Three Simple Tips to Find the Best Ones
Veggies “meats” are plant-based versions of chicken, fish, burgers, and other animal foods. These foods are soaring in popularity, as more and more people are cutting way back on how much meat they eat, but are looking for convenient substitutes for their usual menu items.
The healthfulness of veggie meats depends on two things. The first is your point of view. Are you comparing these foods to whole plant foods, such as beans and whole grains, or are you comparing them to actual meat? The second is what the veggie meats are made from. There is a wide swing in your choices. While some veggie meats are manufactured from highly processed ingredients, others are prepared from mostly whole foods.
Are Veggie Meats Healthy Compared to What?
Animal meats harm you in many ways. Hundred of pages could be crammed with facts on the toxic effects of animal foods. Yet this would only skim the surface of the solid scientific evidence that meat is unhealthy.
Here is a tiny sample of research findings. All meat, even chicken and fish, has significant amounts of artery-clogging cholesterol. Animal protein raises your body’s level of a hormone called IGF-1, which speeds the growth and spread of cancer cells. The iron in meat is absorbed all-too-readily, frequently leading to excess stores of this mineral in your body. In turn, this iron is easily oxidized, harming your cells through the production of free radicals. Animal foods are the source of 89% to 99% of the toxic persistent organic pollutants in your body. These poisonous compounds can damage your DNA and cause cancer.
Scientists consistently find that processed meats are even more harmful than regular meat. For example, one large study found that just two strips a day of bacon or else 1.6 ounces of other processed meat raises your risk of developing type 2 diabetes by 32%! In this same study,
eating 3 ounces a day of unprocessed red meat increased diabetes risk by “only” 12%.
These facts are important when you consider that veggie meats are often used in sandwiches and wraps to substitute for processed meat slices. Other veggie meats are used in a main course to take the place of chicken or beef in a recipe. From this point of view, substituting for animal meats, the plant meats are definitely healthier.
On the other hand, veggie meats don’t look as healthful when you compare them to whole plant foods, such as beans, whole grains, nuts, seeds, fruits, and vegetables. Remember, the veggie meats are, for the most part, manufactured in factories from the extracted components of whole foods, which lose much of their health-promoting goodness when broken down into
Which Veggie Meats Are Best for You?
Let’s turn to what veggie meats are made from. The more these plant-based meats are
comprised of whole food ingredients, and the less salt, oils, and unpronounceable chemicals they contain, the more they approximate the beneficial effects of unprocessed plant foods.
You can use these three simple tips to find the healthiest veggie meats:
• Read the ingredient list closely. If the first ingredients are recognizable foods, such as tofu, quinoa, brown rice, walnuts, carrots, onions, black beans, ginger, and so on, the better choice the product is. On the other hand, if the product is comprised mostly from isolated plant proteins, added oils, and chemicals, use caution and keep your intake low (or just look for an alternative friendlier to your health).
• Veggie meats are often high in salt. Compare the amount of sodium between brands (keeping serving sizes reasonably the same as you consider this) and gravitate toward the choices that have less sodium.
• Be sure there are no animal ingredients, such as egg whites or dairy, mixed in with the plant
For even more control and assurance about your health, find or create recipes to make your own veggie burgers or other veggie meat alternatives. Here’s the bottom line: veggie meats can fit into a whole foods, plant-based diet, which is the pinnacle of healthy eating. They are not perfect, but perfection is not demanded for glowing health. On the Perfect Formula Diet, for example, you have a “budget” of 5% of calories you can “spend” on plant foods that aren’t as desirable as your usual whole foods choices. For many people, this would be about 700 calories a week, enough to allow for a few veggie burgers.
Choose your veggie meats thoughtfully, keep the amount you eat to a reasonable level, eat your veggie burger on whole grain bread or tortillas with a big pile of greens. and – above all – when you choose veggie meats over animal foods, feel good about it.
If you enjoyed this post, you may want to find out where you can get wonderful whole grains to eat with any veggie meats.
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Blog posting by Janice Stanger, Ph.D. Janice authored The Perfect Formula Diet: How to Lose Weight and Get Healthy Now With Six Kinds of Whole Foods, a book that shows you how to thrive on a whole foods, plant-based diet. Janice is pleased to be a regular contributor to VegWorld Magazine, and this post was written as an article for VegWorld.