Since its mainstream introduction, the Impossible Burger by Impossible Foods has been heralded as one of first plant-based burgers that actually tastes like meat, tricking (and even satisfying) some of the staunchest of meat-eaters. After all, this veggie burger “bleeds!”
But the Impossible Burger hasn’t been without its criticisms, either. The burger has been criticized by some for its star ingredient heme, while the Impossible Burger also proves controversial when it comes to nutritional value, leaving many people unsure if it's actually a healthier alternative to beef.
Is the Impossible Burger healthy? Let’s find out.
What’s the nutritional value of an Impossible Burger?
What are you really getting when you bite into an Impossible Burger? According to the nutritional facts on the Impossible Burger patty, here’s the breakdown:
A 113-gram serving of the Impossible Burger contains 240 calories, 14 grams of total fat, 9 grams of carbohydrates, 19 grams of protein, 3 grams of fiber, less than 1 gram of added sugar, 16 percent of the daily value of sodium, 130 percent of the daily value of vitamin B12, 30 percent of the daily value of folate, 2,350 percent of the daily value of thiamine, 30 percent of the daily value of riboflavin, 35 percent of the daily value of niacin, 50 percent of the daily value of zinc, 25 percent of the daily value of iron, and 0 percent selenium.
What are the calories in an Impossible Burger?
In a 113-gram serving of the Impossible Burger, there are approximately 240 calories. Compared to the number of calories in a traditional beef patty, this is about the same. However, this only refers to the patties — if the beef hamburger is dressed with additional meat and toppings (like bacon, for example) that calorie count could spike up pretty quickly.
What are the ingredients in an Impossible Burger?
We already know that the Impossible Burger relies on heme – also known as leghemoglobin – to give it its seemingly authentic meaty flavor. But what else is in an Impossible Burger? After all, most veggie burgers have vegetables like corn, carrots, and spinach sticking out of the patty, getting loosened with every bite. But not the Impossible Burger. So, what’s really inside?
According to the Impossible Burger packaging, an Impossible patty contains: water, textured wheat protein, coconut oil, potato protein, natural flavors, 2 percent or less of leghemoglobin (soy), yeast extract, salt, konjac gum, xanthan gum, soy protein isolate, vitamin E, vitamin C, thiamine (vitamin B1), zinc, niacin, vitamin B6, riboflavin (vitamin B2), and vitamin B12.
As of 2019, the Impossible patty also made use of soy protein in place of wheat, therefore making it gluten-free, as well as adding methylcellulose, a plant-based culinary binder that improves the patty’s texture and switched to sunflower oil to reduce its saturated fat content.
But the question remains: Is it truly healthier?
Is the Impossible Burger healthy?
So, is the Impossible Burger healthy? But more importantly, most people want to know if it’s actually a healthier alternative to meat. Is it healthier than other plant-based patties out there? And is it healthier than beef, chicken, or turkey patties?
The nutritional value of the Impossible Burger demonstrates that this particular plant-based patty is high in vitamins and minerals such as folate, B12, thiamine, iron, niacin, vitamin E, and zinc. In fact, the Impossible Burger contains higher levels of B12, folate, iron, and thiamine in comparison to a traditional beef patty.
And while both the beef patty and Impossible Burgers contain heme, the sourcing of these two different kinds of heme is very different. The heme in beef patties is technically natural, whereas the heme added to the Impossible Burger is genetically engineered, technically making the Impossible Burger a genetically modified organism (GMO).
The iron in the Impossible Burger is also worth mentioning. While beef patties may have a somewhat comparable amount of iron – the Impossible Burger has 25 percent of the daily value whereas a beef patty has 16 percent – the iron in an Impossible patty comes from the soy leghemoglobin, aka heme. One study found that the bioavailability of heme is equivalent to the bioavailability of the iron in meat, which makes it a crucial source of highly absorbable iron.
Impossible Burgers also contain a decent amount of protein. With 19 grams of protein, the Impossible Burger contains about as much protein as nearly 3 tablespoons of peanut butter. While that may be good by the standards of vegetarians and vegans, a traditional beef patty has significantly more protein – about 29 grams of it.
Beef patties also contain vitamin K2, which you won’t find in the Impossible Burger. Vitamin K2 regulates calcium deposition, promoting calcification in the bones but preventing it in areas where it shouldn’t be. It’s also responsible for regulating blood clotting, the heart, and bones, so you see why vitamin K2 is important. Most sources of vitamin K2 are animal products and fermented foods. If you are a vegan or vegetarian, sauerkraut, natto, tempeh, and kombucha are high, plant-based sources of vitamin K2.
Here are a few more things to consider when contemplating if Impossible meat or animal-based meat is healthier: Impossible Burgers contain more fiber than beef patties, while beef burgers contain zero fiber.
Beef burgers do not have any carbs, while the Impossible Burger has 9 grams of carbohydrates. Also, Impossible Burgers are significantly high in salt, which is a general problem in frozen foods. While the Impossible Burger packs a punch of 16 percent of the daily value of sodium, traditional beef patties only have 1 percent.
There are a few other ingredients beef has that Impossible Burgers do not — for instance, cholesterol, animal hormones, traces of fecal matter (seriously), and, if the meat is not organic, antibiotics. There's also the sad truth that raising and killing animals for meat hurts both animals and the environment.
So, is the Impossible Burger healthy? While it's not a nutritionally perfect food (it wasn't designed to be one, after all), and a homemade veggie burger might be a healthier option, the Impossible Burger is still so much better for our bodies, animals, and the planet than continuing to raise cows for beef.