Munching on something, which is pre-cooked and good for health, is everyone’s dream. Vegan ready meals are a dream come true for many vegans. As most of them are branded as “healthy” alternatives to meat, people find them appropriate for their health. However, is this truly the case? Is vegan ready meal a healthy substitute for organic veggies? Let’s have a look.
People are rushing towards this dietary regimen, and the sales are hiking. According to the Mintel press, sales of meat-free food have spiked to a whopping 40% from 2014 to 2019. This spike in sales reached from £582m in 2014 to approximately £816m in 2019. Not only this, the sales of a vegan ready meal are expected to reach £1.1 billion by the year 2024.
Each one has his reason to opt for a vegan lifestyle. Some do it for environmental purposes, while some choose it for improving their health. From the health aspect, the organic vegetarian diet is a hub of nutritional elements.
Reportedly vegan diet is good for diabetes type 2 as it lowers blood sugar levels and increases insulin sensitivity. It also lessens the chance of developing cardiac disorders in the future. Not only this, but it reduces the pain associated with arthritis and prevents certain cancers.
However, making vegan meals from scratch can be tiring and can leave you drained. Therefore, to save time and keep the people healthy vegan companies have brought vegan ready meals. As a result, the vegan industry is growing exponentially, and to our surprise, more than 55,000 products from over 2,500 companies are registered worldwide. Most of them are selling under the label of “healthy,” and yes, it is valid to some extent. But, there is always another side of the story too.
Another Side Of The Story
Step out from your comfort zone and take a walk to the nearby superstore. There would be a whole range of vegan-ready meals. From a meat-free steak to a bean-based burger, there are loads of tasty meals. These vegan ready meals are a savior to time and savory to taste. You do not need to start from scratch as they are almost half cooked and at your convenience. So then, which thing is turning such an innocuous meal into an unhealthy one? Is this the meal plan itself or the manipulation under the name of a processed meal?
Dr. Somi Igbene throws some light on this issue in her statement to insure4sport. Because of a surge in the public interest, food manufacturers have started producing vegan-ready meals and advertising them as ‘healthy’ or ‘wholesome.’
She added to the fact, “many of these meals lack the health-promoting attributes of plant-based diets.” Instead, they have an additional amount of such elements, which increases the risk of diabetes and obesity.
Impact Of Ultra-processing On Vegan Meals
As we know, the vegan ready meal is a processed one and mostly requires additives and flavors to reconstruct the taste and texture. And that’s the point that concerns many experts. Moreover, according to some experts, the procedure can make them lose essential nutrition.
Initially, the primary contents, such as beans, legumes, fruits, vegetables, nuts, etc., are harmless and good for your health. But the procedure of processing the food supposedly changes its makeup. It sometimes took away its protein content, fibers, vitamins, minerals, and yes, how can we forget the taste. Therefore, to bring the taste back, there is a need to add additives, flavors, and more salt, sugar, and fat.
Why Processed Foods Are Bad For The Health
In this regard, a few weeks back, a naturopathic doctor, Dr. Methew Nagra, conducted a short analysis. Dr. Nagra compared the nutritional contents of three different meals. In comparison, it revealed that vegan meat products have relatively high sodium content compared to organic meat.
The vegan meals had 350 – 370g of sodium than beef, which had just 75g of sodium, for bringing that meaty texture just like the organic one. However, excessive salts and ions are harmful as they track down several chronic disorders, if not now then in the future.
As part of the British Dietetic Association, Sophie Medlin has also expressed her view in this regard. She understands that these convenience meals are here to help us out and save our time. But on the other hand, they are disturbing our health too. She stated, “it has become much easier to be a very unhealthy vegan.”
Sometimes it is the product that holds a lot of value in itself as vegan meals are suitable for the health, but when it comes to the industrially ultra-processed one, things got a bit tricky here.
Dr. Yeo, an obesity expert, working at the University of Cambridge, described vegan-ready meals as “ultra-processed food with a good PR.”
Nutritional Content Of Vegan Ready Meal
It is difficult to get, but some meat-free meals are low on nutrition and high on sugar, salt, and saturated fat. However, it’s apparent, people who look after their health always try to have a diet low in sugar and salt content with little to no fat.
Research conducted by insure4sport has shown some astounding facts regarding the nutritional content of a vegan ready meal. They surveyed 35 vegan-ready meals that are currently available in the supermarket of the UK.
To our astonishment, some of the vegan-ready meals had far greater fat and sugar content than expected. Even the organic chicken-style meal of one company is offering 33g of saturated fat per meal, which is more than three Big Macs. Similarly, the sweet and sour dish of another company has 30g of sugar diluted in it. It is nearly equivalent to three and a half glazed donuts.
Not All Vegan Ready Meals Are Unhealthy
Well, it’s not the only case with all vegan-ready meals. Some are exceptionally good in nutritional content. They are loaded with proteins and essential nutrients to fulfill one’s daily dietary needs. Moreover, they also contain fewer fats, sugar, and oil, hence, a perfect go-to meal.
Let’s start with a basic example given by the BBC in its latest article. They took an example of a pulled pork and bean burger. Both are vegan meals, but there is a big difference in their protein content. Pulled pork made of jackfruit has low protein. In contrast, a bean burger made of beans is lodged with an adequate amount of protein.
The survey we discussed earlier also showed that some of the vegan-ready meals in the supermarket are good for health. One of such is Aldi’s Three Bean Chilli. It has good fiber content and minimal saturated fats. Similarly, Morrison’s V Taste Butternut Squash and Chickpea Curry contains decent protein content to fulfill the one-fifth requirement of one’s daily protein intake.
Ways To Find The Best Vegan Ready Meal
The market is full of both healthy and processed vegan meals. But, unfortunately, people often find it challenging to choose the right one, which is when it becomes a bit tricky. They often become confused about whether to select taste or health. So here are some tips from the experts in their field.
McClements advised people to select processed foods carefully to ensure they are healthy and suitable for animals and the environment.
How about checking the nutritional values before taking a vegan ready meal to your home. In this regard, Dr. Bogmi asked us not to be fooled by marketing and check nutritional content before purchasing a vegan ready meal.
Foods rich in fibers and protein content have always been preferred. As Dr. Yeo thinks, these are little tricks that can help us out. We should look for foods that are higher in nuts and whole wheat.
What about adding some more vegetables to your vegan ready meal. Dr. Lanham Neo HOD, Nutrition Sciences at the University of Surrey, suggests the people have some veggies and salad by their side while having a vegan ready meal.
A Vegan ready meal, a wise option to quit the hustle of cooking and get adequate nutrients in no time. The regimen is suitable for both the environment and animal safety. But the question which concerns many researchers around the globe is whether a vegan ready meal is a healthy substitute for organic vegetables.
An average individual consumes a vegan ready meal while perceiving it as healthier. But what matters is the product that we are consuming. Sometimes ultra processing at the industrial level drags down the nutritional value of the vegan diet compared to its organic form. Meanwhile, there is always a need for additives to stack up the nutrition, restore the taste, and build up the meaty texture.
The addition of salts, sugars, and fats often turns such an innocuous meal into an unhealthy one. As a result, people having vegan ready meals on a daily basis can be at risk of developing obesity and diabetes. Hence, it would be wise to check the nutritional content before purchasing any vegan ready meal and have some organic veggies as a side dish to cut down the hallmarks of consuming excessively processed food.