Whats The Go With Fake Meats?
When we choose to reduce or cut out the animal products in our diet for whatever reason, often we are still left with the desire for the familiarity of the foods we once loved. My father loved bacon and egg fry ups and so part of making the transition easier for him when he became vegetarian (as part of his healing from cancer), was sometimes having what I call "fakin bakin." Meat substitute products and dishes are popular in many vegetarian asian meals and you see them especially in LA where there are vegan cafes galore (woohoo) and substitute meats for every dish you could think of. The main meat substitutes are sausages, burgers, mince and deli slices.
These food products can be a helpful "quitting" meat tool, just as puffing on fake cigarettes can help giving up smoking, or as a fun, now and then ingredient. But ultimately they are not something you want to include in your diet long-term because they are NOT healthy options. It comes down to the fact they are heavily processed foods that generally include a large number of ingredients including processed wheats and soys, sugars, synthetic flavours, and huge amounts of salt to make them taste good.
We eat them on rare occasions, but why don't I think you should make them a staple?
INGREDIENTS RED ALERT
There are high amounts of salts, binders and sugars but my primary concern with fake meats is the main ingredient in most which is Textured Vegetable Protein. Textured Vegetable Protein (TSP or TVP as its made from soy or wheat) looks like small, rough, odd-shaped yellow granules that are dry and hard, but if you squish a bigger piece it almost powders itself. It is the substitute for "mince meat" and to eat it, you constitute it with boiling water and add it to recipes or it is used to further make the main ingredient in veggie sausages or patties.
TVP (or TSP) is a factory-made food. TSP is a "defatted soy flour product", made by extracting soybean oil and separating the protein from the whole soybean. This process often requires the use of hexane, a solvent that is actually a byproduct of the gasoline refining process.
"During this process, a slurry of soybeans is mixed with an alkaline solution that removes the fibre, which is separated from the protein in a large aluminium tank through an acid wash. The final product is a curd, which is then spray-dried at high temperatures. This results in a protein powder, which is put through a high-temperature and high-pressure process in a machine called an extruder. The result is TVP."
Soy, especially when processed or GM, can mimic oestrogen in the body and consuming large amounts of soy can really confuse our hormonal system. Therefore I think you need to be conscious when looking at your overall diet of how much you are consuming (and preferably be having it in the organic and whole or fermented forms).
If TVP is made from wheat, then you end up eating a large amount of gluten protein in a highly processed form which studies have shown to be highly inflammatory to our system.
With that in mind, I have gone through the main brands of alternative sausages below so you can get a look at the ingredients, incase you haven't already. I think most of these companies are doing fantastic work as they are being innovative at coming up with alternatives to help reduce excessive meat consumption, which is putting a strain on our environment and the animals. However as a Naturopath I don't promote them as healthy alternatives - and there are some I would definitely stay clear of.
I must admit I am always wary of Sanitarium as their products are often VERY high in sugars, flavours and processing. They have a huge range of meat substitutes - as said before all highly processed. If you are going to consume their products, aim to avoid the ones with the artificial flavours.
Sausages: Water, Vegetable Protein (24%) (Wheat, Soy), Canola Oil, Starch, Flavours, Salt, Oats, Sugar, Wheat Breadcrumbs, Yeast Extract, Wheat Flour, Spices, Mineral Salt (Potassium Chloride), Flavour Enhancer (Disodium Ribonucleotide), Herbs, Vegetable Gums (Guar, Carrageenan), Emulsifier (Soy Lecithin), Minerals (Zinc, Iron), Fermented Rice, Garlic, Onion, Vitamin B12.
Added yeast, sugar and my main concern is the Ribonucleotide, a flavour enhancer that gives a salty taste but is also associated with symptoms such as a itchy red rash, anxiety attacks, rapid rise of heart rate. NO GO for me.
This NZ company with wonderful principles makes a range of burger patties, meat balls and seasoned tofus. The tofus are heavily sauced and sweet so I would definitely give these a miss, but their sausages are a winner with many vegetarians I know.
Sausages: Tofu (37%) [water, soy beans, firming agent (516)] onions, wheat gluten, water, vegetable shortening, gelling agents (methyl cellulose, carrageenan and locust bean gum), yeast, yeast extract, starch, wheat fibre, sea salt, sugar, parsley, seasoning mix (wheat flour), garlic, hydrolysed vegetable protein (soy), caramelised sugar, black pepper, rosemary, sage.
Not every flavour of this brand is vegan, there is one selection with parmesan cheese and the gluten-free package has egg whites - but I guess if you are going for a "gluten free vegetarian sausage" at least you have an option. Added yeast, sugar and hydrolysed soy protein. No added flavours. My kids favourite for the rare occasion.
These guys do a great range of vegetarian options. They are one of my favourites for pre-made burger patties because they have the least number of ingredients and they have an organic option too - and the flavour is natural and tasty.
Sausage: Vegetable 53%, [Carrot, Potato, Cabbage, Peas, Zucchini, Dehydrated Spinach (0.5%), Onion, Garlic], Okara, Chickpeas (15%), Vegetable Gums (Methyl Cellulose, Carrageenan, Xanthan Gum), Rice Flour, Sugar, Maltodextrin, Hydrolysed Vegetable Protein (Soy), Starch, Salt, Dextrose, Vegie Fibre, Herbs & Spices (Paprika Oleoresin).
Main ingredient is from vegetables rather than TVP, but still contains hydrolysed soy protein and sugar but no added flavours. A good option.
Quorn product range is made from the base of mycoprotein. Mycoprotein is a single cell protein derived from fungus made in the UK. It's products have only been available in Australia since 2010 but have been eaten since the 80's in UK and 2001 in US. It is produced in large tanks using a continuous fermentation process and fed sugar, vitamins and minerals and then heated. When extracted it is mixed with egg white and flavours, meaning it is not a vegan product. It is high in protein but there have been thousands of reports of people having allergic reactions to Quorn products. Symptoms consumers have experienced include vomiting and diarrhoea, while others reported symptoms of fainting, blood in the stools and severe allergic reactions
Sausages: Mycoprotein (46%), Water, Rehydrated Egg White, Textured Wheat Protein [Wheat Flour, Wheat Gluten, Wheat Starch, Gelling Agent (401), Firming Agent (516)], Onion, Canola Oil, Milk Protein, Tapioca Starch, Salt, Pea Fibre, Yeast Extract, Spices, Pepper, Sugar, Gelling Agent (508), Barley Malt Extract, Natural Flavour, Dextrose, Herbs, Yeast, Sunflower Oil, Potato Starch, Firming Agent (509).
My instinct is to stay away from it personally... not that the other ranges are natural - but this really feels like a science experiment to me. NO GO for me.
The Mc Cartney family have been a wonder at raising the awareness about animal cruelty and especially "Meat Free Monday's". They have an extensive vegetarian range - not vegan. It's all GM and trans-fat free but again these are not "health" options... they are fast-food options for a vegetarian.
Sausages: Rehydrated Textured Wheat Protein (84%), Palm Oil, Seasoning (Sulphites) (Dextrose, Salt, Flavourings, Onion Powder, Yeast Extract, Colour: Red Iron Oxide), Rusk (Fortified Wheat Flour (Wheat Flour), Calcium Carbonate, Iron, Niacin, Thiamin), Salt, Raising Agent: Ammonium Hydrogen Carbonate), Pea Protein, Rapeseed Oil, Stabiliser: Methyl Cellulose; Wheat Gluten, Sunflower Oil
No soy in these ones for those consciously staying away from soy but they are still processed and gluten based, with added sugar and yeast. My Dad's favourite by far for flavour.
Some of their range looks like an "ok" alternative to a "ready-made" curry but as a Naturopath you would never recommend these dishes because you can easily make them fresh! As for the sausages and slices, they contain flavours therefore they are worth NOT consuming.
Sausage: Vegetable protein (20 %) (Contains: Wheat · Soya) · Roasted red onions (7 %) · Vegetable oil (Sunflower seed) · Potato starch · Maize starch · Spices (Contains: Sulphites) · Sea salt · Flavour (E631 · E627) · Wheat flour · Thickener (Cellulose) · Wheat fibre · Cracked black pepper (0.5 %) · Mustard · Acidity regulator (Calcium lactate [Vegan source]) · Antioxidant (Sodium ascorbate) · Colour (Caramel IV).
Again flavoured with Ribonucleotide so automatically a NO GO for me, plus wheat and soy proteins but no added sugar or yeast.
I always recommend to eat REAL food so while I have showed some "vegetarian products" here it is always best to make it yourself fresh whenever possible. Instead of using TVP for "mince" try use chickpeas or beans, veggie patties are easy to make from scratch quickly and your can find numerous recipes on the internet, roast coconut for the "bacon" substitute and there are so many delicious sandwich fillers, weaning off the deli slices can be an experiment in the kitchen.