A GREEN TWIST TO MEAT
Diabetes Health|August - September 2021
Ms Sheryl Salis explains the innovative and futuristic concept of vegetarian meat and discusses how people could enjoy the taste of meat without eating it!
Ms Sheryl Salis

Vegetarian meat defined

India has long been touted as the vegetarian capital of the world. According to various government surveys, 23 to 37 per cent of Indians are estimated to be vegetarian. There's also an increase in the number of people becoming sensitive to issues like animal rights and sustainability. With more and more people choosing to become vegetarian/vegan, vegetarian meat is now increasingly becoming a norm and features as a part of many dishes and traditional foods around the world. Restaurants and supermarkets in India are also catering to this demand by offering more vegan options.

Vegetarian meat is made from plant food sources making it an ideal choice for vegetarians/vegans. These vegetarian meat substitutes are particularly designed and created to have the same look, taste, texture, flavour and nutrients as actual meat and also have comparable protein content. It is thus a great option for those vegetarians/vegans who can't let go of their non-vegetarian food cravings. Vegetarian meat can be consumed by children as well as older adults as a part of a healthy and balanced diet.

It is made using plant-based ingredients such as soybeans, different legumes, peas, gluten, lentils, tofu (cottage cheese made of soy milk), yuba (dried tofu skin), tempeh (made of fermented soybeans), potato and jackfruit and rice protein. Examples of vegetarian meat are seitan (wheat gluten), falafel (patty made of ground chickpeas), tofurkey (a turkey substitute made of tofu or seitan stuffed with bread), plant-based meat burger patty, sausages (a textured vegetable protein made of plant products), nuggets, cutlets and mock duck (gluten-based substitute).

Vegetarian meat is created using various technologies. The most popular technology used is shear cell technology and the conventional protein extraction method. Another way of preparing lab-grown meat is extracting a cell from the animal source and further culturing it in lab. Although this kind of meat is not vegan, it is also not sourced by slaughtering animals and thus, takes away the guilt. This is a relatively new concept and is yet to be explored fully.

Ingredients such as soy, pea, moong bean, potato, rice, wheat gluten protein are combined with other ingredients to give the perfect chewy texture, taste and juiciness to the vegetarian meat. Yeast extract contributes to that savoury flavour of meat, making it a suitable ingredient for vegetarian meat. Ingredients like onion, garlic, salt and pepper are used to strengthen the flavour. Beet extract is often added to give the perfect colour to the meat while sugar helps in giving the dark tint to the meat. Oils are added to provide the fat source to the meat substitutes.

The need for vegetarian meat

Meat is a good source of energy and has a range of essential nutrients, such as protein and essential micronutrients like heme iron, zinc, and vitamin B. With a large number of people being vegetarian in countries like India and more and more people choosing vegetarianism and veganism as a way of life, deficiency of these nutrients may occur if meals are not planned well or if there is limited access to alternative nutrient-dense vegetarian/vegan foods, especially in low-income countries.

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