The plant-based burger craze is sweeping the nation, but consumers should be wary of consuming them as part of a healthy meal.  

By Lauren Wicks
May 30, 2019
Photo: Courtesy of Impossible Foods

From Burger King to White Castle, Impossible Foods is sweeping the nation with their wildly popular Impossible Burger. You can find this meaty, juicy—yet plant-based—burger in all kinds of dining establishments across the country, but they haven’t made it to grocery stores just yet.

Since we currently can’t buy Impossible Foods’ plant-based patties for ourselves, most of us don’t know exactly what these burgers are made of or how they stack up nutritionally. But we should—especially for those choosing these burgers as a “healthy” vegan option at their favorite restaurant or fast-food joint. Because while they may be meatless—making a better environmental impact, their nutritional impact may not be all that different from a traditional burger after all.

What is the Impossible Burger?

Impossible Foods was founded by Pat Brown, a startup founder in Sillicon Valley, back in 2011. Brown had been a vegetarian for decades and eventually became a vegan in the early 2000s. What started as a passion for solving climate change helped expose him to the environmental issues caused by animal farming and created Impossible Foods to disrupt the meat industry, Engadget reported.

The first Impossible Burger launched in 2016, and the Impossible Foods team has since cleaned up the recipe to include less fat and sodium—it used to pack 14g and 580mg, respectively. Even so, this leaner version still packs a pretty hefty amount of both.

Impossible Burger Nutrition

Below, find the current nutrition facts for one four-ounce patty from the latest Impossible Burger recipe, which is now being served at all available locations as of April 2019:

  • Calories: 240
  • Total Fat: 14g
  • Saturated Fat: 8g
  • Cholesterol:0
  • Sodium: 370mg
  • Total Carbohydrates: 9g
  • Dietary Fiber: 3g
  • Total Sugars: <1g< strong>
  • Protein: 19g
  • Calcium: 15% DV
  • Potassium: 15% DV

Source: Impossible Foods

This burger is a great source of plant protein, but is it actually made from plants? Kind of. Let’s check out the ingredients list to get a better determinant on the Impossible Burger’s real health benefits.

Impossible Burger Ingredients

The Impossible Burger has a pretty interesting ingredient list to produce its iconic meaty texture. Below you will find the list of ingredients from the new recipe:

Water, Soy Protein Concentrate, Coconut Oil, Sunflower Oil, Natural Flavors, 2% or less of: Potato Protein, Methylcellulose, Yeast Extract, Cultured Dextrose, Food Starch Modified, Soy Leghemoglobin, Salt, Soy Protein Isolate, Mixed Tocopherols (Vitamin E), Zinc Gluconate, Thiamine Hydrochloride (Vitamin B1), Sodium Ascorbate (Vitamin C), Niacin, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride (Vitamin B6), Riboflavin (Vitamin B2), Vitamin B12.

In summary, the Impossible Burger is made with lots of soy, oils, and nutrient additives. While it is vegan, it’s certainly no wholesome veggie burger!

Interested in learning more about plant-based eating?

  • 10 Vegan Foods That AREN’T Healthy—And What to Eat Instead
  • 4 Easy Ways to Start Going More Plant-Based
  • Why You Should Consider a Plant-Based Diet

How Does the Impossible Burger Compare to a Beef Burger?

Is the Impossible Burger really a healthier choice than beef? Impossible Foods compares their product to a 4-ounce, 80/20 ground beef patty, so we’ll use that as our benchmark:

  • Calories: 210
  • Total Fat: 14g
  • Saturated Fat: 6g
  • Cholesterol: 70mg
  • Sodium: 90mg
  • Total Carbohydrates: 9g
  • Dietary Fiber: 0g
  • Total Sugars: 0g
  • Protein: 20g
  • Calcium: 0% DV
  • Potassium: 9% DV

Source: Wegmans

The Impossible Burger is a good source of fiber, calcium, and potassium, an added bonus for a protein source. It also has zero cholesterol. To compare, a regular burger patty contains almost a quarter of your daily cholesterol limit.

However, the Impossible Burger is higher in saturated fat and sodium, something most of us should limit. Consuming too much saturated fat from both plant and animal sources is strongly associated with weight gain, heart problems, and a host of chronic diseases. Saturated fat and sodium—especially at these levels—shouldn’t make up very much of one’s diet, whether you eat beef or Impossible burgers.

Final Verdict: The Impossible Burger Is Not Healthy

While seeing The Impossible Burger on a menu can feel like a godsend to vegans and vegetarians at a restaurant, this burger should be treated as an indulgence in the same way a healthy omnivorous eater would view a standard cheeseburger. It’s fine on occasion, but the Impossible Burger shouldn’t be seen as a go-to meal for health purposes.

The burger’s high level of saturated fat is the biggest detriment to its perceived health halo, along with its sodium content and lack of whole food ingredients. We advise looking for vegan patties that have a bean, whole grain, or vegetable base for a truly nutritious plant-based burger—try these healthy veggie burger recipes.

But in Impossible Foods’ defense, the company does not promise any potential health benefits of their products in their mission statement. Instead, the company’s primary goal is to “make our global food system truly sustainable.” Keep this in mind the next time you order the Impossible Burger. While you can feel good about making a sustainable and environmentally-friendly choice, it’s best to enjoy this plant-based patty in moderation.

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