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Topic summary contributed by volunteer(s): Joan

Multiple studies on meat consumption have shown health hazards associated with animal products and processing, including the addition of nitrites. These risks are present whether one eats beef, chicken, or fish. Meat consumption increases the risk of cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and obesity by introducing such hazards as saturated fat, cholesterol, IGF-1, and TMAO.

Not only do we introduce these hazards if we consume meat, but we also miss out on the protective phytonutrients provided by plants. Meat substitutes, also known as fake meat, on the other hand, include these nutrients while avoiding hazards associated with traditional meat.

What is “Fake” Meat Made From?

“Fake” meat is a product that mimics certain qualities (texture, flavor and /or appearance) of animal meat products. Although there are many plant foods that can substitute for “fake meat,” the term generally refers to more commercially-prepared and processed products made of plant protein, often with additional fat and salt.

Eggplant, jackfruit, lentils, mushrooms, potatoes, seitan, soy/tofu are all used as main ingredients in a recipe or in commercially prepared entrees. These are some of the more popular plant proteins used as “fake” meat, but other vegetables and grains can be used, such as cauliflower and quinoa.

Fake Meat vs. Whole Plant Foods

“Fake meat” is often more processed than whole plant foods (soy “bacon” versus soybeans) and contains more salt and oil and other additives. For that reason, relying heavily on fake meats for one’s protein can be less healthy than aiming for whole food proteins. A commercially-prepared lentil burger, even if prepared with additions of salt and oil, is still healthier than grabbing a meat sandwich.

However, a healthier option is choosing the lentils themselves.

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