How Healthy are Meat Substitutes?

How Healthy are Meat Substitutes?

If you've seen meat substitutes at the local grocery store, you may be wondering how healthy they are for your diet. Here's a closer look at the fat, protein and sodium content of meat substitutes.

What Are Meat Substitutes?

As the name might suggest, meat substitutes are products that are high in protein, and therefore can be used in place of beef, fish, chicken and other meat sources. The most well-known type of meat substitute is tofu, which is made from ground soybeans. However, a variety of different beans are also high in protein, and thus are also sometimes referred to as meat substitutes.

Fat Content

One of the most important issues that must be talked about in a discussion about the nutrition of meat substitutes is their fat content. In general, when compared to beef, chicken and other types of meat, meat substitutes are relatively low in fat. The small amount of fat that does exist in meat substitutes is typically unsaturated. In contrast to saturated fats, which have been linked to the development of obesity, cardiovascular disease, and other serious conditions, unsaturated fats have actually been found to be effective in the treatment and prevention of some of these chronic conditions. Since there is not a whole lot of fat to begin with in meat substitutes, the calorie content is also relatively low.

Protein Content

The goal of meat substitutes is to serve as an effective replacement for meats. In order to do this successfully, meat substitutes must be able to provide a high amount of dietary protein. When studied, meat substitutes such as tofu and garbanzo beans were found to be actually higher in protein content than some other forms of meat. Protein is essential for a number of bodily functions. Besides keeping your hair and nails looking healthy and shiny, protein helps to maintain and promote new muscle growth. Without adequate muscle development, you would be more likely to experience falls, breaks and fractures.

Sodium Content

In order to get a complete picture of the nutritional status of meat substitutes, you have to look at the sodium content. The sodium content of meat also refers to how much dietary salt you consume by eating a piece of meat. Sodium can be detrimental to good health in a number of ways. While salt has been found to be linked to the development of cardiovascular disease, it can also contribute to bloating and weight gain. In comparison to beef, chicken and especially pork, meat substitutes are extremely low in sodium.