Is the Impossible Burger Healthy?
A friend recently commented on the fake-meat called the Impossible Burger. He said “I could eat this every day and never miss meat. This could be huge.”
I responded saying that he should not be in too much of a hurry. From an animal welfare standpoint and possibly a sustainability standpoint, the Impossible Burger is far ahead of beef. But from a health standpoint, it has some serious problems. Take a look at the ingredients list for the Impossible Burger: Water, Textured Wheat Protein, Coconut Oil, Potato Protein, Natural Flavors, 2% or less of: Leghemoglobin (soy), Yeast Extract, Salt, Soy Protein Isolate, Konjac Gum, Xanthan Gum, Thiamin (Vitamin B1), Zinc, Niacin, Vitamin B6, Riboflavin (Vitamin B2), Vitamin B12.
As the research experts tell us, we should be eating only whole plants. Is there a whole plant anywhere in the list? Nope. The only totally healthy ingredient on the list is water. Salt is okay in small quantities. As for the rest, I would steer clear. Too much protein—and this burger has four (wheat, potato, yeast, and soy)—is hard on the kidneys. Yeast consumption has been linked to elevated levels of insulin growth factor 1 which is associated with cancer.
One of the proven worst ingredients on the list is coconut oil. The nutrition label says that this product has 13g of fat, 10g of which are saturated fat. One of the main reasons to eliminate animal products from your diet is to decrease consumption of saturated fat. This burger sure doesn’t do it. As fat is 9 calories per gram, the 13g of fat corresponds to 117 calories of fat per serving out of a total of 220 calories which makes this burger 53% fat. The American diet that is killing most of us has about 35% of our calories as fat. Experts recommend less than 10% with some saying 7% is about the right amount. So 53% is off the charts too high.
Another potentially problematic ingredient is leghemoglobin, which is their magic ingredient, synthesized from soy, to make the burger taste meaty. I say “potentially” problematic because no one knows. This company just created this chemical and started putting it into your food without FDA approval. You can read about it in this Forbes article.
So given the unhealthy ingredients in the Impossible Burger, you might ask if it is possible to have healthy burgers. The answer is YES! You can:
1. Make them yourself
2. Buy them at the store
3. Have them delivered to your door
1. Make them yourself
Here is a recipe for a very healthy burger from Jeff Novick, one of the luminaries in the field of nutrition for health. Very simple and delicious ingredients!
2. Buy them in the store
Most of the vegan burgers you can buy at the store contain unhealthy oils. However, another nutrition expert, Rip Esselstyn, developed a line of four healthy burgers available at Whole Foods and also through Amazon. One of these, the Engine 2, Poblano Black Bean Plant Burger has the following all-healthy ingredients: black beans, brown rice, tomatoes, oats, poblano pepper, pumpkin seeds, cilantro, salt, cumin, coriander, black pepper.
3. Have them delivered
If you live in Los Angeles or Orange County, California, you can order no-oil plant-based food from Little Green Forks. The ingredient list for their burger patty is: tomato, black beans, oats, carrot, onion, garlic, salt. Compare that ingredients list to the one for the Impossible Burger.
Of course there are also other great foods you can order from Little Green Forks including some of my favorites: Lasagna, Tamale Pie, and Sweet Potato Bowl. The offerings vary from day to day. Almost all of the food I eat comes from Little Green Forks, including on a regular basis, burgers.
Written by: John Tanner, Ph.D