The meat substitutes market is predicted to hit $5.96 billion by 2022. Meat substitutes – tofu, vegetable protein, Quorn – were once confined to the margins, but increased environmental awareness in recent years has provoked a surge of interest in green nutrition. And the trend is set to continue into 2017.
A Growing Vegan Population
In the UK, over half a million people now follow a vegan diet, entirely avoiding animal products like meat, fish, eggs, cheese, milk and honey. That’s compared to just 150,000 ten years ago; it seems like only a matter of time before the figure exceeds a million.
Whether you’re interested in going full vegan or not, there are many benefits to be gained from swapping out meat in favour of a nutrient-rich alternative. Perhaps that’s why nearly a third of Brits reduced their meat consumption between 2015 and 2016.
Of course, not all meat-free foods are equal. In fact, many products are pretty bad for you owing to their high levels of sodium and MSG. But stick to the right foods – organic greens and nutritious Quorn products low in saturated fat and high in fibre – and you can benefit from improved gut bacteria, improved cholesterol and blood sugar levels and a reduced risk of diabetes. Even eliminating meat from your diet one day a week can have a positive effect, both on the environment and on your personal health.
Animal Protein vs Plant Protein
Research published in the August issue of JAMA Internal Medicine, meanwhile, says eating plant-based protein lowers one’s risk of death. Diet and health data from over 170,000 people was examined to assess the mortality risk in relation to eating plant protein vs animal protein over a period of three decades.
The study highlighted a link between cardiovascular mortality and individuals who consumed higher amounts of animal protein. On the flip side, those who ate mostly plant protein had a lower risk of all-cause mortality.
Although the results give cause for concern, it should be noted that the discrepancy was evident in participants with at least one unhealthy lifestyle factor, be it smoking, obesity or heavy alcohol intake. In other words, eating meat would appear to have a compound effect when poor lifestyle choices are taken into consideration.
According to the aforementioned market study into meat substitutes, soy-based substitutes accounted for the largest market share in 2015. This is really no surprise when you consider that soy has an amino acid profile rivalled only by steak – minus the surplus calories and artery-clogging cholesterol and fat. Soybeans are also packed with fibre, minerals, vitamins and valuable plant compounds. If you want to work more soy protein into your diet, tofu, soy milk and edamame are good choices.
Plant-Based Protein Powders
While supplements should never replace a balanced diet, plant-based protein powders offer a great way of hitting your daily protein quota. They’re also far easier to digest than animal-based equivalents, and can easily be mixed with soy milk, water or fruit juice.
A few years ago, meat-free protein powders were in limited supply, but that’s no longer the case. Nowadays, you can choose between excellent products like Pro Matcha – a blend of plant-based protein and matcha green tea that provides 21g per serving – and Pumpkin Seed Protein Powder, which yields 10g of organically certified protein plus a complete spread of amino acids.
If you’ve got your protein needs covered, but you simply want to consume more greens, then there’s always Field of Greens, pHresh Greens or Green Vibrance. With so many supplements available, no wonder the meat-substitute market is growing!