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Understanding Plant-Based 'Meats'

If it looks like meat, cooks like meat and even tastes like meat, then it’s definitely meat, right? Well, not anymore. If you’ve been thinking of including more plant-based meals into your diet, but find yourself baulking at having to make drastic changes away from your burgers and meatball dinners, then you’ll be pleased to know that plant-based meats are a thing. In fact, the trend has been growing steadily and food manufacturers have been cashing in by putting out a number of plant-based products that have the look and taste of meat. Even fast-food chains like Burger King have begun to offer meatless options on their menus.

We all know that less meat in our diets is one of the most effective ways to reduce our carbon footprint, but what alternatives are out there and are they any good? What’s in these plant-based meats? More importantly, are they really any better for you compared to the real thing? Let’s take a look at the potential perks and pitfalls when it comes to these meat-free meat dishes.

What’s in plant-based meat?

The brands responsible for plant-based meat claim that their products have the same flavour and juiciness as real meat, and that these products are even made to "bleed" in a similar way. Two of the most popular companies in the meatless meat industry today are Beyond Meat Inc. and Impossible Foods. Here’s a look into how they make their products:

Beyond Meat

Beyond Meat is made without GMOs, soy or gluten, but it features quite the lengthy ingredient list, including Pea Protein Isolate, Rice Protein, Cocoa Butter, Mung Bean Protein, Apple Extract, Salt, Methylcellulose, Potato Starch, Potassium Chloride and Beet Juice Extract (for colour).

The protein in this patty comes from the rice, mung bean and peas, while the fat is comprised of coconut oil, canola oil and cocoa butter. The methylcellulose is used as a binding agent instead of using an egg.

Impossible Foods

Impossible Foods created its proprietary plant-based heme by fermenting genetically engineered yeast. This heme is essentially an iron-containing molecule which occurs naturally in every living organism (both plant and animal). For their meatless burger patties, the list of ingredients includes Soy Protein Concentrate, Cultured Dextrose, Modified Food Starch, Yeast Extract, Potato Protein, Niacin, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride (Vitamin B6) and Riboflavin (Vitamin B2).

Others to sink your teeth into

Other popular brands in the plant-based meat space include Pure Farmland, Sweet Earth Foods, Raised & Rooted and Good Catch with their array of plant-based tuna products.

Are plant-based meats healthy?

Both the Beyond Burger and Impossible Burger share a similar nutritional profile and are a great source of B-vitamins, fibre, potassium, zinc and calcium. However, it is important to note that with the many, many ingredients that go into creating plant-based meats, there’s a lot of processing involved. Compared to real meat, these products have almost the same amount of calories and saturated fat, but they also contain about five times the amount of sodium, which is a lot of salt!

Have you had any experience with plant-based meats? Will you be including more into your diet or would you rather stick with traditional burgers, meatballs and steaks?


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