What to do when your doctor tells you to go easy on the meat, but you don’t intend to

So, you’ve been given a very unwanted Holiday gift of a diagnosis by your very concerned family doctor. He or she says your cholesterol is too high, and so is your blood sugar. You’re on the shortlist of those most likely to kick the bucket with a heart attack or a stroke anytime within this government’s term.

You ask your doctor, “What am I gonna do, then?” He/she writes a shopping list of maintenance pills for you to take every day, most likely for the rest of your life. As you’re handed the prescription, the doctor adds, “Get more exercise, and keep your hands off meat.” And as if the doctor’s warnings weren’t enough, you come across studies showing excess animal protein being linked with osteoporosis, kidney disease, calcium stones in the urinary tract, and some cancers. And you learn that when you eat too much animal protein, you take in more nitrogen than you need, placing more strain on the kidneys, which must expel the extra nitrogen through urine.

That last piece of advice panics you the most. Yes, you have the money to buy your life-saving pills (thank God for all those overtimes in your 30 years in the office, your retirement pay is going to make more pharma companies rich). Yes, you’d gladly get your butt off the couch and start walking or jogging, but you can’t jog straight to your friendly neighborhood fast food store that churns out all those greasy, meaty goodies. It’s the end of the world!

Before your mind begins to plot an uprising against your ever-loyal family doctor, do know that foregoing your biggest cravings for animal-based meat isn’t a death sentence on your palate. Perhaps it’s time to reconsider your dietary options.

It’s no fake news, folks. There are a lot of meat substitutes in the market already. But one that is widely available in supermarkets and groceries isn’t just the tofu, wheat, or gluten-based ones, there’s also another meat substitute, and it’s based in fungi. It’s known as mycoprotein, and has been recently studied to be good for muscle build-up and for the improvement of our pancreatic functions, as well.

The name is Quorn, and it boldly claims on its label to be “Deliciously meat-free protein.” Its owner and distributor Monde Nissin claims Quorn is now found in supermarkets across the Philippines, and if you dig deep enough in the store’s freezers, you’ll likely find one variety or another. Quorn claims to taste like real ground beef or pork or chicken. TessDrive has sampled almost all Quorn variants, and we found that many of them really do live up to its billing.

Dishes using Quorn meat-free chunks
Dishes using Quorn meat-free chunks

More importantly, though, Quorn claims that its products are loaded with health benefits, as well.

Here are just two of them.

O Quorn’s Mycoprotein supports muscle build-up. New research suggests that the protein found in Quorn foods may be just as good for muscles as any other known protein source (but minus the heart-attack inducing, kidney-destroying animal protein).

Researchers from the University of Exeter compared milk protein with Mycoprotein – the fungi-based protein source found in Quorn foods—and found “equivalent” bioavailability. Published on October 10, 2017 at the EurekAlert!—a global service of the American Association for the Advancement of Science—the study was a collaboration between Quorn Foods and the University of Exeter, and the university scientists say more research is now needed to see if the high bioavailability of mycoprotein translates to beneficial effects, equivalent to animal proteins, on muscle tissue for various different groups of people.

“The overall availability of amino acids derived from Mycoprotein over a four-hour period following a meal was equivalent to the same amount of protein derived from milk,” said senior author Dr. Benjamin Wall.

“We concluded that Mycoprotein provides a very bioavailable dietary protein source, and speculate that it would be an effective source of protein to support muscle building in a variety of populations.

“Quorn’s Mycoprotein is produced with far less impact on the environment,” said first author Mandy Dunlop, of the University of Exeter.

O Mycoprotein can help improve pancreatic function in obese individuals. In April 2016, the British Journal of Nutrition published findings showing mycoprotein reducing energy intake and improving overall pancreatic function in healthy overweight and obese individuals.

The study was conducted by scientists from the Nutrition and Dietetics Research Group; Department of Medicine; Division of Diabetes, Endocrinology and Metabolism; Division of Computational and Systems Medicine; and Department of Surgery and Cancer in Imperial College of London.

In scientific terms, Mycoprotein, which is the RNA-recued biomass produced from the continuous fermentation of the filamentous fungus Fusarium venenatum, contains 25 grams of solids, including 11g of protein and 6g of fiber/100g. The fiber intent is attributed to the cell wall and is composed of two-third branched 1-3 and 1-6 beta-glucan and one-third chitin, creating a fibrous chitin-glucan matrix with low-water solubility (88-percent insoluble). This fibrous glucan-chitin complex is specific to fungal mycelium and not frequently present in human food.

Owing to its relatively high protein and fiber content, mycoprotein presents an attractive food product to improve appetite regulation and postprandial glycemic and insulin responses in overweight and obese individuals at risk of developing Type 2 diabetes mellitus. Previous studies in lean individuals have found that mycoprotein reduces postprandial glucose and insulin concentrations, and energy intake at a subsequent meal.

Mycoprotein’s protein-digestibility has been found to be better than beef. Aside from containing all the essential amino acids, its PDCAAS (protein digestibility corrected amino acid score) of 0.996 is close to perfect, and in fact, better than that of beef protein. Tim Finnigan, a PhD graduate of the Food and Biosciences faculty of the University of Reading, England, and director for Research and Development of Quorn, explained in 2016 that mycoprotein contains all the essential amino acids. At the time, Finnigan had started a research program with the University of Exeter to study the anabolic (muscle-growing) properties of mycoprotein in athletes.

Quorn meat substitute
Quorn meat substitute

There are now two major kinds of Quorn in the Philippines. If you are intending to go vegan (apart from shunning all forms of meat, vegans will also turn away from eggs, milk, cheese, and other animal by-products), there are now vegan Quorn variants, although still on limited supply. The more widely available Quorn products for vegetarians (that still use eggs, or byproducts of eggs) can be found in over 200 supermarkets and groceries (including some selected branches of Shopwise, South Supermarket, SM Savemore, Rustan’s, Robinsons, Metro Gaisano, Citimart, Batangas Citimart Shop, Puregold, Waltermart, Super Metro Mambaling, among others). To know the nearest source of Quorn products in your area, check out Google locator, and type your location: https://www.google.com/maps/d/viewer?ll=14.585285171091352%2C121.07714699999997&z=18&mid=1Htx2K3PClXv3MG5OEk6Vc45Tiic).

Also, if you have allergies to fungi (of which mushrooms are included), then better consult with your doctor or nutritionist first.

Other stores that offer a variety of frozen vegetarian food include Daily Care Food Mart (1908 F Agoncillo Street, Malate, Manila with telephone number (02) 8588 0670; Oscar Anne’s at 2008 Leveriza St., Pasay City, near Adventist Medical Center with telephone number: (02)-525-0389 or 0917-8323025; Daily Veggies at 114 Santo Domingo Avenue, Quezon City with telephone numbers (02) 87127536, Vegetari Healthy Bites at 1460 Siving Street, Barangay Batong Malake, Los Banos, Laguna, Philippines 4030 (contact numbers 0949-8891445). These stores also maintain their own pages on Facebook, so do check out their offerings there.

Watch this short video by The Infographics Show about the health benefits of cutting out meat in your diet: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sAN1J4PY6is

Healthy meat substitutes for vegans
Meat substitutes are aplenty in the market today.
Langka nuggets that taste like real chicken
These langka nuggets (jackfruit nuggets from Oscar Anne’s at Leveriza St. Pasay City, Philippines) look and taste like real chicken.
Plant-based Lechon and Tuna
Cruelty-free, plant-based Vegchon and Tuna’y Vegglie taste like lechon and tuna. Both are creation of Kisig Lopez’s group (owner of Vegetari Healthy Bites and Satya Graha vegetarian restaurant in Los Banos, Laguna, Philippines).
Monggo sprouts with Quorn meat-free chunks
Monggo sprouts with Quorn meat-free chunks

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