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Common Meat Alternatives։ Nutrition & Health Benefits

Article author photo Arpi Gasparyan by Arpi Gasparyan | Last updated on August 07, 2023
Medically reviewed by Victoria Mazmanyan Article author photo Victoria Mazmanyan

Meat alternatives are products made from vegan or vegetarian sources to replace meat: its taste, texture, and appearance. Some common meat alternatives are soy-based foods (tofu, tempeh, textured soy protein, or TSP), seitan (wheat gluten), whole grains, legumes, jackfruit, and fungus (yeast products, mushrooms).

Meat alternative is otherwise called a meat substitute, meat analog, mock, vegan, or plant-based meat.


Tofu is a classic meat alternative and a soy product that looks like a block of white sponge. It has a bland flavor that absorbs the flavors of other ingredients with proper preparation.

Like cheesemaking, tofu is made by heating soy milk with a coagulant, either calcium sulfate or magnesium chloride.

Tofu’s nutritional content varies depending on the type of tofu (silken, regular, firm, extra firm) and brand, as different brands may fortify tofu with various nutrients.

The nutritional value of 1 cup (126g) of firm tofu prepared with calcium sulfate:

  • Calories: 181
  • Protein: 21.8g
  • Fats: 11g, of which 8.62g are unsaturated fatty acids and 2.38g are saturated fats
  • Carbs: 3.5g, of which 2.9g is dietary fiber and 1.6g is net carbs
  • Glycemic index: 15
  • Insulin index: 21
  • Calcium: 861mg
  • Iron: 3.35mg
  • Zinc: 1.98mg
  • Sodium: 17.6mg
  • Folate or vitamin B9: 36.5mcg


Tempeh is a traditional Indonesian food and another soy product made from cooked fermented soybeans. However, some tempeh varieties may include whole grains, such as rice or barley.

As a fermented food, tempeh may be associated with various health effects, such as decreased heart and gastrointestinal disease, cancer, diabetes, and allergy risks (1).

Tempeh looks like a beige or white cake. It has an earthy flavor, but like tofu, it easily absorbs the flavors of other ingredients.

The nutritional value of 100g tempeh:

  • Calories: 192
  • Protein: 20.3g
  • Fats: 10.8g
  • Carbs: 7.64g
  • Calcium: 111mg
  • Iron: 2.7mg
  • Zinc: 1.14mg
  • Sodium: 9mg
  • Folate or vitamin B9: 24mcg

Textured Soy Protein

Textured soy protein (TSP) is otherwise called textured vegetable protein, soya chunks, and soy meat. TSP is a processed food made from soy flakes, flour, or protein concentrate. TSP is packaged as a dry, fully cooked product that can be easily rehydrated.

Textured soy protein is a great source of highly-digestible plant-based protein. The protein content of TSP varies between brands but is usually over 50%.

The nutritional value of 17g or one serving of dry textured vegetable protein made from defatted soy flour (2):

  • Calories: 55.6
  • Protein: 8.76g
  • Fats: 0.21g
  • Carbs: 5.76g, of which 2.98g is dietary fiber and 2.78g is net carbs
  • Calcium: 41mg
  • Iron: 1.57mg
  • Zinc: 0.42mg
  • Sodium: 3.4mg
  • Folate or vitamin B9: 51.8mcg


Seitan or wheat gluten is a well-known meat substitute made from wheat protein gluten. It can be made from any flour with over 10% wheat gluten. Seitan is made by adding water to wheat flour dough, removing the starch, and leaving only wheat gluten.

Seitan’s taste is commonly compared to plain chicken or portobello mushrooms.

Seitan's stringy and chewy texture and absorbing flavors of other ingredients make it great as a meat analog.

The nutritional value of 84g or one average serving of seitan (brand Pacific) (3):

  • Calories: 90
  • Protein: 15g
  • Fats: 0.65g
  • Carbs: 8g, of which 1g is dietary fiber and 7g is net carbs
  • Calcium: 40.3mg
  • Iron: 1.44mg
  • Sodium: 250mg

Whole grains

Whole grains are cereals or pseudocereals with numerous health benefits. They are great sources of antioxidants, protein, healthy fat, dietary fiber, several minerals, and vitamins.

This article will look at the nutritional value of buckwheat and oats as grain sources of meat analogs.

The nutritional value of 1 cup (168g) of cooked buckwheat groats:

  • Calories: 155
  • Protein: 5.7g
  • Fats: 1g
  • Carbs: 33.5g, of which 4.5g is dietary fiber and 29g is net carbs
  • Glycemic index: 54
  • Calcium: 12mg
  • Iron: 1.34mg
  • Zinc: 1mg
  • Sodium: 6.7mg
  • Folate or vitamin B9: 23.5mcg

The nutritional value of 1 cup (234g) of cooked oatmeal prepared with water:

  • Calories: 159
  • Protein: 5.56g
  • Fats: 3.2g, of which 2.66g are unsaturated fatty acids and 0.54g are saturated fats
  • Carbs: 27.3g, of which 4g is dietary fiber and 23.3g is net carbs
  • Glycemic index: 59
  • Insulin index: 75
  • Calcium: 187mg
  • Iron: 14mg
  • Zinc: 1.45mg
  • Sodium: 115mg
  • Folate or vitamin B9: 103mcg


The term legume refers to a plant, seed, or fruit from the Leguminosae family. Just like whole grains, legumes are good sources of antioxidants, dietary protein and fiber, healthy fats, several minerals, and vitamins.

Legumes include beans, peas, lupins, lentils, alfalfa, and many others.

Below will be demonstrated the nutritional values of chickpeas, kidney beans, and lentils.

The nutritional value of 1 cup (164g) of cooked chickpeas (4):

  • Calories: 269
  • Protein: 14.5g
  • Fats: 4.25g
  • Carbs: 44.9g, of which 12.5g is dietary fiber and 32.4g is net carbs
  • Glycemic index: 36
  • Calcium: 80.4mg
  • Iron: 4.74mg
  • Zinc: 2.51mg
  • Sodium: 11.5mg
  • Folate or vitamin B9: 282mcg

The nutritional value of 1 cup (177g) of cooked kidney beans (5):

  • Calories: 225
  • Protein: 15.3g
  • Fats: 0.9g
  • Carbs: 40.4g, of which 11.4g is dietary fiber and 29g is net carbs 
  • Glycemic index: 22
  • Insulin index: 69
  • Calcium: 62mg
  • Iron: 3.93mg
  • Zinc: 1.98mg
  • Sodium: 1.77mg
  • Folate or vitamin B9: 230mcg

The nutritional value of 1 (198g) cup of cooked lentils:

  • Calories: 230
  • Protein: 17.9g
  • Fats: 0.75g
  • Carbs: 39.8g, of which 15.6g is dietary fiber and 24.2g is net carbs
  • Glycemic index: 29
  • Insulin index: 58
  • Calcium: 37.6mg
  • Iron: 6.6mg
  • Zinc: 2.52mg
  • Sodium: 3.96mg
  • Folate or vitamin B9: 358mcg


Jackfruit is the fruit of a tropical tree growing in Southeast Asia and the national fruit of Bangladesh. It looks like a melon or large mango, and the ripe fruit tastes like other tropical fruits, such as pineapple or mango.

Shredded jackfruit gives the effect of shredded meat and is often used in tacos and pork sandwiches.

The nutritional value of 1 cup (151g) of jackfruit:

  • Calories: 143
  • Protein: 2.6g
  • Fats: 1g
  • Carbs: 35g, of which 2.26g is dietary fiber and 32.7g is net carbs
  • Glycemic index: 75
  • Calcium: 36.2mg
  • Iron: 0.347mg
  • Zinc: 0.196mg
  • Sodium: 3.02mg
  • Folate or vitamin B9: 36.2mcg


Due to their naturally meaty or umami taste, mushrooms make excellent meat alternatives.

Cremini, portobello, and shiitake mushrooms are well-known as meat analogs. These are also one of the most versatile mushrooms.

The nutritional value of 1 cup of sliced (121g) grilled portobello mushrooms:

  • Calories: 35.1
  • Protein: 3.97g
  • Fats: 0.7g
  • Carbs: 5.37g, of which 2.66g is dietary fiber and 2.71g is net carbs
  • Calcium: 3.63mg
  • Iron: 0.5mg
  • Zinc: 0.8mg
  • Sodium: 13.3mg
  • Folate or vitamin B9: 23mcg
  • Vitamin D: 16.9mcg

2020-2025 dietary guidelines for Americans will help determine how much of each nutrient's daily value is provided by demonstrated foods (6, 7).

 CaloriesProteinFatsTotal carbsCalciumZincSodiumFolate


  6. Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020-2025
  7. A Dietary Assessment of the U.S. Food Supply
Article author photo Arpi Gasparyan
Education: General Medicine at YSMU
Last updated: August 07, 2023
Medically reviewed by Victoria Mazmanyan
Data provided by should be considered and used as information only. Please consult your physician before beginning any diet.