Meat substitutes have exploded in popularity over the past few years, but while reducing meat and dairy consumption may benefit the environment, it doesn’t always mean it is better for your health. Many of these meat substitutes are ultra-processed and filled with thickeners, emulsifiers, fillers, colourings, sugar and lots of salt. Look out for ingredients such as dextrose, carrageenan, methylcellulose, and dried glucose syrup – all things you wouldn’t find in your kitchen cupboard. These replacements can contain up to six times more sodium than a regular chicken breast, with some plant-based burgers containing more sodium and as much saturated fat as a real beef burger. Plus, meat alternatives tend to be lower in nutrients such as zinc, b12 and iron, and also tend to be on the lower side when it comes to protein content.
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If you want to reduce or eliminate your animal product consumption, try to stick to the minimally processed meat alternatives that are made from whole foods such as pulses or pea protein. Always check the ingredients list and ensure you are familiar with them. If the ingredients list is overly long and contains words you can’t pronounce, it may be best to stick with tofu or make your own bean burger which will most likely be higher in plant-based protein, fibre and other gut-loving nutrients. My meat replacements of choice are always tofu, tempeh or beans and lentils. I like to oven-bake my tofu to get it extra crispy or I opt for Tiba Tempeh curry-spiced pieces when in a rush. They are seasoned with organic spices, tomato, onion and garlic and they make the perfect addition to a plant-based curry.