Both the Impossible Burger, made by Impossible Foods, and the Beyond Burger, made by Beyond Meat, have fascinated investors on and off Wall Street for the past couple of years. But is the health value as valuable as the investor value? Is an Impossible patty really better for you than real beef? And most importantly: What’s in the Impossible Burger – and is it safe?
This blog provides a full run-down of the ingredients and nutritional content of this veggie burger made by Impossible Foods. Read on to learn more about the Impossible burger and Tony Horton’s take on whether or not it should become your new go-to.
Beef For Those Who Don’t Eat Meat: Veggie Burgers Are Gaining Major Popularity
Veggie burgers have been around since at least 1982. For most of that time, they were not considered a mainstream food item by the general public.1 In the last decade, though, they have exploded in popularity.
And most recently, the Impossible Burger and Beyond Burger have entered the collective American dining consciousness, becoming standard fare from fast-food chains and fast-casual restaurants to home purchase via grocery stores.2
Ironically, although the Impossible Burger is made from plants, 70% of Impossible Burger fans are meat eaters.3 It has become popular with the mainstream, not just among vegans and vegetarians.
Impossible Foods: What’s In The Impossible Burger And Is It A Safe Food Option Or Not?
At its heart, the Impossible Burger is a “bleeding” veggie burger that mimics the taste, look, and feel of real beef. But with more than 20 ingredients, it is far from a whole food. The ingredients of the Impossible Burger include:
- Soy protein concentrate
- Coconut oil
- Sunflower oil
- Natural flavors
And 2% or less of:
- Potato protein
- Yeast extract
- Cultured dextrose
- Food starch-modified
- Soy leghemoglobin
- Soy protein isolate
- Mixed tocopherols (vitamin E)
- Zinc gluconate
- Thiamine hydrochloride (vitamin B1)
- Sodium ascorbate (vitamin C)
- Pyridoxine hydrochloride (vitamin B6)
- Riboflavin (vitamin B2)
- Vitamin B124,5
There are a number of ingredients that the FDA considers as generally regarded as safe (“GRAS”). A number of these ingredients are used purely for structure or flavor and offer no nutritional value:
- Methylcellulose: Added as filler to contribute bulk to processed food.6
- Yeast extract: Used a flavor enhancer (it is a precursor to MSG, which is released when this substance is heated).7
- Cultured dextrose: Considered a more “natural” alternative to preserve, sweeten, or texturize processed food. But it is also linked to a number of minor side effects.8
- Food starch-modified: Used to add bulk and texture to the burger. However, this starch is treated with a number of chemicals.9
Are There Any Plant-Based Additives In These Burgers That You Should Be Worried About?
The Impossible Burger contains a litany of plant-based additives. Many of these are laboratory-processed additives. For example, soy leghemoglobin, which is used as an iron source as well as a color additive, is “GRAS”. However, more studies may be needed to confirm its long-term safety.10
Genetically Modified Additives
Impossible Foods uses two genetically modified chemicals in their patties. These two chemicals give the burger its meat-like mouthfeel and taste.11
The first, soy leghemoglobin, makes the Impossible Burger appear to bleed. It also gives the patty its meaty taste. The leghemoglobin protein is genetically engineered to make it more sustainable to produce.
The other genetically modified chemical is soy protein. This substance provides the patty with texture.12
Checking The Nutritional Content Of The Impossible Burger: Calories, Saturated Fat, Protein Content, And More
The Impossible Burger is made from proteins, flavors, fats, and binders, just like a real burger. The difference is that these are all derived from plants.
You might be inclined to think that a plant-based burger would contain fewer calories than a burger made of real meat. However, the four-ounce Impossible Burger weighs in at 240 calories per patty – 29% more than a comparable four ounces of a traditional beef patty.13,14
Furthermore, pairing the burger with the typical bun, mayonnaise, fries, and soft drink inflates the caloric content even further – to over 1,000 calories!15
A four-ounce Impossible patty contains 14 grams of fat, including eight grams of saturated fat. This is a lot of saturated fat per serving – 40% of the recommended daily intake – most of which derives from the coconut oil.16,17 How much saturated fat is in a comparably-sized beef patty? A relatively modest 6.4 grams.
One Impossible burger contains 19 grams of protein.19 This is a very healthy amount of protein for one food, especially as compared with 5.8g in four ounces of a typical traditional veggie burger.20 Most tellingly, though, the high protein in the Impossible Burger comes from processed sources: soy protein concentrate and potato protein.21 Consistently consuming protein in high amounts may be detrimental to your health.22,23
The sodium levels are also quite high: A conventional 4-ounce beef burger (90% lean, 10% fat) contains 106 mg of sodium.24 By contrast, a single Impossible patty has 370 mg of sodium.25
One nutritional arena where the Impossible Burger comes out healthier than a traditional beef burger is with cholesterol: As a plant based meat, it has zero cholesterol. By contrast, four ounces of ground beef contains nearly 100 mg of cholesterol!26,27
Plant-Based Burgers: A Mixed Bag When It Comes To Your Health
While the Impossible Burger contains beneficial nutrients, it is also full of laboratory-processed additives and chemicals. Although it is technically vegan, it is not a whole food. And though it may appear to be a viable low-calorie alternative to red meat, it is not, in fact, a low-calorie food.
A better alternative to fake meat or beef is to eat a traditional veggie or vegan burger, made from whole, unprocessed ingredients such as whole grain quinoa, mushrooms, adzuki beans, onions, carrots, oats, and walnuts.28 The ingredients on the labels are recognizable and pronounceable. They are made out of whole vegetables and provide healthy nutrition.