Monday, 4 February 2019

Some random thoughts about “turning vegan” and using fake meat.

In my time I have been vegetarian, but never vegan. Here are some things I have read about recently.

A woman wrote to the agony aunt in the weekend paper, expressing her dismay at her husband’s decision to turn vegan. She doesn’t think veganism is a good choice for his health or for the health of the planet (I am not entirely sure why this last one is there) and she prefers a low carb diet. On the plus side he has lost weight and looks good, much healthier and happier than previously. So why is she not happy too? Instead they rarely eat together. Strange!

Elsewhere in the paper young woman wrote about trying to become vegan for the third time, having tried twice before and each time being thwarted by her family. I say a young woman, but when is probably in her thirties, not exactly an impressionable teenager. This too is strange. Can adults, even young adults, not take control of their own diets?

I have a couple of old friends both of whom were brought up vegetarian and ended up married to carnivores.

One of them converted to meat eating almost as soon as she met the love of her life - a bit like converting to his religion, I suppose. The other stuck to her guns and forty-odd years on still cooks two lots of food for most meals. They seem to manage to share the kitchen quite amicably. Mind you, she is vegetarian, not vegan, and as such may be a little more tolerant. Some vegans I have come across don’t like to use pans that may have been “contaminated” by meat products.

Then there is the fake meat question. I have often wondered some vegetarians insist on having a veggie version of a traditional meat dish, using pretend meat, instead of having a completely different set of vegetarian meals. There are lots of interesting recipes out there that don’t demand the addition of tofu or any other imitation meat product.

However, this imitation meat stuff is not new. I read that in China Buddhist cooks have for centuries made ingenious “roast goose” and “duck” and even “intestines” from layers of wheat gluten and tofu. This enables people to be vegan without changing their eating habits, or so they say. Maybe that is why so many people try to “turn vegan” but give up. If they really did change their eating habits, they might discover a whole lot of new stuff that they really like.

But there is more to this question. It seems that traditional Chinese fake meats tend to be made from tofu, mushrooms and other ordinary ingredients, whereas some of the new fake meats of the west “are manufactured with possibly unhealthy additives”.

Here’s an extract from one of the articles I read:-  “Jenny Rosborough is a registered nutritionist who worries that vegan “meats” are perceived as automatically being healthier. Rosborough points out that meat-free burgers contain on average even more salt than meat burgers: 0.89g per serving as against 0.75g. Rosborough also notes that when switching to these products you also need to consider what nutrients might then be missing from your diet, such as iron and B vitamins.

“A vegan hotdog is probably no better for you than a meat one,” says Renee McGregor, a registered dietitian who works with athletes and is the author of Training Food. As a vegetarian, McGregor sometimes uses tofu sausages but feels they do not deserve the “health halo effect” they sometimes get, just on account of being vegan. “The key thing is that any food that has been highly processed should be eaten mindfully – so not necessarily avoided completely, but I wouldn’t recommend a vegan sausage weekly due to the high salt content and most likely list of additives and preservatives,” says McGregor.

So there you go. As with all food, avoid the imitation and the fast-food option. I seem to have been right to be suspicious of pretend meat and those ready meals.

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