Contrary to popular belief that meat is unnecessary food for proper nutrition and health, in fact, it has been proven to contain nutrients, which cannot be found in any other plant-based food (or are found in very small amounts). The most popular ones are:
- Vitamin B12. It is responsible for the health of our nervous system and brain development.
- Heme iron. This type of iron is very efficiently absorbed by the body, compared to non-heme iron, the absorption of which is easily limited by the lack of other nutrients. Heme iron is excellent in preventing anemia and quickly treating anemia-related conditions.
- Vitamin D3. The food sources of this vitamin are only animal-based. It contributes to efficient calcium absorption and helps us to maintain our bone and tissue health.
On the other hand, studies show that the overconsumption of meat and animal-based products are linked to the possible development of cancer, coronary diseases, strokes, high LDL cholesterol, and other health-threatening conditions.
For that reason, many people are looking towards substituting meat with plant-based foods, which to supply them with the necessary nutrients for a healthy and active life.
And we have prepared a list of the best meat substitutes for you! Let’s check them out!
Table of Contents
Beans, lentils, peas, chickpeas, and other legumes are fantastic sources of non-heme iron. Regular consumption of these foods can supply our body with enough iron to prevent anemia, however, regular medical checks should be made in order to monitor any health risks.
What is more, legumes are very rich in soluble and insoluble fiber, folate, potassium, and magnesium. They are low in saturated fat and cholesterol, which gives them a great nutritional advantage before the red meat.
Soy products (like tofu & tempeh)
Soy-based aliments are a great option for people who want to substitute meat. They are very rich in protein and contribute to a better balance of macronutrients throughout the day. In addition, they are rich in fiber, polyunsaturated fat, and vitamins and minerals, such as zinc, calcium, non-heme iron, and magnesium.
In terms of taste and texture, soy products are excellent copycats of meat. However, you should be careful with their consumption because the intake of too much soy foods blocks the function of the thyroid gland and may eventually cause hypothyroidism.
Fish and seafood
Unless you are pure vegetarian or vegan, fish and seafood is the amazing meat substitute. Although they don’t provide us with the exact same nutrients, they are a great source of high-quality protein and vitamin D.
Besides, they contain additional doses of omega 3 and 6 fatty acids, which stimulate proper coronary function, balance the cholesterol levels, and have a positive impact on skin, hair, and nails.
Fortified dairy products
Fortified milk, yogurt, cheese, and eggs help us to supply our body with vitamins B12 and D3 without consuming meat. On the positive side, the consumption of fortified foods enhances the absorption of the “added” nutrients compared to supplementation with the same nutrients in the form of pills or powders. This way, the body uses vitamins B12, and D more efficiently prevents any deficiencies.
However, on the downside, fortified products often contain inappropriately high amounts of folic acid and other ingredients (such as preservatives, pesticides, and other synthetics), which, want it or not, are present. According to various health organizations, such as EUFIC, this leads to eventual overconsumption of nutrients, imposes a risk of developing bowel cancer.
A balanced diet is the key to a healthy life. That is why if you decide to replace meat with other foods, it is important to inform yourself about the nutrients, which you should consume additionally, and their appropriate amounts. This way, you will be in control of your diet and prevent any deficiency and toxicity symptoms, as well as further health issues.
Disclaimer: I am not a doctor, and I do not aim to give any medical advice. The information presented in this article is based on scientific research and personal experience and aims to give information about the topic.