Tofu Bolognese, Wiener schnitzel made from seitan or fried sausages made from lupins: the range of vegetarian products that imitate meat is now huge. Even if vegetarianism is generally associated with a more conscious way of life (mostly rightly), such meat substitute products are not necessarily as healthy as one likes to believe: Many are heavily industrially processed (and therefore less naturally pure than meat) and contain a number of additives , in order to come as close as possible to animal protein in taste and consistency.
A lot of protein, little fat – but …
As far as the nutrients are concerned, you can’t complain about tofu, soy meat, seitan or tempeh: All of them have a lot of high-quality protein (usually vegetable protein is less high-quality than animal protein, which means that the body can use it more poorly), less fat and fewer calories than Meat . But not all are equally recommendable.
- Soy meat is textured soy that is similar in consistency to meat. To achieve this similarity, additives such as flavorings, flavor enhancers and thickeners are used.
- Tofu is a quark made from soy milk . The production process is similar to that of cheese made from milk. Tempeh is traditionally eaten in Indonesia, but it is also available in our latitudes. To obtain it, soy is fermented with the help of molds.
- Seitan is made from wheat protein and its fibrous consistency is very similar to meat. As with soy meat, many industrial processing steps and a number of additives are necessary to achieve this.
- Lupine tofu is the domestic alternative to soy tofu. For the production are lupine seeds , which are used as soy are among the legumes. Due to the short transport routes, lupinentofu can also be evaluated ecologically.
Meat substitutes shouldn’t be on the table every day
The Independent Health Consultancy (UGB) has assessed the meat substitute products listed above and has come to the conclusion that, apart from tofu, none are suitable for a whole-food diet (i.e. a balanced, low-meat, ecologically acceptable lifestyle) . On the website it says: “Due to their heavy processing, the meat imitations should remain an exception in everyday kitchens.”
Products that are processed from tofu and the like, such as soy wieners, veggie nuggets or vegetarian cold cuts, fare even worse . The consumer center in Hamburg recently examined 20 of these products. Four of them contained too much fat , five too many saturated fatty acids and five too much table salt . In addition, there is often no savings on additives. From a nutritional point of view, such products are therefore comparable to real sausage.
Conclusion: Meat substitute products are allowed on the table, but – just like meat products – should not be eaten every day