What is The Impossible Burger and Should I Be Eating It?
Save for the occasional humble sourdough recipe, there hasn’t been a ton of time to focus on food trends this year. And yet one ingredient seems to have captured the national imagination amidst the gloom this year: the Impossible Burger. And why not? Few things more perfectly encapsulate the fever dream that is 2020 than a block of soy that’s been chemically-engineered to bleed. This little trick, along with their secret sauce of chemical flavorings which devotees swear tastes just like beef, has exploded the Impossible Burger’s popularity in the last couple years.
But what, exactly, is the Impossible Burger, and is it healthy? We investigate.
What's the Impossible Burger?
Impossible Foods was founded by Silicon Valley startup founder Pat Brown in 2011, with the first burger launching in 2016. Brown is a converted vegan, and says he founded the company to help combat the myriad environmental issues caused by the meat industries, from water and land degradation to deforestation.
Impossible Burgers are mostly made of soy protein, oils and natural flavors. It’s trademark “bleed” when it’s cooked rare comes from soy leghemoglobin, literally a plant hemoglobin, that’s also the Impossible Burger’s most controversial ingredient, with some concerns about potential allergies.
What’s Good About It?
The Impossible Burger’s elegant engineering even extends to its nutritional makeup; each pattie is a good source of a variety of vitamins and minerals, many of which specifically benefit a plant-based lifestyle, like iron. Impossible Burgers are also a good source of calcium, fiber and potassium.
Impossible Burgers also don’t contain cholesterol, a major advantage over beef patties, which contain on average 20% of your daily recommended cholesterol allowance.
Where the Impossible Burger’s got standard beef the most beet, however, is when it comes to environmental impact. Generating plant-based burgers utilize on average 75% less water, 90% land and generate 80% fewer greenhouse gasses than beef farming.
What’s Bad About It?
While the Impossible Burger does have some health benefits, it’s far from a health food. It’s ultimately a processed food, made of soy compounds, light oils, natural flavors and preservatives, and is also packed with salt. One 4 oz. Impossible Burger contains 16% of your daily sodium intake. They’re also high in saturated fats, which can lead to weight gain, heart problems and other chronic issues.
How Does it Compare to a Beef Hamburger?
In many ways, an Impossible Burger is less healthy than a burger.
Minimally-processed ground beef won’t contain any of the preservatives or cheap light oils contained in Impossible Burgers, as well as much less sodium. A 4 oz. beef burger contains only 1% sodium, compared to 16% for an Impossible Burger of the same size. Impossible Burgers are also higher in fat than ground beef and contain carbs, whereas beef is carb-free. Ground beef also contains considerably more protein than Impossible Burgers, generally about 35% more per serving.
The Impossible Burger has a few advantages, however. It’s vegan recipe means it has no cholesterol, while one ground beef patty contains about a quarter of your recommended daily intake per day. Impossible Burgers are also higher in some vitamins and minerals, including vitamin B12, Thiamine and Folate.
From an environmental perspective, the Impossible Burger and ground beef can’t even compare. Plant-based burgers have a teensy environmental footprint and damage compared to beef farming and are sustainable.
The Bottom Line
Unless you’re doing it for environmental reasons, there’s no reason to substitute your next beef patty for an Impossible Burger. Save for a few vitamins, you gain few nutritional benefits and a bunch of iffy ingredients, including cheap oils and preservatives. Impossible burgers also contain way more salt and carbs than ground beef, but contain about 35% less protein.