The popularity of the plant-based diet is growing every day. If you decide to become a vegetarian, it is important to identify foods that can replace meat without harming your health, providing your body with a similar cocktail of nutrients – quality protein, probiotics, fiber, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals.
Protein is vital for maintaining a healthy body, cell growth and repair, and the production of important hormones and enzymes. Deficiency of protein compounds in the diet is accompanied by obvious and hidden troubles – from skin flaking and swelling to loss of muscle mass and a weakened immune system. In addition, protein promotes weight loss by maintaining satiety, decreasing calorie intake and ghrelin (a hormone that stimulates hunger), helping to maintain normal blood sugar levels, and improving brain function.
Fortunately, nature has taken care of the “bench” for animal products, creating many food “doubles” that can compensate for nutritional deficiencies, soloing in delicious vegetarian dishes. We present the top 6 protein products that can replace meat without harm to health.
Popular in Indonesia and Southeast Asia, the whole fermented soybean pressed brick deserves a spot on the superfood list. By a strange coincidence, tempeh did not gain such widespread popularity as tofu bean curd, which is practically devoid of the probiotic properties that tempeh acquires during fermentation.
Tempeh has an unusual structure and a peculiar smell with a slight ammonia accent: some catch the aroma of nuts, others – mushrooms. This product is pleasant to the taste and versatile in cooking: tempeh can be marinated, crumbled, chopped, sliced, fried or baked. Among other benefits, tempeh is rich in calcium, antioxidants and soy isoflavones that are beneficial for lowering cholesterol, and also claims to be the champion in protein content. 100 grams of tempeh contains 18 grams of protein, which makes it the undisputed leader among products that can replace meat without harm to health. For comparison, 100 grams of tofu contains only 8 grams of protein.
Lentils are legumes packed with protein, fiber and a host of important micronutrients like folate, manganese and iron. You can buy it, in contrast to the aforementioned tempo, in any supermarket – packaged, canned or frozen. Just a serving of lentils a day (as a side dish, in soup or salad) can help control blood sugar, prevent constipation, and keep weight in check.
Another protein product from fermented soybeans, rich in manganese, iron, copper, magnesium and can replace meat without harm to health. Natto is made by soaking whole beans, steaming or boiling them, and adding beneficial bacteria for fermentation. High-quality natto is characterized by a specific smell and taste, as well as a sticky, viscous consistency. In Japan, this product ranks second after rice and is usually served in a duet with it as a traditional breakfast dish.
Thanks to their nutritional and medicinal properties, mushrooms have supplemented the human diet for thousands of years. Modern scientists have proven that this low-calorie protein source has outstanding antioxidant and antimicrobial properties, which makes mushrooms a direct hit in the superfood category. Mushrooms do an excellent job of substituting meat in roasts, soups, salads, burgers, casseroles and pasta, increasing the nutritional value of dishes and giving them an appetizing and rich aroma.
NUTS AND SEEDS
The natural treasury of proteins, healthy fats, fiber, vitamins and minerals is dominated by almonds, walnuts and Brazil nuts, cashews, flaxseeds, chia and hemp seeds. It is worth noting that the benefits should only be expected from unroasted and unsalted nuts without additional additives. Flaxseeds and chia seeds can also serve as an egg substitute in vegan recipes, acting as a binder (mix a tablespoon of the seeds with three tablespoons of water).
BEANS AND PEAS
Slightly inferior to lentils in protein and minerals, other legumes also do a good job of serving as meat substitutes in a vegetarian diet. To take full advantage of the health benefits, nutritionists advise to germinate them – soak them in water for a day, then leave them under wet gauze for a couple of days. Sprouted seeds and grains contain more vitamins that help to restore the body at the cellular level, and, in addition, the sprouts increase the nutritional profile more and reduce the content of antinutrients that slow down the absorption of nutrients.