In today’s health-conscious society, there are many who would like to lower their meat intake, or eliminate meat from their diet completely. For those who still crave the taste of a tender rib eye or juicy hamburger, cutting out meat can be difficult. Thankfully, there are some tasty meat alternatives available at your local market, and researchers have found that eating a plant-based diet can help cut your risk of heart disease by a third.

Seitan

Seitan is a meat alternative that is packed with protein and low in salt and fat, but not very well known outside the vegetarian world. Made from wheat protein, seitan is common in Asian and Indian cuisines.

Seitan is versatile and is often found in health-food stores or supermarkets. It is sometimes referred to as wheat meat or wheat gluten. It can be purchased fresh or frozen and is sometimes shaped in patties or sausages. Asian groceries might also have fried or marinated seitan varieties. You can grind seitan up in a food processor, or use it in slabs or chunks to mimic the texture of meat.

Tofu

You might not think of tofu as a meat alternative, but there are actually many types of tofu, ranging from soft to extra firm textures. This important ingredient in Japanese and vegetarian cuisine is often utilized as the main ingredient of meatless hot dogs or other meatless dishes.

Made from soybeans, tofu easily absorbs other flavors, and if prepared correctly, it can be a tasty alternative to meat in everything from noodles and soups to tacos. Although soy is generally considered a healthy food, those who are affected by hormone-related cancers, kidney disease or hypothyroidism should consult a medical professional before incorporating tofu into their diet.

Tempeh

Also primarily made from soybeans, tempeh is a good source of protein that gets you close to a true “whole food” (less processed) version of soy. While tofu is made by curdling soy milk, tempeh is made by fermenting the whole bean, mixed with grains. Those expecting a pure meat flavor might be surprised at first to find something more akin to mushrooms, but as a suitable meat alternative, it is a great choice.

Tempeh’s nutrition benefits include high amounts of protein, fiber, vitamin B2, iron, magnesium and other properties that help facilitate digestion and normalize blood fats and cholesterol.

Textured Vegetable Protein

Textured vegetable protein (TVP) is a welcomed substitute for hamburgers and hot dogs, and is often sold in health-food stores in a frozen form, or in a dehydrated state that requires rehydration when preparing to use it in a meal.

TVP can also be flavored to taste like chicken or beef by adding meat-free “chicken” or “beef” flavor cubes, or by adding the same spices that you’d normally use on chicken or beef. TVP is low carb and low fat, a good source of iron, and contains other vital nutrients and minerals.

Experiment with each of these meat substitutes to see which one most satisfies your taste buds. With these meat alternatives, it’s possible to enjoy a healthy vegetarian lifestyle and the taste of meat at the same time.

Sources:

http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/255644.php

http://www.thekitchn.com/tofu-varieties-whats-the-difference-201345

https://umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/supplement/soy

http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=126

http://vegetarian.about.com/od/glossary/g/TVP.htm