Are Imitation Turkey Meals Worse Than Actual One

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Are you a former meat eater and now avoid meat mainly due to health reasons?  Do you still crave for meat? If your answer is yes to both the questions then this article is relevant for you as it discusses the consequences of consuming products which try to provide alternative to meat.

One of the biggest meat-eating holidays in US  is Thanksgiving. This is the time when even the most steadfast vegetarians crave a centerpiece to carve; when steely will and tasty side dishes alone won’t cut it.

Many imitation turkey products, including “Tofurky,” are available this time of year to cater to the 7 percent of Americans that consider themselves vegetarians—especially those who still miss their meat. Dr. Brian Wansink, a food psychologist at Cornell University and author of Slimby Design: Mindless Eating Solutions for Everyday Life, says, “People who are attracted to meat-shaped veggie foods are vegetarian for health reasons, not animal-rights reasons, and they’re the biggest growing part of that market.”

A Mintel report shows that indeed 36 percent of consumers (including non-vegetarians) are buying meat alternatives to be healthier. But are these products really any better for us? Sure, cutting back on meat (especially red meat) can help prevent heart disease and cancer in some cases, but replacing it with processed meat substitutes comes with a price of its own.

Most meat substitutes are highly processed and full of artificial fillers—not unlike the hot dogs we might have already sworn off. Many are made from soy protein isolate, wheat gluten and other textured vegetable proteins, but also questionable ingredients that help gel and mold them into meat-like shapes.

Rachel Berman, R.D., author of Boosting Your Metabolism for Dummies and health editor at, says to read the box before buying. “Be wary of a long ingredient list,” she says. “The more it has, the more likely there are additives and preservatives in there to stabilize the food, add flavor, or change its consistency.”

Some of these additives put into processed foods include unhealthy amounts of extra salt, fat and sugar — and those are the ingredients we can pronounce! Other artificial additives have been shown to have side effects that include nausea, dizziness, weight gain, decreased absorption of minerals and vitamins, and even cancer. The Center for Science in the Public Interest has a list of additives to avoid and their potential side effects.

Most ingredients in imitation turkeys still do look better than processed meats, and better than many other meat substitutes in the frozen food section, too. But not all are created equal.

For those vegetarians buying a fake turkey this year, Berman recommends opting for an all-natural choice like Gardein’s Savory Stuffed Turk’y. “They’re making an effort to use all-natural ingredients, nothing genetically engineered and mostly things that you’re able to pronounce,” she says. “Plus, they contain no chemicals or genetically modified soy, which most others use.”

Products like Quorn’s Turk’y Roast, which uses mycoprotein, a processed mold, gets a big thumbs down for Berman. “There have been many reports of this stuff causing gastrointestinal distress and no research saying this is something that is healthy,” she says. “It’s totally artificial and basically a fungus made in a test tube.”

Like many processed foods, fake meat is also high in sodium, but it doesn’t have as much saturated fat as the real stuff. Most of them, however, match real turkey gram for gram when it comes to protein, plus they include fiber, which is a bonus. So, treating yourself to a faux turkey one day out of the year isn’t going to kill you, but it’s not exactly health food, either. “I don’t really like to label any one food good or bad because it’s really about the sum of what you’re eating in a day,” says Berman. “If you’re going to eat an imitation food, just make sure the rest of your meal is coming from the earth.”

So why not just opt for Thanksgiving tofu and green beans instead? Many vegetarians find it’s hard to shake tradition on this holiday. “It’s not just about food, but it’s also rituals and visuals,” says Wansink. “There’s a lot of variation with other holiday dinners, but not with Thanksgiving. There’s the traditional five dishes, and if you stray too far, people will think you’re robbing them of an experience.”

“It’s not the goal of Thanksgiving to be the healthiest meal of the year anyway,” adds Wansink. “Its goal is to be gleeful and thankful.”

Adapted From – (The Daily Beast ) 

To Summarize – If you are craving for meat then go and eat meat – don’t try to eat imitation products.  You are better off taking the actual food.  The thumb rule is to take foods which are take whole foods as much as possible and avoid the processed foods.  It is easier for the body to digest the foods which are whole foods instead of mixture of so many chemicals and other items.  However if you are not eating meat for ethical reasons then go for Tofurky.

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