Soy meat alternatives, also called “meat analogs,” are made primarily from soy proteins, wheat gluten and may contain carbohydrates. A few meat alternatives are derived from tofu. Flavors and spices are typically added to enhance sensory qualities. Some of these soy products also contain egg and/or dairy ingredients. Soy meat alternatives are made specifically to resemble meats, poultry or fish products in taste, texture, color and form. New and improved products continue to make their way into the retail food market.
In the Market
Soy meat alternatives and analogs are very diverse and may be found in several areas in natural food stores, leading supermarkets and food cooperatives. Look for the following in your store:
- In the refrigerator case
- beef and sausage style crumbles and ground
- deli slices and sticks
- burgers and wieners
- entrees of stew, chili or pasta
- taco fillings
- In the freezer case
- burgers and crumbles
- sausage style links and patties
- chicken-like patties and nuggets
- bacon-like strips
- Shelf-stable dinner mixes and prepared foods
- taco fillings
- sloppy Joe, chili, meatball and loaf mixes
- ribs and sausage-style strips
- texturized vegetable protein
- Boca Foods/Kraft – Boca Traditional, Organic, and Natural Lines
- Hain Celestial Group, Inc – Yves, Carb Fit
- Pulmuone Wildwood – Wildwood Veggie Burgers and tofu cutlets
- Sunrich Food Group – Naturals Veggie Burgers
- Worthington Foods, Inc./Kellog’s – MorningStar Farms, Natural Touch, & Loma Linda products
Give Me Five
- Crumble sausage-style soy crumbles in a whole wheat wrap along with cheese, beans and salsa.
- Enjoy soy links or patties with your breakfast eggs.
- Make meatless pizzas using soy pepperoni, soy sausage crumbles, soy deli ham or soy Canadian bacon.
- Pack a pita with soy chicken-style strips, spinach leaves and fresh veggies with spicy mustard.
- Make meatloaf or meatballs with soy crumbles.
In the Kitchen
Having soy meat alternatives in the pantry or freezer is the perfect way to solve the “What’s for Dinner?” quandary. Fast preparation is why shoppers love these items. There is rarely thawing or pre-browning cooking steps. Most go from package to pan or can be prepared quickly with only an addition of water. Soy meat alternatives can be used in the same way as the foods they replace. Refrigerated soy meat alternatives will keep for 3-4 days while freezer storage varies from 9 to 18 months depending on the product.
Meat alternatives with soy protein will provide a good source of high quality protein, B vitamins, and iron. These are generally very low in total fat and saturated fat, and several are even non-fat. Many provide a good source of dietary fiber. Vegans have several choices that are fortified with B12. Soy meat alternatives and analogs provide important bio-active components, such as isoflavones, which are being studied in relationship to relieving menopausal symptoms, such as hot flashes, maintaining healthy bones, and preventing prostate, breast cancers, and colorectal cancer. The content and profile of bio-active components varies from product to product, depending upon how much soy protein is in the food and how the soy protein is processed.
Soy meat alternatives are a healthy, high-quality protein source that contains all essential amino acids needed for growth. Soyfoods are a good source of essential fatty acids and contain no cholesterol and little or no saturated fat.
In addition to the quality of soy protein, scientists have found that soy protein can contribute to reducing the risk of heart disease by lowering blood cholesterol and increasing the flexibility of blood vessels. The FDA has approved a health claim stating that “25 grams of soy protein in a daily diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol can help reduce total and LDL cholesterol that is moderately high to high.”
The Making of Soy Meat Alternatives
The development of soy meat alternatives and analogs came about to make soy proteins more universally acceptable. The original soy meat alternatives were made primarily from soy flour and later textured soy flour. Today, soyfoods manufacturers may use textured soy flour, soy concentrates, soy protein isolates or a combination of all, and combine them with other vegetable proteins and ingredients. New technology has now allowed the production and introduction of soy meat alternatives more closely resembling the taste and texture of red meat and poultry products.
|Soyburger Patty (70 grams)|
|Total Fat||4 g||6%|
|Saturated Fat||0 g||3%|
|Source: USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, Release 17 (2004)|
|Average Total Isoflavones||6 mg|
|Source: USDA -Iowa State University Database on the Isoflavone Content of Foods, Release 1.3, 2002, USDA Nutrient Data Laboratory Agricultural Research Service|
|Exchanges: 11/2 lean meat/substitute|
|Source: Exchange Lists for Meal Planning, 2nd edition, 2002.
The American Diabetes Association/The American Dietetic Association.