“A vegan does not consume meat, dairy products, eggs, honey, or any product derived from an animal. ”.
This is how the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals describes vegans. So if vegans don’t eat animal meat, what do they eat instead?
As a substitute for animal meat, vegans have come up with creative alternatives. This is what we call vegan mock meat.
If you are not familiar with what that is, no worries, I am here to tell you all about it. Also, we will find out if vegan mock meat healthy or not, and what are other alternatives to consuming mock meat.
What is Vegan Meat?
Vegan meat is a meat alternative or substitute that resembles chemical characteristics or qualities such as flavor, texture, and appearance of different types of meat.
Vegan meat is also often referred to as:
- Meat analog
- Faux/Fake Meat
- Mock Meat
- Imitation meat
Where Did Vegan Mock Meat First Come From?
It is believed that mock meat flourished way back in ancient China. When Buddhism came, it also brought its vegetarian-centric dietary requirements, leading to the rise of using meat analogs in China and in other parts of the East Asian region.
The most popular meat analog during this time was tofu. The tofu was believed to have been invented during the Han dynasty (206 BC–220 AD).
Tofu is made from coagulating soy milk to create curds which are then pressed into blocks. During the Tang dynasty, tofu was known in China as an animal protein substitute and was referred to as “small mutton”.
Apart from tofu, wheat gluten or seitan was also considered as a meat analog. Wheat gluten comes from the gluten which is the main protein content of wheat. It first came to be known around the 6th century, one of the ingredients in Chinese noodle dishes.
Wheat gluten is derived by removing the starch granules through the washing of the wheat flour dough with water. Once the starch granules have been removed, it gives you sticky insoluble gluten that you can now cook before eating.
There is, however, wheat gluten that has more stringy or chewy texture that is the ideal meat substitutes.
Another popular meat analog in China was yuba or bean curd skin. Widely used in China and Japan since the 16th century, it is made by collecting and drying the film or skin that forms on top of boiling soy milk.
It can be added to dishes either used, fermented, dried or fresh. Yuba is often layered to resemble a chicken breast.
In 19th century America, a businessman and inventor by the name of John Henry Kellogg also developed his own version of meat analog as his own way of helping residents of Battle Creek, Michigan stick to their vegetarian diets.
John Henry was able to make a meat analog that combined peanuts, soy and wheat gluten. This became one of the bases of the birth of the modern mock meat market.
In the 1960s, another meat analog called texturized vegetable protein or TVP was invented. It is made from
- High (around 50%) so protein
- Soy Flour
- Or Concentrate
It can also be made from the following:
- Cotton seeds
Also, it comes in a variety of sizes and shapes such as:
TVP has often used a substitute for meat particularly ground beef and it costs less than the real thing.
Should Vegans Eat Mock Meat?
Well, it actually depends on you. Just like most things in life, there are pros and cons to vegan mock meat. To shed light on all of that, here are some considerations you should think about!
1. Safe from eating meat
As vegan mock meat is free from any animal byproduct, you are safe from consuming something you shouldn’t.
You will be saving animals, and also protecting your health from all the health issues caused by animal products.
2. No Guilt
Consider it as a win-win situation. With all the vegan meat varieties available in the market today, there is plenty for you to choose from when you crave the taste of meat.
If you have a strong craving for meat, you can satisfy yourself by eating mock meat without feeling any culpability at all.
3. Make transition easier
If you are transitioning into the vegan life, it would probably help you with adjusting to the big dietary changes happening in your life.
From time to time, you would probably find yourself craving meat. However, with mock meat around, it would make it easier and faster for you to adjust to living a meat-free life.
(If you want to learn more about making your transition to a vegan lifestyle easier CLICK HERE)
1. Most mock meats are from soy products
Soy has been a strong alternative for vegans when it comes to their diet. As much as it has its own nutritional value and contribution, too much of it can’t and won’t be good for you at all.
The consumption of too much soy-based products can lead to:
- Enzyme inhibitors blocking the process that enzymes need to do in order to digest proteins. This can sometimes lead to problems like reduction of protein digestion, amino acid deficiency, and gastric pain.
- Deficiencies in minerals such as copper, magnesium, calcium and zinc.
- Developing kidney stones due to the excessive amount of aluminum found in soy.
- Increase in risk of blood clotting
- Increase the risk of certain cancers such as Endometrial, Breast, and Bladder.
2. Eating too much mock meat is unhealthy
Just like what I said before, too much of something is not good for the body. Vegan mock meat contains both artificial ingredients and preservatives. Hence, consumed it excessively can have negative effects on the body. Take the following for example:
Vegan mock meats are often stuffed with sodium as it is used as both a preservative and flavor enhancer. Sodium is something our bodies need to perform some of its basic functions. It plays an important role in fluid balance, nerve and muscle functions, and nutrient among others.
When the body has an excessive amount of salt, it can lead to the increase in blood pressure. This would then potentially lead to hypertension. When this happens, your organs like the heart and kidney have to work harder than usual, increasing the risk of stroke.
It is best to not overdo your mock meat intake. You can switch it with other protein-rich substitutes available.
4. Monosodium Glutamate (MSG)
MSG is a flavor enhancer normally added to processed and premade food including vegan mock meat.
MSG is the sodium salt of glutamate. Glutamate is an amino acid that can be found in the human body and in some varieties of foods.
While consuming Monosodium Glutamate moderately seems safe, you should make sure that you do not go over the average daily intake. Over the years, there have been several studies that show:
- The genotoxicity of MSG which leads to the damage of cells, genetic material, and lymphocytes.
- The chronic consumption of MSG can lead to damages of the kidneys.
- Consuming MSG affects the neurotransmitter Serotonin, leading to depressive behavior.
There are also instances when people have allergic reactions to MSG after consuming it such as:
- A headache
- Mild Chest Pain
- A runny nose or congestion
- Facial swelling or pressure sweating
- Upset digestive system
Hexane is a chemical that comes from crude oil and petroleum used in extracting oils from seeds and soy protein isolates or TVP (textured soy protein) which come from soybeans.
Most of the soy protein ingredients that are made into meat analogs have gone through the hexane processing.
While the soy food industry says that they are only using Hexane in the initial stage of processing, there might be traces of it after soy is processed and consumed.
When exposed to high levels of Hexane, this might affect the Central Nervous System, causing giddiness, dizziness, headache, and slight nausea.
On the other hand, more long-term exposure would lead to a disease called polyneuropathy which affects the peripheral nerves.
If you wish to avoid hexane-processed soy products, it is best that you go for the “100% organic” options.
6. GMO – Genetically Modified Organisms
As most mock meat is made from soy products, it’s also important to note that it could have been made using genetically modified soybeans.
And if this is something that doesn’t bode well with you given that there have been controversies and criticisms against the use of GMOs, then it’s either you give this a skip or find non-GMO alternatives in the market.
7. Soybean Farming Damaging Environment
Here’s an ethical dilemma that might bother some vegans out there.
Due to the overwhelming demand for soy products (which includes mock meat), the cultivation of soy has also been causing environmental concerns.
Just like the Palm Oil industry, the industrial farming of soybeans has caused deforestation.
Also, grasslands have also been converted into soy plantations.
What are some vegan mock meat alternatives?
To be honest, it is somehow strange to talk alternatives to something that is already considered an alternative. Nevertheless, if this would help my fellow vegans out there, then here we go!
If you are looking for something that would act as a vegan mock meat substitute, there are a couple of things you can consider. While you can still enjoy adding vegan mock meat to your diet from time to time, do consider these healthy options as well.
This would guarantee not only variety to your diet but also give you the nutrients that your body needs.
If you are looking for an amazing substitute, then choose mushrooms!
Mushrooms have some sort of meat flavor to them which makes it a great alternative to mock meat. While it doesn’t have a high protein level, It’s high in fiber and low in calories.
It’s also prebiotic which means it helps in nursing the good bacteria in your digestive system.
Mushrooms are also rich in B vitamins like the following:
- Thiamine (B1)
- Riboflavin (B2)
- Niacin (B3
- Pantothenic acid (B5
- Folate (B9)
- Pantothenic acid (B5)
Another notable thing about mushrooms is that there are so many edible varieties out there that you can try! Think of the endless culinary possibilities!
BONUS: To learn how to make your very own Soy Faux Meat, check out the video below!
2. Beans and Legumes
One of the alternatives that you should look into is the different types of beans and legumes out there!
These plant-based alternatives are rich in protein, fiber, and iron. They are also low in fat and cholesterol. To add, they also have high levels of vitamins and minerals such as:
Apart from their nutritional values, there are so many kinds of beans and legumes that we can try. Some of the healthiest kinds are as follows:
- Kidney Beans
- Black Beans
- Navy Beans
- Pinto Beans
Given all the beans and legumes you can choose from, you can eat them all on their own or add them to your favorite soups, stews and salad recipes.
Considered as an exotic fruit by some, it would probably surprise some vegans that jackfruit can be a great vegan meat substitute.
Jackfruit has a chewy texture that would be a great alternative if you are looking for something that resembles pork.
Jackfruit is rich in antioxidants, fiber, vitamins and minerals.
When one decides to become a vegan, it’s a given that many dietary adjustments must be made. However, there are always plenty of alternatives to meat around with vegan mock meat being one of them.
Consuming mock meat has its own pros and cons so it’s up to you to figure out just how much you should consume.
I personally have chosen to not eat mock meat as I don’t like the taste, they are in general not healthy, and they can be expensive.
It wouldn’t hurt to incorporate other healthy alternatives to your diet as well. At the end of the day, it’s a matter of balance!
If you have some vegan mock meat recipes that you wish to share or if you have other alternatives that you think we should know, let us know in the comments below! You can also share this on your fave social media platform with those who might want to know about vegan meat substitutes available in the market today!