Echo Eats: Ooooh It’s Meat but Vegan?

It is apparent that most vegans or vegetarians choose to revise their diet for the sake of the environment and their love for animals, not because they despise the taste of meat. Some might even miss it, but there’s no reason to when vegan substitutes expertly replicate every texture. Textured soy protein, which is frequently used as the main ingredient for meat substitutes in vegan dishes, has even fooled regular meat-eaters. Hence, what else is there to say? 

Vegan recipes abound on social media, and they are far from ordinary or restricted in variety. They are vibrant and diverse, and they contain a plethora of plant-based options that are exciting to explore. It is about time vegan alternatives are acknowledged for their essence and ultimate objective. That is, to promote a way of life that avoids, as far as feasible and practical, all types of animal exploitation and suffering for the sake of food or anything else. A world in which resources are used sustainably to maintain the well-being of current and future generations – a world in which no one goes hungry. At the heart of the sustainability and the food justice agenda is plant-based food production and consumption, a.k.a veganism.

What’s inside? 

Vegan meat was made with one thought in mind- to replicate the taste and texture of its animal counterpart as well as provide the same nutrients that would otherwise be missed out on in a meatless diet. Familiarity plays an important role in the lives of humans; people just can’t help themselves but revert to the things that make them the most comfortable! In this case, we have new vegetarians seeking out foods that imitate said meats.

While American brands are all the fad at the moment, vegan meats have been around for over a thousand years in ancient Asia, mainly in India and China, where many go for meatless diets due to religious beliefs among other factors. In China for example, mock meats or 素肉 (pronounced su- rou) were used as a replacement meat long before the trend even started. Traditionally eaten by monks who were transitioning into monkhood, Chinese mock meats are usually made up of soy, mushroom and tofu among other plant based proteins. Many in these countries tend to view western mock meats with scepticism, some preferring to use their own recipes or not even utilising mock meats at all due to the belief that the heavily processed vegan meats are less healthy than they claim to be, which is completely understandable seeing as these nations have essentially been the pioneers of such foods way before the West began to capitalise upon it.  

American alternative meat producers such as Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods seem to be doing their best to achieve this. In Beyond Meat’s Burger their ingredients include peas, brown rice, coconut oil and other essential minerals and vitamins. Impossible Foods uses a similar formula but opts to utilise soy as one of its main components.

However, it is important to note that in theory, it would be quite impossible to replicate what makes meat… meat using plant based products. Firstly, animal meat contains one thing that plants do not- muscle cells. That is what gives steak that springy texture. Plants, on the other hand, do not have this, therefore are much more crunchier in texture. Food companies counter this by investing in heavy research, combining wheat and pea proteins, leading to vegan burgers having a very similar texture when eaten. Another essential factor that gives meat its uniqueness is the fats present- making it much juicier than plant-based meat. This makes vegan meat much more dry because oils such as coconut oils (another main element in Beyond Meat’s burgers)  have a lower melting point. Because of this, these substitute fats would melt in a person’s mouth once they take a bite, making it much more drier in taste. In terms of vegan meat’s appearance, Beyond Burger uses colouring from beetroot in order to give that “bloody” look to the otherwise bloodless meal. It helps stimulate a person’s brain into thinking what they are eating is the real thing. On that note, it is interesting to point out the lack of clarification on what these companies use in order to replicate the taste of the meats in their products- normally labelling the ingredient as a natural/ artificial flavour. 

The Power Pack

Protein check, weight loss check, immune boost check, energy? Check. Vegan substitutes are no less than that in experience and of course, work equally best. As a vegan’s diet is plant-based, it is simpler to consume the beneficial whole grains, legumes, fruits, and vegetables that many people fail to consume on a daily basis.Although plant-based meats are considered processed food, and while they may be part of a balanced diet, choosing the most nutritious and least processed ones without additives would suffice for one’s share of worry on that front.

Moreover, the evidence for plant-based diets being the most protective against chronic illness is compelling, if not overwhelming. For reference, consider Dan Buettner and his team’s Blue Zones study. A strategy to determine longevity by collaborating with National Geographic and the National Institute on Ageing to identify the demographically proven places that are spatially defined to have communities whose elders live with strength to record-breaking ages. A team of specialists was on hand to go through exactly what these folks do to ultimately distil down the cross-cultural distillation. And ultimately, the elders of the blue zones, the island of Sardinia, the archipelago of Okinawa and Loma Linda in California, all tend to have a plant-based diet. Further interest in more overwhelming evidence? Checkout The China Study

Vegan junk food, on the other hand, should be avoided. Although it may appear to be a guilt-free option or a springboard for the vegan-curious, vegan fast food choices are sometimes worse than the meat equivalent. Being able to easily substitute a meat-based fast food for a plant-based fast food may make switching to a vegan diet easier. However, the appropriate balance of meals is required for the power pack to function properly. It is evident that becoming a vegan while reaping the advantages has a lot to do with mindful eating as well. 

With all that said, we can conclude that the world has become much more aware of the possibility of enjoying meat without the meat being a factor in the meal. However, it is very much safe to say that vegan meats still have a long way to go, and it wouldn’t hurt to do additional research on the foods that are being consumed. With that said, with more people deciding to go meatless, and all the benefits that it could potentially bring, one could suppose that maybe vegan meat is all that it’s cracked up to be.

Written by: Jamie and Saoussan

Edited by: Maki

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