant-Based Meat Healthier Than Beef?
The short answer is, yes AND no. Each kind of meat offers advantages and disadvantages. They usually have similar amounts of calories. Plant-based meat doesn’t have as much bad cholesterol as animal meat, plus they contain added fiber.
However, they also contain more sodium and don’t have the same amount of B vitamins. That’s why doctors recommended these vitamins to be supplemented into your diet when you’re following a vegan or plant-based lifestyle.
Ultimately, plant-based meat is still the healthier option, both for your health and the environment. As a population, eating more plant-based products will reduce red meat consumption, which can help reduce global carbon emissions. Also, plant-based meat is more sustainable, and with proper education and health advice, it can help you lower bad cholesterol levels and work towards preventing obesity.
The vegan diet has come a long way from substituting any meat product or ingredient with tofu and calling it a day. Now several more flavorful and healthier alternatives are available in the market. So next time you’re at the grocery store, hold off on that cow meat and give plant-based meat a try. With so many options to choose from, they won’t disappoint.