Is mock meat good for me?
I am in Hong Kong doing the tourist round at the moment. I went to a local vegetarian restaurant close to where I am staying. In there, the menu offers mainly Chinese Cantonese style 'fish', 'pork' and all kind of 'meat' dishes. But exactly how healthy of these plant-based meat alternatives?
For a start, a lot of these mock meat are made with either wheat gluten or soy protein isolate. As a result, it is a good source of protein for vegetarian or vegans. Mian Jin (as it is called in Chinese) or Seitan contains around 20% protein by weight, making it similar in protein content compare to most meat. However, it is important to note that people who needs to avoid gluten such as those with coeliac disease, will absolutely need to eliminate seitan from their diet. Anyone who need to avoid soy protein isolate may also want to think twice about using any mock meat with this ingredient.
The usual Cantonese style mock meat are usually marinated in savoury additives e.g. soy sauce, MSG and/or coloured to yield a different colour, mostly red to imitate food such as BBQ pork (which is red). As a result, they may be high in sodium so always read the nutrition label to find one that is suitable for you. Some of them can be purchased plain in most Asian grocery stores located next to the fresh tofu and can be flavoured without the use of salt.
In short, mock meat comes in a large array of products. It is best to read the nutrition label and consider your health status and own eating habit to determine whether mock meat is something you want to include in your diet regularly.