Girl Smarts: Is the impossible burger really better for you than a regular burger?

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Is the impossible burger really better for you than a regular burger?

However, the trendy Impossible Burger (which, damn, looks a lot like a real burger) is out to change your mind.

No matter how many times your intense vegan friends insist that veggie burgers taste just as good (even better!) than your regular beef patty…well, you know that's kind of B.S.

However, the trendy Impossible Burger (which, damn, looks a lot like a real burger) is out to change your mind.

While you’ve probably seen this vegan burger all over your social media feeds, you have questions. Lots of questions. Like…is it good for you? And how does it bleed like beef?

 

Well, for the IB-curious, here's what nutritionists think you should know:

What is the Impossible Burger?

No, your server didn't flub your order. The patty really does look, sizzle, feel, and even “bleed” like a traditional hamburger. But it's a meatless, completely plant-based patty.

Impossible Foods, the makers of the burger, say on their website that they spent five years working to come up with something that recreates the taste, texture, and smell of a traditional beef burger made with no animal products. (Seems impossible…hence the name.)

 

Bonus: It's eco-friendly, too. Impossible Foods says that compared to cattle production, “the Impossible Burger uses 95 percent less land, 74 percent less water, and creates 87 percent less greenhouse gas emissions.” Although to be fair, the same can be said of most other meat-free burgers and foods.

Impossible burger ingredients and nutrition

While the Impossible Burger is made from plant-based ingredients…that doesn't mean it's all vegetables. The Impossible Burger ingredients list includes wheat protein, coconut oil, and potato protein.

The Impossible Burger has roughly 29 percent more calories than a traditional beef patty.

And even though it’s plant-based, a three-ounce serving clocks in at 220 calories, 13 grams of fat (including 10 grams of saturated fat), and 20 grams of protein, which isn’t super nutritious, says Amy Goodson, R.D. and board-certified specialist in sports dietetics.

Here's the full nutritional breakdown of one three-ounce Impossible Burger patty:

  • 220 calories

  • 13 g fat (10 g saturated)

  • 430 mg sodium

  • 20 g protein

  • 5 g carbohydrates

  • 0 g fiber

  • Less than 1 g sugar

While the total calories and fat look reasonable, a serving is only three ounces. “When I ordered my burger, the smallest I could get was one-third of a pound, which is 5.3 ounces, so I had to nearly double the nutrition facts information to know what I was eating,” says Maxine C. Yeung, R.D., registered dietitian and wellness coach.

There's also a high proportion of saturated fat per serving, likely from the coconut oil. Yeung says too much saturated fat is a health concern, regardless of the source.

Here's how it compares to a three-ounce ground beef patty that's 93 percent lean:

  • 164 calories

  • 8 g fat (3 g saturated)

  • 56 mg sodium

  • 22 g protein

  • 0 g carbohydrates

  • 0 g fiber

  • 0 g sugar

Consider what you’re adding to your Impossible patty or pairing it with, too. “Some mayo and fries could quickly take this burger meal to hundreds of calories and lots of fat in a hurry,” says Goodson. “Pairing the patty with veggies, a whole-grain bun, and a healthier condiment like mustard or even mashed avocado is ideal.”

Impossible Burger vs. other veggie burgers

The Impossible Burger is higher in protein compared to other veggie burgers, says Goodson. “If your goal is protein, this might be your choice, but if you are trying to get veggies in with it, then a veggie burger might be the better option.”

Here's the nutritional breakdown for a standard veggie patty:

  • 124 calories

  • 4 g fat (1 g saturated)

  • 398 mg sodium

  • 11 g protein

  • 10 g carbohydrates

  • 3 g fiber

  • Less than 1 g sugar

Compared to veggie burgers, the Impossible Burger also offers a fair amount of B12, a vitamin that vegans often have trouble getting enough of in their diets.

This burger may also be a good source of heme iron, which isn’t readily available in other vegetarian and vegan sources, says Yeung. (More on heme in a minute.)

Is the Impossible Burger good for you?

There been some concern about Impossible Burger’s secret sauce-soy leghemoglobin. Soy leghemoglobin is found naturally in the roots of soybean plants and contains heme, which gives the burger the beef-like aroma, taste, and characteristic “bleeding.” In animal products, heme is found in animal muscle.

 

Rather than grow bushels of soybeans, the scientists at Impossible Foods have genetically-engineered yeast to produce heme, which has raised some red flags for people wary of GMOs. While the company has performed tests, and the product is generally recognized as safe, the FDA told the New York Times in 2017 that, “FDA believes that the arguments presented, individually and collectively, do not establish the safety of SLH (soy leghemoglobin) for consumption.”

According to Bloomberg, the FDA recently extended its review of SLH by 90 days-meaning it'll be a few months before there will be an official ruling from the agency about whether or not it's safe for people to eat.

The company told Bloomberg in a statement at the time that they expect a positive review of their product, and added that the Impossible Burger is “totally safe to eat, and millions of people have enjoyed it.”

“The truth is, it is such a new food, that we just don’t know the long-term effects because there hasn’t been time to study it,” says Yeung. So it's hard to say right now whether the GMOs used to create the IB's signature taste will have any impact on your health.

At the end of the day, you should treat it nutritionally like red meat, Yeung says. “I recommend consuming it no more than twice a week,” she says. “From a nutrition perspective, if it comes down to eating a lean beef or turkey burger versus the Impossible Burger, I’d choose the meat burgers, and the ingredients are all natural versus manufactured.”

How does the Impossible Burger taste?

Well, this is a matter of opinion, so here are a few:

“When I ate the burger, I was surprised that the texture was very close to ground beef,” says Yeung. But it's not-it's a totally plant-based, vegan patty. “If you don’t like meat in general, you probably won’t like this burger,” she says.

Still, she says the burger didn’t really taste like beef to her. More like wheat and soy.

However, our friends at Men's Health found the burger “a highly acceptable, tasty alternative to the real thing,” although “somewhat drier and less adventurous.”

People on Twitter, meanwhile, seem to love it:

 

Impossible Burger locations

If you're curious to try it, you can order an Impossible Burger at over a thousand restaurants in the U.S. and in Hong Kong, ranging from high-end restaurants to chains like Wahlburgers, Bareburger, and Fatburger. You can even find it at some White Castle locations. Unfortunately, you can’t currently buy the Impossible Burger at grocery stores or online.

The bottom line: The Impossible Burger is a fun alternative, although nutritionally not that different from a red meat burger. But if you are meat-free and still miss cheeseburgers, it might be worth trying.

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