A rare red meat allergy caused by the bite of the lone star tick is on the rise in the Southeastern United States. While there are many processed red meat substitutes on the market, you can eat healthier by using these homemade whole food red meat substitutes.
Due to tick bites, the allergy, known as "meat-induced alpha-gal sensitivity", is on the rise particularly in the Southern and Central United States. According to a study presented at the Annual Scientific Meeting of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, researchers also have found increased rates of the allergy in the Northwest, where the lone star tick is not present. It’s believed that other species of ticks found in those regions may also trigger the sensitivity.
The lone star tick bite injects a carbohydrate compound known as alpha-gal into the bloodstream, which is also present in red meat. Researchers believe the initial bite primes the body’s immune system to react to the compound the next time it’s encountered by the body. The reactions to consumption of red meat thereafter range from hives to life-threatening anaphylactic shock. Meats that trigger the reaction include beef, lamb, pork and venison. (Be wary not only of obvious meats, but also of foods containing gelatin, beef broth, bouillon and other meat-derived ingredients.)
While store-bought red meat substitutes are widely available, whole food meat alternatives can be healthier and easier on your budget. These beef and pork substitutes, in addition to being red meat allergy-friendly, are all vegan and whole food friendly and can make a great choice for meat-eaters trying to reduce their meat consumption a bit, too:
1. Ground Beef: this is probably the most popular meat substitute for non-vegetarians. In a rich sauce, like a bolognese or in chili, it is disguised really well and often even fools meat-eaters into thinking it’s “real” meat.
2. Veggie-Full Ground Meat: made entirely of vegetables, this is a good choice for those who don’t want to use beans or soy-derivatives as their meat substitute. Be wary of the lack of protein in this choice though, you’ll need to find an alternative protein source.
3. Steak Bites: great for Chinese stir-fry dishes.
4. Bacon Strips: good for a mock BLT or anything calling for strips or chunks of ham or bacon.
5. Bacon Bits: excellent on salads and as a topping for soups and casseroles.
6. Pepperoni: incredible on pizza and on sandwiches!
7. All-Purpose Seitan: great as a substitute for any chewy meat.
A few other good, no muss no fuss substitutes include:
8. Substituting grilled portabello mushrooms for steak strips.
9. Brown lentils for ground beef.
10. Cubed lotus root or jackfruit subbed in for meats in Asian dishes.
11. Grilled provolone cheese or halloumi cheese for bacon or ham.
12. Avocado slices in recipes that call for ham.
13. Quinoa egg noodles (vegans can use quinoa non-egg noodles) or quinoa instead of regular noodles or rice under a recipe that you leave the meat out of altogether (quinoa is a complete protein, so allows you to leave out the protein in the entree).