By Kristin Ohlson, Experience Life
When some people decide to eat less meat, they still want something that looks, smells and tastes like meat on their plate — and they want its preparation to be as easy as flipping a ground beef patty. Even mainstream supermarkets now offer dozens of veggie burgers and other protein-rich products (usually made from some combination of textured or hydrolyzed soy protein, wheat gluten, and grains) to fill this savory niche. Great idea, right?
Not necessarily. It may be convenient to rely on “meat analog” products when first making the transition to a plant-based diet, but many of these products also contain industrial-food byproducts, chemically processed soy and grain powders, artificial flavorings, colorings, and other chemicals to make them palatable. Many vitamins and minerals are leached away during their high-heat production. And some people may have trouble digesting them or experience intolerances to ingredients like gluten and monosodium glutamate (MSG).
“I advise people to cut these highly processed things out drastically — even cut them out completely,” says Brendan Brazier, professional Ironman triathlete and author of Thrive: The Vegan Nutrition Guide to Optimal Performance in Sports and Life (Da Capo Press, 2008).
Concurring is Mitzi Dulan, RD, CSSD, sports nutritionist for the Kansas City Chiefs football team and Kansas City Royals baseball team, and coauthor with NFLer Tony Gonzalez of The All-Pro Diet: Lose Fat, Build Muscle, and Live Like a Champion (Rodale, August 2009). If consumers want good sources of non-meat protein, she encourages them to eat beans, lentils, quinoa, legumes, nuts, whole soybeans (edamame) and naturally fermented soy foods like tempeh. Or, she suggests, choose vegan products (e.g., veggie burgers) made primarily from these whole-food ingredients rather than relying on products made from soy protein isolate, hydrolyzed vegetable protein (HVP) and textured vegetable protein (TVP).
Next: A Better Way to Maintain a Vegetarian or Vegan Diet