The popularity of a plant-based diet is on the rise. With all the attention that the Impossible burger is getting by the press, food critics, and foodies alike, this vegetarian patty that “bleeds” appears to be a whole different level to vegetarian mock meat and bean patties. Sure, the scepticism that meat eaters have about vegetarian products is still there. But this time, the question is: does it really match up to the real deal? For taste-checks, check out these reviews by mothership and Sethlui.
You may also have heard about how sustainable it is. Impossible Foods state that replacing a regular beef patty with an Impossible patty saves 10 minutes’ worth of shower water, 18 driving miles worth of greenhouse gases, and 75 square feet of land for wildlife .
But what about the Impossible burger’s nutrition content? How does it stack up to a regular beef patty? Let me break down how this patty fares nutritionally in a plant-based diet.
1. First, the Impossible burger's nutrition breakdown, because numbers don’t lie
Source: [1, 2]
2. The Impossible patty has a good amount of protein for a vegetarian product
In terms of protein content, it is comparable to beef. Furthermore, the protein type in the new recipe comes entirely from soy. Soy contains all nine of the essential amino acids we require, unlike other vegetarian sources like wheat, peas, beans, or nuts.
3. Helps vegetarians obtain iron, zinc, and B12
Vegetarians are at risk of being deficient in these nutrients because they tend to be found mostly in animal products. So, it is helpful that these nutrients in the Impossible patty meet (or exceed, in the case of iron) that of the conventional beef patty. One Impossible patty will meet full daily recommended dietary allowance (RDA) of vitamin B12, about half the daily RDA of zinc (depending on gender), and 20-50% of RDA for iron (depending on gender and age) [3-5].
4. For a vegetarian product, it doesn’t maximise fibre content
Even though the new recipe has more fibre than the old one, at 2.7g/100g, it’s barely considered a high fibre product. High fibre products should contain >6g fibre/100g . In a day, men need 26g while women 20g . Here are much better ways to increase your fibre intake!
5. Just because it's vegetarian doesn’t mean it reduces your risk of cancer
It is well known that consumption of red meat, especially those cooked at high temperatures, is associated with cancer [8, 9], while going on a plant-based diet reduces that risk . However, even if the Impossible patty is entirely plant based, cooking it at high temperatures (read: over the grill, to make a burger), is still linked with increased cancer risk .
6. The Impossible Burger is not a lower calorie option
For the same portion, the Impossible patty is similar in calories (or higher, in the case of the old recipe) as compared to a beef patty. Furthermore, most restaurants are preparing it like they would a traditional beef patty—in a buttered bun with cheese, sauce, and fries. So it probably wouldn’t be low in calories.
7. It is not more heart healthy than conventional beef
Even though the Impossible patty has a lower total fat content than a beef patty, its saturated fat content is still higher (especially with the old recipe). This would be attributed to coconut oil in its recipe, probably added to create a juicy patty once the hot grill melts that solid fat. Nonetheless, saturated fat increases cholesterol levels, and is linked with increased risk of heart disease [12, 13].
8. It is not more blood pressure-friendly than your regular beef patty
The Impossible patty’s new recipe “feature(s) 30% less sodium…than (the) current recipe”. Yet, its sodium content is still 5x greater than a regular beef patty. Granted, a regular beef patty would be salted before grilling, rendering them possibly equivalent in salt content. However, since sodium intake should be kept below 2300mg a day , the Impossible patty (new recipe) takes up 16% of that. This will only increase once sauce, cheese, and bun is slapped on, not allowing room for much more salt in the day.
9. A great option for people with coeliac disease and gluten sensitivity
The new recipe of the Impossible patty is gluten-free. Now if you’re on a gluten-free diet, all you have to do is make sure the restaurant you go to complies with food safety standards to ensure it remains 100% gluten free. This is especially so for those of you with coeliac disease.
10. Being vegetarian, it is a cholesterol, trans-fat, and antibiotic-free option
All animal products contain cholesterol and naturally occurring trans-fat. They also risk containing antibiotics, unless labelled as antibiotic-free. Since the Impossible patty is vegetarian, it has benefits of being free of these substances.
It can be part of a plant-based diet, but it should not replace other less processed (more wholesome) plant-based foods.
On the whole, Pat Brown, founder of Impossible Foods has created what he set out to do in his mission: to reduce environmental damage through animal use during food production and to create delicious and nutritious plant-based meat alternatives.
And that it what it is, the Impossible patty is more or less the real thing, including its nutritional content, which can be good and bad. Good because as part of a plant-based diet, it is rich in nutrients that vegetarian foods normally lack (weigh for weight). Yet, bad because it is as high in saturated fat as red meat, one of the main culprits behind red meat’s link with heart disease. That kind of defeats the purpose of choosing this as a vegetarian product over red meat, doesn’t it?
At the end of the day, being an advocate of environmentally-friendly practices, I love how it is a sustainable alternative to beef, while being comparable in taste. I just won’t make the mistake of thinking it’s healthier.
- Impossible [document on the Internet]. Impossible Foods Inc; 2019 [cited 2019 April 17]. Available from: https://impossiblefoods.com/
- USDA food composition databases. [document on the Internet]. United States Department of Agriculture; no date [cited 2019 April 17]. Available from: https://ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb/
- National Institute of Health. Vitamin B12: Fact sheet for health professionals [Internet]. 2018 [cited 2019 April 17]. Available from: https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminB12-HealthProfessional/
- National Institute of Health. Zinc: Fact sheet for health professionals [Internet]. 2018 [cited 2019 April 17]. Available from: https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Zinc-HealthProfessional/
- National Institute of Health. Iron: Fact sheet for health professionals [Internet]. 2018 [cited 2019 April 17]. Available from: https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Iron-HealthProfessional/
- Health Promotion Board. A handbook on nutrition labelling (Singapore) [Internet]. 2015 [cited 2019 April 17]. Available from: https://www.hpb.gov.sg/docs/default-source/default-document-library/handbook-on-nutrition-labelling.pdf?sfvrsn=
- High fibre for a fit and fabulous you. [document on the internet]. Ministry of Health Singapore; 2018 November 20 [cited 2019 May 7]. Available from: https://www.healthhub.sg/live-healthy/1049/more-fibre-for-a-fit-and-fabulous-you
- Diallo A, Deschasaux M, Latino-Martel P, et al. Red and processed meat intake and cancer risk: Results from the prospective NutriNet-Santé cohort study. Int J Cancer. 2018; 142 (2): 230-237.
- National Cancer Institute. Chemicals in meat cooked at high temperatures and cancer risk [Internet]. 2017 [cited 2019 April 17]. Available from: https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/causes-prevention/risk/diet/cooked-meats-fact-sheet
- Becoming a vegetarian [document on the Internet]. Harvard Health Publishing; no date [cited 2019 April 17]. Available from: https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/becoming-a-vegetarian
- Ngoan LT, Thu NT, Lua NT, et al. Cooking temperature heat-generated carcinogens, and the risk of stomach and colorectal cancers. Asian Pac J Cancer Prev. 2009; 10 (1): 83-6.
- Shmerling RH. Coconut oil: heart-healthy or just hype? [document on the Internet]. Harvard Health Publishing; 2017 [cited 2019 April 17]. Available from: https://www.health.harvard.edu/heart-disease-overview/coconut-oil-heart-healthy-or-just-hype
- Sacks FM, Lichtenstein AH, Wu JHY, et al. Dietary fats and cardiovascular disease: A presidential advisory from the american heart association. Circulation [serial online]. 2017; 136 (3): e1-e23. DOI: 10.1161/CIR.0000000000000510.
- Sodium, salt and you [document on the Internet]. Harvard Health Publishing; 2009 [cited 2019 April 17]. Available from: https://www.health.harvard.edu/newsletter_article/sodium-salt-and-you