Growing up, many of us were taught about the four food groups and how they were essential for a healthy diet. You probably remember seeing a poster in a classroom or doctor’s office with the most common symbols of those categories: milk, fruits and vegetables, grains and meat.
Although the goal of a balanced diet remains the same, the sources from which we’re deriving the essential nutrients in each food group is changing. Whether for ethical concerns, reduction of one’s environmental footprint, or simply personal taste, a growing segment of the population is choosing to consume protein from meatless sources. There are many types of plant-based meat substitutes on the market today, but which one is right for you? What follows is a brief overview of many of the most popular varieties and what makes them unique.
The Wide World of Protein Alternatives
There are numerous vegetables that have high amounts of protein, such as asparagus, broccoli and avocadoes. However, Americans have become introduced to a much wider variety of protein sources within the last few decades. These include:
- Tofu: Perhaps the granddaddy of all meat substitutes, this contains all nine of the essential amino acids your body needs. As long as you don’t mind its rather infamous texture, just 3 ounces will provide you with 8 grams of protein.
- Seitan: Made from gluten, this has gained more attention recently as it comes close to the taste and texture of meat when cooked. In fact, it could be prepared in almost as many ways as regular beef, pork or poultry. Seitan also packs a punch when it comes to nutritional value with a 3.5 ounce serving delivering nearly 25 grams of protein.
- Nutritional yeast: Available as a powder or flakes, this is derived from a deactivated strain of yeast. In addition to the 14 grams of protein it provides per ounce, it also can be fortified with zinc, manganese, and other essential vitamins and minerals. Many people choose this because it could be sprinkled or otherwise incorporated into vegetarian dishes such as pasta and mashed potatoes.
- Tempeh: Similar to tofu but made with cooked and slightly fermented soybeans, this is typically available in cake or patty form. These provide roughly 10 to 19 grams of protein per 3.5-ounce serving along with a good amount of iron and calcium.
- Beans and chickpeas: Adding plenty of beans and chickpeas to your meals adds a lot of protein — about 15 grams per cooked cup. They also contain high amounts of complex carbohydrates, fiber and minerals.
Which One Is Best for You?
The good news is that if you’re looking to replace meat, there’s no shortage of options. Choosing the right protein comes down to what you prefer. If you’re trying to recreate the experience of eating a burger, seitan may be the ideal choice. For those who want to boost the nutrition of their vegetarian meals, they can get it from nutritional yeast. Even having a simple peanut butter sandwich for lunch can make a difference and give you what you need.
Choose PacMoore for Complete Expertise
As an experienced contract food manufacturer, PacMoore has the R&D equipment and extrusion experts to help your company develop foods featuring plant-based proteins. To learn more about this or our other services, get in touch with one of our representatives today.