Vegan-ish: A Physician’s Journey to More Plant-Based Meals: Barbecue Ribz
I am Dr. Monique, Board-certified Family Physician and Founder of Physician in the Kitchen. With my NEW best-selling cookbook, Doc Fix My Plate! The Physician In The Kitchen’s Prescriptions For Your Healthy Meal Makeover, my other best-selling book, MealMasters: Your Simple Guide to Modern Day Meal Planning, my online course, Vegan-ish: How To Plant-Base Your Pantry and online cooking classes, I help busy households enjoy healthy plant-based eating without impacting their hectic schedules.
Hello MealMasters! People choose to adopt vegan or other lifestyles for a variety of reasons, and they are usually related to improving their health. They may want to eliminate the need for medications to treat their cholesterol or high blood sugar, or maybe they want to lose a few pounds to reach an ideal or preferred weight. By cutting out animal protein, you may notice an improvement in chronic conditions such as joint pain or kidney disease. You may also decrease your risk of developing certain types of cancer. For me, in addition to the known health benefits of a plant-based diet, I truly enjoy experimenting and testing recipes featuring vegetables or other plant-based foods. I also get to create in my “lab” while using my many kitchen gadgets and appliances. This year I am chronicling my journey toward more plant-based meals, and I am sharing with my readers my favorite foods, along with tips and tricks I have discovered along the way.
Today I am continuing my series, Dr. Monique’s Favorite Food ABCs. The foods that are on this list are here because of both their contributions to mouth-watering dishes as well their health benefits. So far we have discussed the following:
- A for avocado
- B for beans
- C for cilantro
- D for dairy replacements
- E is for egg substitutes
- F for fresh and frozen fruits and vegetables
- G for ginger and garlic
- H for herbs
- I for Indian Spices
- J for jackfruit
- K for Kale
- L for Lentils
- M for Maple Syrup
- N for Nuts
- O for Oranges
- P is for Portobello Mushrooms
- Q for Quinoa
- R for Rice
- S for Sweet Potato
- T for Tomatoes
- U for Unsalted Foods
Next is V for vegan meat replacement options. This blog has definitely been interesting to write because it has led to quite a bit of experimenting on my part. Typically when I thought of meat replacement, the first thing that came to mind was tofu and mushrooms. However, recently I have discovered other options such as seitan (“wheat meat”) and tempeh which are plant-based meat substitutes. They each have their pros and cons, and it is always good to have a variety of options to choose from when one is trying to swap out meat for a healthier alternative.
Let me share what I have learned about each one (because sharing is caring, right?):
Tofu is made from soy and comes in a variety of textures from silken tofu, which is commonly used as an egg replacement or in desserts, all the way to extra firm, which is the one that is typically used more as a meat replacement. It is made by basically pressing soy milk into a block. Tofu has a bland taste, but that makes it ideal for seasoning however you like.
Tofu is an excellent source of protein and does contain the nine essential amino acids, which are important for muscle health. It also provides a good source of iron and calcium, making it beneficial for maintaining healthy bones and decreasing the risk for osteoporosis. Tofu can actually lower your bad cholesterol and decrease the risk for heart disease. It may also prevent certain cancers such as prostate and colon. Due to its high protein and fiber content, tofu may help you stay feeling full longer, and help you control your weight as well.
Some people are concerned about the effects of eating soy, particularly people who have survived breast cancer. However, soy or tofu contains plant estrogens, which actually may lower the risk of breast cancer because of the effect of plant estrogen on the human body. It also can be used for menopausal women to help decrease the frequency of hot flashes. This was first noticed in Japanese women who tend to have milder menopause symptoms than women in other cultures due to their diet. If you take medications for depression (MAO inhibitors) or Parkinson’s disease, it is suggested that you do not eat tofu due to the risk that it could raise your blood pressure dangerously high.
When using it as a meat replacement, you want to use the extra-firm. After pressing the water out, you can cook it in a variety of ways, such as sautéed, pan-fried, and grilled. Marinating it first helps to impart even more flavor as well.
Tempeh, also made from soy, is chewy and has a nuttier taste but can still be flavored and seasoned in different ways. Tempeh is very high in iron and is cholesterol-free. It is made by fermenting entire soybeans and pressing them into a cake.
Nutrition-wise tempeh actually contains vitamin B12 which is sometimes difficult for vegans and vegetarians to get in their diet since it is typically found in animal sources. If you are wondering why tempeh contains Vitamin B12 but tofu does not (they both are made from soy), it is due to the fermentation process. Like tofu, tempeh contains all nine of the essential amino acids and offers many of the same health benefits. Tempeh, however, contains more iron per serving than does tofu. Be aware that tempeh can actually be made from other beans, brown rice, and seeds.
Due to its chewy texture, tempeh does need to be steamed to soften it up. It too does well with a marinade and can be cooked in a variety of ways. I recently used it as a ground beef replacement in a taco bowl. After cooking it, I placed it in a food processor and processed it until it resembled bits of ground beef. Then I assembled my 100% plant-based bowl for a delicious meal.
This is my newest discovery and to say I am obsessed in an understatement! Seitan (pronounced “say-tan”) is known as “wheat meat” so it is not ideal for those who have gluten sensitivity, but it is a wonderful meat replacement for everyone else due its meat-like texture.
Seitan is sold in variety of forms, such as strips or slices. It is made by rinsing away the starch from dough made from wheat, leaving behind the high-protein form. It too can take on many different flavors and on its own has a savory taste. Some describe it as similar to bland chicken or even a Portobello mushroom. I recently made Barbecue Ribz using seitan and it was delicious! It was like eating a plate of boneless ribs, and they were drizzled in my homemade Tablespoon BBQ sauce. The next cookout I go to I’ll definitely be taking a plate of these!
Other Plant-Based Meat Replacements
These are appearing on menus in restaurants throughout the country. The Beyond Burger, Impossible Burger, and other plant-based burger substitutes add another option for meat replacement. However, I do urge caution because these meat replacements, although they may have no cholesterol, are high in sodium and saturated fat. Also, the jury is still out on the long-term effects of the pigments that are used to color them to make them look like meat. The one that I prefer is sold at Trader Joe’s. It has a much healthier profile than the ones mentioned above. I would just caution that if you are going to eat these to do so in moderation. Or, you could just use tempeh or seitan instead as a ground beef replacement.
Below is my recipe for my Barbeque Ribz with Tablespoon BBQ Sauce. Serve with your favorite side for a delicious combo at your next cookout. Be sure to post a pic and tag me @physicianinthekitchen if you make this recipe.
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