Meat SubstitutesOctober 22, 2013 Written by JP [Font too small?]
Recently, a reader asked for my opinion about so-called meat substitutes. Since the topic of vegetarian alternatives to meat is rather complex and nuanced, I’ve decided to write about my answer on this site. But, before I offer my perspective, I want to make it clear that I’m exclusively focusing on the nutritional aspects of the issue. I’ll leave the ecological and philosophical arguments for other commentators and forums.
In my opinion, both animal and plant-based protein sources possess certain pros and cons. In the negative column, eggs, fish and meat can contain unwanted drug residues, manufacturing by-products and naturally occurring toxins. Likewise, legumes and nuts are known to accumulate herbicides, pesticides and other environmental toxins, while also containing select phytochemicals with anti-nutrient and goitrogenic properties. On the plus side, carnivorous options tend to have a higher “protein efficiency ratio” (PER) and greater nutrient density. On the other hand, vegetarian foods contain antioxidants, fiber and phytochemicals which are generally absent in animal protein. This, in part, explains why I believe a combination of animal and plant foods is typically ideal – each group brings something distinctive and complementary to the table.
Two new studies illustrate the value of incorporating more plant based foods or ingredients in an omnivorous diet. In the first, scientists from the University of Missouri found that adding up 5% citrus fiber to ground meat (meatballs) is a palatable way of getting 5 or more grams of soluble fiber per serving. The health benefits of adequate fiber intake include improved blood sugar, weight control and prevention of constipation. A separate study, appearing in the September 2013 issue of the journal Appetite, reports that regularly replacing red meat with mushrooms lowers overall caloric intake and results in lasting improvements in blood pressure, body fat and inflammatory markers. These studies and others, which have used ingredients such as onions, plum puree and poppy seeds, reveal that a combination of animal and plant ingredients can make traditional meat-laden meals healthier.
Now that you know my thoughts, let me address what I would expressly avoid. In my opinion, highly processed soy and wheat-based protein sources are not a good idea. Examples include soy protein concentrate or isolate, and seitan or wheat gluten. These products are frequently allergenic and genetically modified. Instead, if you decide to only have plant-based protein, I would opt for whole food sources such as organic legumes, nuts and seeds. Certain natural processing techniques, including cooking with vinegar, soaking and sprouting render these foods easier to digest and more nutritious. If additional protein is needed, a recent study indicates that organic brown rice protein powder equals the protein efficiency ratio of whey protein. This is a new and surprising revelation, which may be of great benefit for vegans, vegetarians and all those interested in reducing their consumption of animal protein.
To learn more about the studies referenced in today’s column, please click on the following links:
Study 1 – Meatball Meet Orange: Want Fiber in Your Fast Food? Add Some … (link)
Study 2 – Positive Effect of Mushrooms Substituted for Meat on Body Weight … (link)
Study 3 – Effect of Ground Poppy Seed as a Fat Replacer on Meat Burgers … (link)
Study 4 – Effects of Using Plum Puree on Some Properties of Low Fat Beef Patties… (link)
Study 5 – Antioxidant Properties of Dried Plum Ingredients in Raw & Precooked… (link)
Study 7 – Quality of Low-Fat Meatballs Containing Legume Flours as Extenders ... (link)
Study 8 – Dietary Purines in Vegetarian Meat Analogues … (link)
Study 9 – An Evaluation of the Phytate, Zinc, Copper, Iron and Manganese … (link)
Study 10 – The Effects of 8 Weeks of Whey or Rice Protein Supplementation … (link)
High Fiber Diets Support Weight Loss
Source: Obesity (Silver Spring). 2013 Jan;21(1):58-64. (link)
Tags: Fiber, Mushrooms, Vegetarian
Posted in Diet and Weight Loss, Food and Drink, Nutrition