- The Impossible Burger is a plant-based burger that’s a sustainable alternative to traditional beef.
- It has an added artificial heme protein making it taste, feel, smell, and “bleed” like real meat.
- Although it isn’t necessarily healthier than a beef burger, it is high in both protein and fiber.
The Impossible Burger is a popular plant-based food product created to do two things: help cut carbon emissions caused by beef production and offer people a vegetarian burger that tastes and feels like real meat.
It’s managed to mostly accomplish both as it has an 89% smaller carbon footprint than a burger made from a cow and does, in fact, having a striking resemblance in taste and feel to traditional beef. But just because it’s better for the environment than regular meat doesn’t mean it’s better for your body.
“Unless you’ve got a specific health reason not to consume beef, you may not be doing any real good in your diet,” says dietitian, Gina Keatley. She adds that there’s limited research comparing beef burgers to plant-based burgers. However, some of those studies do show that eating plant-based meats may reduce some cardiovascular risks.
Despite the lack of research, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t eat the Impossible Burger. Below is more insight from Keatley about its nutritional profile and how it compares to beef, as well as a few plant- and meat-based alternatives to consider.
What is the Impossible Burger?
The Impossible Burger is a burger made by the brand, Impossible Foods. Impossible’s foods are distinct from other plant-based proteins, like tofu or tempeh, because they’re designed specifically to imitate real meat — i.e. to bleed like real beef.
The Impossible Burger has become an especially popular Impossible product and is even available at several fast food and chain restaurants, as well as some college campuses.
What’s in the Impossible Burger?
The major ingredients in the Impossible Burger include:
- Soy-protein concentrate
- Coconut oil
- Sunflower oil
- Fortified natural flavors
“This combination of ingredients gives the Impossible Burger the look, feel, and flavor of a burger that’s between 80 and 90 percent lean,” says Keatley.
The “secret ingredient” that makes the Impossible Burger taste like real meat is an artificial heme additive. Heme is an iron-rich protein found in all animals that’s involved in essential physiological functions like carrying oxygen to the lungs and supplying the body with energy.
When cooked, the heme protein in meat reacts with heat to contribute to what makes meat taste, feel, smell, and look so distinct from other types of food.
Although the safety of the heme in Impossible Burgers has been criticized over the years because it’s a genetically engineered product, no current research suggests it’s actually unsafe.
One Impossible Burger patty has the following nutrient profile:
It also includes added micronutrients like B vitamins, calcium, and zinc.
With 19 grams of protein packed into one patty (i.e. one serving), the Impossible Burgers can be a good source protein for those that follow plant-based diets.
The minimum recommended daily protein intake for adults is around 46 g for women and 56 g for men (or 0.36 g of protein per pound of body weight) and most plant-based protein sources, like beans and nuts, have about six to twelve grams of protein per serving.
It’s important to note that this nutrition profile only includes the burger patty. Adding a bun and other condiments to an Impossible Burger increases the macronutrients of the meal. For example, an Impossible Burger from Burger King has a total of 652 calories, 61.9 grams of carbs, 35.1 grams of fat, and 31.7 grams of protein.
However, using a healthier bun, such as a whole wheat bun, can add more fiber and extra vitamins. Fiber is essential for a healthy digestive system.
Additionally, using fresh vegetables like spinach, onion or avocado as toppings can help you reach your daily recommended vegetable goal, which is 2-3 cups of vegetables per day.
For beef burger patties, how healthy they are depends on how lean they are.
“If you’re looking for a lower fat and lower calorie burger, then a 90/10 lean-to-fat beef burger may be a healthier option than an Impossible Burger,” says Keatley “But most grocery store burgers will be 80/20 lean-to-fat, which would be higher calories and fat than an Impossible Burger.”
She adds that the Impossible Burger also has better nutritional numbers when it comes to fiber, offering 5 g of dietary fiber per serving.
Foods high in saturated fat like red meat have been linked to heart diseases and other health issues. The Impossible Burger has 6 grams of saturated fat per serving, so while it’s better for the environment, it may not be better for you than a lean burger, which has 4 grams of saturated fat per serving.
Meanwhile, Impossible Burgers are considered heavily processed whereas a traditional burger is a whole food. While minimally processed foods aren’t always less healthy, limiting the heavily processed foods you eat can help cut down on sodium, saturated fat, and, in some cases, refined grains and added sugar
“If you prefer the taste of traditional beef burgers, just go for those,” says Keatley. “There’s no reason to tourture yourself into eating foods you don’t like, especially for such little give back.”
What are alternatives to the Impossible Burger?
Some people that are sensitive or allergic to ingredients in the Impossible Burger, like soy, may be in search of alternatives. Kealtey adds that people concerned with hypertension may want to avoid Impossible Burgers, because they tend to be high in sodium.
Some popular plant-based alternatives to the Impossible Burgers include:
- Mushroom burgers
- Black bean burgers
- Chickpea burgers
Other meat-based alternatives to traditional beef burgers include:
- Turkey burgers
- Salmon burgers
- Chickpea burgers
The Impossible Burger is a high-protein plant-based burger. Although it isn’t necessarily healthier than a traditional beef burger, it is more sustainable and offers a good source of plant-based protein, especially for those on strictly plant-only diets.
You can make your Impossible Burger healthier, however, by eating it with a whole wheat bun and adding vegetables as toppings. You can also opt for plant-based alternatives like mushroom or black bean burgers, or beef-based alternatives like turkey burgers, if you want a different source of protein.