Thinking of switching to a plant-based diet? Let’s explore the ways food technology and leading companies have shaped vegan and vegetarian foods to make them more palatable for people accustomed to all different diets. Incorporating plant-based foods into your life is based on your personal preference and does not always have to replace your traditional way of eating. Nonetheless, food innovations such as these are leading our food system into a more sustainable and healthy future.
We have all heard about the Impossible and Beyond Meat brands, but many do not know how they were made. According to Impossible, the company has pinpointed the powerful molecule, called heme, that makes meat taste like meat. They have mastered the science of making plant-based heme from fermented yeast extracted from soy plants and then using the product in their foods. This is what makes the Impossible Burger, for example, taste similar to a beef burger.
Beyond Meat has taken a separate route where they narrowed in on the five things that make meat what it is: protein, fats, minerals, carbohydrates, and water. They replaced each of those ingredients with an alternative plant-based solution. They use mung beans and peas for their protein, cocoa butter, coconut oil, and sunflower oil for their fats, minerals such as salt, iron, and calcium, and finally beet juice and apple extract for flavors and colors. They make all kinds of Beyond Meat products, from sausages to burgers, that explode with flavor.
A penne dish made with Beyond Meat sausage. Photo: Beyond Meat, beyondmeat.com
Both brands aim to create a more sustainable food system and reduce the detrimental effects of mass producing meat factories in the country. They provide the same feeling of satisfaction from eating meat while enabling consumers to make a notably cleaner food choice.
Dairy Product Alternatives
There are incredible substitutes on the market for things like mayonnaise, cheese, eggs, and butter. Plant-based mayonnaise can be made at home following this simple recipe that substitutes using eggs with tofu, but still uses oil, vinegar, lemon juice, and dijon for the same great flavor.
Plant-based cheeses are becoming more popular as companies have figured out ways to use nut-milk substitutes with different proteins, tree nuts, aquafaba, and flours to mimic dairy cheese. One of the biggest companies leading the market for plant-based cheeses is Daiya Foods, which specializes in dairy and allergen free products. They make all kinds of plant-based options from sliced and shredded cheeses to desserts and pizza crusts; all of which are worth trying.
Some of the most interesting innovations are the plant-based alternatives to eggs. Bob’s Red Mill is a brand that has created a gluten free egg replacement. It is made with potato starch, tapioca flour, baking soda, and psyllium husk fiber to replace a lot of the chemistry that eggs add to many recipes. For liquid alternatives, a company called Just has a great line called Just Egg, a product that looks and tastes like eggs made from mung beans. The color and texture are so spot on you can hardly tell a difference when scrambling them for breakfast. With great innovations such as these, you could be eating a plant-based meal without even knowing it.
Scrambling Just Eggs in the morning. Photo: Just
Now, nut milks and dairy milk alternatives have been around for quite some time – well before some of the other options listed above. People have always been lactose intolerant, giving nut milks a demand that has been around forever. Recently, however, we are seeing multiple brands inventing new and delicious options as alternatives to dairy milk. With too many to name, I will go ahead and introduce one of my personal favorites.
Oat milk is my number one choice for dairy alternatives. Oats are unique and produce a starch that, when processed, creates a naturally occurring sweetness. This leaves little to no need for any added sugars to be put in certain oat milk beverages. Oatly is a great brand that embodies this method. They have patented their own enzyme technology to turn their nutritional oats into a liquid. It is full of vitamins, minerals, fiber, and packed with delicious natural flavor that can’t be beat.
Oatly oat milk. Photo: Sarah Kobos
Wrapping It Up
Food technology has evolved over the years and reinvented food as we know it today. There are alternatives produced from plants to almost anything you could think of. Plant-based foods are a part of a revolutionary movement to create a more sustainable food system. Even if you do not plan on switching your diet entirely, I encourage you to try any of these products if you haven’t already. You will be surprised how good clean eating can taste while your choice of food helps a greater cause.