Meat substitutes are for everybody: plant-curious omni’s, flexitarians, seasoned vegans and all protein seekers. For fitness fans, meat alternatives can provide great performance fuel. Plus, they often have the added benefits of plant-based micronutrients. But how do meat alternatives compare to one another? And how do they compare to meat?
Let’s get clued up!
Which meat alternatives have the highest protein content?
Fitness junkies, vegan or otherwise, should maximise protein intake. You know protein: excellent energy source and building block for muscle repair and growth. Basically, if we’re talking gains, protein is crucial.
So, it stands to reason that the best meat alternatives for active people on a plant-based diet are those with the highest protein content. Bonus points for pure plant-powered goodness: low in saturated fats and artificial additive free. Double bonus points if the food is protein dense (more on this later).
There’s some confusion around meat alternatives vs meat substitutes, so let’s break it down:
A catch-all term for anything that you eat in place of meat. This can include meat substitutes (see below), whole foods like legumes, nuts and seeds, and other ingredients that we traditionally use as the centre-piece of a dish, such as hearty veg, tofu and tempeh.
AKA meat analogues; plant-based, faux and mock meats. These are plant-derived foods, which imitate the flavour, texture and appearance of meat. They tend to be higher in protein than the whole food alternatives.
When you’re a plant-powered foodie in need of that chewy, juicy bite, meat subs are probably what will satisfy that craving.
But which is better to support a healthy, active lifestyle, and how do they compare to meat? To answer that, we need to take a look at protein density.
Protein content vs protein density
The protein content is literally the amount of protein in an item of food, usually measured in grams. On the other hand, protein density is about how much protein you’re getting per calorie.
To calculate protein density, take protein content in grams, divide it by number of calories (kcal) and multiply by 100. Boom – you have a protein density score (PDS), which tells you how many grams of protein that item contains per 100 calories. When you know this, you can eat smart: double the protein for the same number of calories? We’re in!
Protein dense meat substitutes
People often think plant-based foods can’t compare with animal food products for protein density. Bearing in mind that any protein density score above 10 is considered protein dense, let’s try the sum on our Profusion Organic Protein Chunks (per 100g):
Protein: 50g (yes, you read that right!) ÷ Calories: 322kcal x 100 = 15.5. Whoa.
That’s just below grilled sirloin steak (with a PDS of 16) and above canned tuna (PDS: 14). And if you’re not thinking about calories, our protein chunks come in way above chicken, steak and tuna for protein content, packing 50g vs 31g, 30g and 27g per 100g respectively*.
To fully bust the myth, other meat alternatives smash protein density, too. Bok choi has a PDS of 13, firm tofu comes in at 12 and asparagus, broccoli and edamame all boast scores between 10 and 11*. That’s to name just a few! And of course, our plant-based mince is made from the same three natural ingredients as our protein chunks, and is another delicious way to hit the same nutritional profile.
Let’s not forget, it’s not all about protein – there are other macro- and micro-nutrients to consider. Plant foods can also pack a spectrum of healthy fats, carbs, fibre, vitamins and minerals to help bring you the balance you need for peak performance.
What are meat substitutes made from?
Manufacturers make plant-based alternatives that simulate the qualities of meat in different ways, from a range of ingredients. Most commonly used are:
- soya protein
- seitan (wheat gluten)
- pea protein
- black beans
Because plant-based doesn’t automatically mean healthy, you should always check the ingredients list. For instance, some packaged meat substitutes contain saturated fat, excessive sodium and additives you might struggle to pronounce. It’s also worth checking for egg and dairy ingredients – you’ll find some are vegetarian meat alternatives, not vegan!
Profusion Organic meat alternatives are made with just three ingredients: pea protein, fava (aka broad) bean protein and a pinch of natural sea salt.
Pea protein vs soya
Pea protein and soya protein are pretty comparable in terms of their nutritional profile. Both are a good source of fibre and a great source of protein.
However, soya is a complete protein, meaning it contains all nine amino acids essential to our diets. Pea has higher levels of some amino acids than soya, but isn’t a complete protein**. That’s why we combine it with fava bean protein, to ensure you get all nine essential aminos, while maxing up on additional nutrients like folate and manganese.
There are many soya-based meat substitutes on the market. Because lots of people have a hard time digesting soya, our Pro team created something that packs all of the benefits without the side effects for anybody and everybody looking to get plant-powered.
Where to buy meat substitutes
You can now grab ‘faux meats’ at most supermarkets and in health food shops across the country. Pick up Profusion Organic supercharged plant-based mince and chunks from Ocado, Planet Organic, all good indi whole food shops and these stockists.
Cooking with meat alternatives
Need some meat sub inspo? Then check out our recipe section and get your culinary muscles working! We recommend the vegan chilli sin carne for a mouth-watering bowl of satisfaction you can batch cook in under an hour. You’ll be thanking yourself all week! For something with wow-factor, try this high protein vegan wellington. It is so – and we cannot stress this enough – GOOD. Enjoy!
P.S. Don’t forget to share it with your gym buddies so you can make those gains together!