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NOURISH

Is the Impossible Burger healthy? Here's what a nutritionist says

  • Meat alternatives are processed plant-based foods designed to taste like meat.
  • Plant- based burgers can be a tasty alternative to meat but can contain high levels of saturated fat and sodium.
  • The ingredient that gives an Impossible Burger the taste of meat is heme.

Plant-based food that tastes like meat is a growing food trend. A market research study shows that sales of meat alternatives have risen from $118.7 million in 2017 to $192.1 million in 2019. The Impossible Burger, created by Impossible Foods, is a large contributor to this increase; nearly 80 percent of the growth can be attributed to this burger and another meat alternative called Beyond Meat. But what is an Impossible Burger and is it a healthy alternative to beef?

What is the Impossible Burger?

The Impossible Burger, Beyond Meat and other meat alternatives are processed plant-based foods designed to taste like meat. The reasoning behind meat-imitating food was to provide a familiar taste for people who:

  • are vegetarians or vegans
  • want a more ecologically sustainable option
  • view plant alternatives as healthier to meat-based food (compared to cattle, plant-based meats emit much less CO2 and other greenhouse gases, use less water and use less land)
  • want more variety and options in their diet.

Impossible Burger ingredients

Prior to the Impossible Burger, most vegan “burgers” were made from black beans, soy, mushrooms or grains. The Impossible Burger is made from soy protein concentrate, coconut oil, sunflower oil, potato protein, methylcellulose, yeast extract, salt, gums, and water and additives, including vitamin B12, zinc, vitamin B6, thiamin (B1) and niacin.

The ingredient that gives an Impossible Burger the taste of meat is heme. Heme is an iron-containing compound that, in meat, comes from animal muscle or tissue. In the Impossible Burger the heme is soy based and comes from yeast fermentation.

But is the Impossible Burger healthy?

The Impossible Burger is a tasty alternative to beef for those who crave the taste of meat, but it is not really an improvement. The impossible Burger is an ultra-processed food with many added ingredients . Also, the Impossible burger adds GMO (genetically modified organisms) in the soy and yeast to produce the heme.  If you are allergic or sensitive to soy then the Impossible Burger is not an option.

While an Impossible Burger is a good source of fiber, calcium and potassium, and they have zero cholesterol, they are high in saturated fats and sodium, both of which are linked to serious health issues like obesity, heart disease and high blood pressure.

If your goal is to eat less meat, then the Impossible Burger is a good option, but in moderation. If your goal is to improve your health, skip the beef and the Impossible Burger and try a plant-based patty made from bean, whole grains, mushrooms or vegetables instead. If you make a plant-based burger at home, be sure to add a source of vitamin C which is a carrier for the non-heme iron in plants. 

 

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