Is vegan meat healthy? 3 dietitians explain

As the popularity of veganism continues to rise and plant-based diet entering the mainstream, we are seeing more and more meat substitutes hitting the shelves of our local grocery store. Beyond meat, Impossible foods, and Tofurky are just a handful of brands that exclusively create animal-free meat beyond tofu, tempeh, and seitan, meaning you can now cook vegan roast turkey, sausage, ground meat and more. more without working in your kitchen for hours trying to figure out how to tinker. It’s often made from soy, wheat gluten, or vegetable protein (Quorn, for example, uses potato protein) and offers a tasty alternative to boring 100% vegetable-based classics like burgers with mushrooms and jackfruit tacos. But is vegan meat really healthy? We spoke to registered dietitians and nutritionists Kristin koskinen, Ashley Kitchens, and Shena Jaramillo to find out the truth behind the surprisingly delicious stuff.

You cannot replace animal meat

First of all, you can’t actually substitute for meat. “Meat is a complex product and has varying nutritional profiles depending on the type of animal it is from, whether the animal was wild or farmed, how it was raised, etc.,” Koskinen explained. While vegan meat can offer a similar taste and texture, it cannot replicate its nutrients.

Vegan meat is often highly processed

Comparing the Burger King Impossible Whopper, which was introduced to American consumers in 2019 and is made from soy protein, to a regular burger patty, Koskinen thinks the regular patty is probably the superior option because it will be less. transformed. “Beef that has been cruelty-free, grass-fed and finished can be a healthy and even more socially conscious choice than the ultra-processed patty,” she concluded. Jaramillo agreed, noting that most vegan meats are also high in sodium and sugar and should be eaten sparingly, while Kitchens stressed the importance of studying the ingredient list to be more aware of what you are consuming. . “I wouldn’t consider vegan meat alternatives to be ‘healthy’,” she added.

Always go for whole foods

“Whole foods trump ultra-processed foods, whether they are of animal or plant origin,” Koskinen said. Jaramillo agreed, warning that it’s the additives and man-made proteins you need to be careful of. Vegan meats like tofu, tempeh, and seitan, which haven’t been highly processed, will always be the superior option, but it’s best to go for homemade vegan meat made from vegetables and legumes.