One thing about me? Oh, I'm gonna eat some meat. While I don't do pork or shellfish, a steak, some salmon and some good 'old dark meat fried chicken can bring a smile to my face in a way that a lot of other foods simply cannot. That doesn't mean that I don't get that sometimes my body needs a break from "indulging in the flesh". When I choose to take one, I still prefer to eat something that has a bit of a meaty feel to it. And since I know that a lot of meat substitute products contain so much sodium and preservatives that I might as well stick to a cow, fish or chicken, I typically prefer to go a meat alternative route that is strictly a vegetable and then prepare it to my liking at home.
What? You didn't know that there are some vegetables that have a texture that is so close to meat that it can make going the vegetarian/vegan route—even if it's just temporarily—easier on your palate? Indeed, there are and if you've got a sec, I'll share with you 10 that top my personal list.
1. Portobello Mushrooms
Off top, whenever I want to take a break from meat while still wanting something that has a meaty texture to it, my automatic go-to is portobello mushrooms. They are probably my favorite hamburger stand-in, hands down. Matter of fact, the only reason why I don't eat them more often is because I've got a fungal sensitivity and well, mushrooms are a fungus. Anyway, on the health benefits tip, portobello mushrooms are cool because they contain Vitamin B, copper, fiber, selenium, antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds. As a bonus, they can help to lower your risk of getting cancer too. So, if you've got a craving for a sandwich and you want to chill on the meat tip, grill yourself a portobello. You won't regret it.
If you were to go to your favorite search engine, right this second, and put "meat substitutes" in the search field, I'd be floored if you didn't see jackfruit come up in almost every article.
Even though it's a tropical fruit, a lot of people like to swap meat out for jackfruit because they find that its texture is similar to shredded meat. For the record, if you've never had jackfruit before, it has a mild sweet flavor.
And what are its health benefits? Jackfruit is a good source of protein and fiber. It's also got a fair amount of Vitamin C, magnesium, manganese, copper and potassium in it as well. Some other good reasons to give jackfruit a shot is it can help to lower your blood sugar levels, boost your immunity, strengthen your heart, ward off diseases and improve the quality of your skin too. Yep, jackfruit is that one.
Let me just say that, off the top, when it comes to this one, if you've got a gluten allergy, just pass on by this suggestion. The reason why is because seiten is literally wheat gluten. The reason why some people like it as a meat alternative is because it has a texture that is quite reminiscent of meat protein. That said, if you're good with wheat, seiten can be beneficial because it is loaded with protein and is a pretty good source of selenium, iron and phosphorus with a dab of calcium and copper. Cutting it into slices like meat and preparing it is a popular route to take. So is grilling it in the summertime.
Try This: Vegan Meatballs Recipe (they're made with seitan)
Second in line for me, when it comes to meat substitutes, would have to be eggplant. Based on how you prepare it, it also can have a similar texture to meat. It contains a good amount of fiber, iron, antioxidants and plant compounds in it as well as a fair amount of manganese, potassium and folic acid. Eggplant is also good for you because it can help to reduce your risk of heart disease, it contains cancer-fighting properties, it can help you to lose weight and, because of the iron that's in it, eggplant can help to keep you from becoming anemic too. Dope.
Try This: Vegan Eggplant "Bacon" Recipe
5. Black Beans
Beans make the list. It's not that it has a texture like meat; it's just that, say you're making a Mexican dish that calls for something like ground beef. If you go with black beans instead, it's been my personal experience that you don't really miss the beef all that much. Black beans, nutrient-wise, have protein, fiber, iron, zinc, calcium, phosphorus, magnesium and manganese in them. All of these things work together to keep you regular, lower your blood pressure, fight heart disease, manage weight loss and, if you've got diabetes, black beans can help to lower your blood glucose levels too. So, pull out some tortillas and do some damage tonight.
Potatoes don't really have a meaty texture to them either. Still, if you want to prepare a vegetarian or vegan casserole, they can be a nice addition because nothing sticks to our ribs quite like meat AND potatoes do, right? Potatoes also have your back because they are full of protein and fiber. Plus, they contain vitamins B6 and C, potassium, manganese, phosphorus, folate, magnesium and antioxidants. Something that a lot of people like about potatoes is that they're gluten-free. Not only that, they are beneficial when it comes to maintaining your digestive health, reducing inflammation and, because potatoes have the amino acid L-tryptophan in them, they're a vegetable that can help to keep you calmer and more relaxed too. Shepherd's pie, anyone?
Try This: Beyond Beef Shepherd's Pie Recipe
Personally, I'm not the biggest soy fan, mostly because it seems to be the non-meat substitute that isn't consumed in moderation when it absolutely should be (a read worth checking out is "The Dangers of Soy"). If you happen to be a soy fan, though, tempeh is something worth checking out. Long story short, fermented soybeans, grains and beans are put together to create this product. The protein amount is high. The Vitamin B, iron, manganese, magnesium and phosphorus levels in it are good (there's some calcium in tempeh too). Health benefits include the fact that tempeh has prebiotics, it can help to reduce oxidative stress and promote bone health too. Not bad for a meat alternative. Not bad at all.
Try This: Teriyaki Tempeh Recipe
Mangoes? Yep. Mangoes. I actually came across a recipe for BBQ mango that was interesting (check it out here). Others like to use this fruit to make homemade mango stew (you can see that recipe here). However, if you're a big sushi eater, there's a huge chance that you've had mango in a roll before. Why are they good for you? For starters, they're protein and fiber amounts are pretty impressive. Mangoes also have a ton of Vitamin C, folate and copper in them, along with some vitamin A, B, E and K and antioxidants. If you eat them regularly enough, they can boost your immune system, improve your digestive health and even make your eyes stronger. So, why not make a mango sushi roll? What do you have to lose, chile?
Try This: Avocado Cucumber Sushi Roll Recipe (it's got mango in it)
OK. Off top, this one might seem like a bit of a wild card yet just hear me out for a sec. There are many vegetarians and vegans who sing cauliflower's praises in this lane because they find it to be a cool chicken alternative, especially when it comes to Asian-themed dishes.
Its health benefits? Cauliflower has vitamins B6, C and K, as well as folate, pantothenic acid and potassium in it. Since it also contains antioxidants, cauliflower is able to help keep free radicals out of your system. Also, since it has choline in it, you can be sure that your cell membranes are being provided with a very essential nutrient that they need. Yeah, cauliflower can seem a little boring on its own. Still, if you season it right, you could look up and wonder why you've gone without using it as a substitute for poultry (sometimes) for as long as you have.
10. Meatless "Meat"
This one, I'll keep short 'n sweet. Whether you hate to cook or you're looking for a quick way to enjoy some meat substitutes, there are more and more plant-based meatless products that are available at your local stores. One that I grew up on as a child was Morning Star and it's still alive and kickin'. Anyway, Peta has a list that you can check out here. Urban Tastebud has a list that you can check out here. Enjoy!
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