Lab-grown foods like the Impossible Burger represent the ultimate health information conflict: We’re told plant-based diets are healthy, but we’re also told processed foods are unhealthy. The Impossible Burger, Beyond Burger and other fake meat products are plant-based but highly processed.
So what is the best option? Plant-based or less-processed foods?
To be clear: just because something is plant-based or vegan doesn’t automatically mean it’s healthy. The white bread is vegan, as are the tater tots. Cookies, cakes, and even grilled cheeses can be made entirely from plants. And your doctor probably isn’t telling you to eat more of these foods, even if they’re made from plants.
It’s not for crushing veggies – they’re still important and should be included in your meals. But as fake meat burgers skyrocket to unprecedented levels of popularity, it’s worth taking a closer look at what’s actually inside.and compare the health implications.
To be fair, Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat don’t explicitly market their products as being healthier than beef, but rather as a sustainable, eco-friendly alternative.
In this article, I explain how the regular meat alternative (fake beef) compares nutritionally to its real counterpart.
Real beef vs plant-based beef
Gone are the days of crumbly black bean and tofu patties. Vegans and vegetarians — and meat eaters — can enjoy extremely beef-like burgers that contain no beef at all. The Impossible Burger and Beyond Burger definitely top the faux beef popularity charts, but Kellogg, Kroger, Meatless Farm Co and other brands have followed suit with similar meatless patties.
The question isn’t whether these products do a good job of mimicking beef – they do. Rather, the question is whether fake beef compares to real beef in terms of health and nutrition. Let’s compare.
100 grams (3.5 ounces) of lean ground beef (10% fat) contains:
- 217 calories
- 12 g fat (5 g saturated)
- 90mg cholesterol
- 70mg sodium
- 0g carbs
- 0g fiber
- 26g protein
Keep in mind that the caloric and fat values of ground beef increase as the fat percentage increases.
The 4 oz Impossible Burger 2.0 is quite close to beef, nutritionally speaking:
- 240 calories
- 14 g fat (8 g saturated)
- 0g of cholesterol
- 370mg sodium
- 9g carbohydrates
- 3g fiber
- 19g protein
The Impossible Burger also has a pretty impressive micronutrient profile, but keep in mind that these nutrients aren’t all natural: Impossible Foods fortifies its burgers to increase nutrient content.
While the macronutrient profiles of Real Beef and Impossible Ground Beef are comparable, their processing levels are not. Because it does not exist in nature, plant-based beef is highly processed, made with a variety of plant ingredients, colorings, extracts and preservatives to mimic taste, texture and flavor. aroma of real beef.
For example, the Impossible Burger contains soy protein, a(which makes the burger “bleed”), sunflower and coconut oils, methylcellulose, yeast extract, cultured dextrose, food starch and more. So if your goal is to eat fewer processed foods, real beef is the way to go (not counting foods like hot dogs, which are also heavily processed).
A particular concern with faux beef is the sodium content, as noted by Dr. Andrew Weil, integrative medicine physician and creator of the famous anti-inflammatory diet. One version of the Impossible Burger — Burger King’s Impossible Whopper — contains 1,343 milligrams of sodium, which is even more than what’s in a regular Whopper.
The Real Meat vs. Fake Meat Consensus
There’s no real scientific consensus on this yet, because vegan meat is too new for health officials to draw a conclusion – it’s something scientists can only do after many peer and third-party reviews (i.e. not conducted by a vegan meat company). ) the searches piled up.
And even then, things can change: the last two generations of Americans have spent their lives fearing red meat, only to discover that saturated fat really isn’t as bad as we thought.
Plus, the decision to eat vegan meat instead of real meat is more than a matter of nutrition. Many people decide to follow a vegan diet because of moral and ethical values, such as animal welfare or environmental health.
Eating a plant-based meat substitute a few times a week probably won’t hurt you, just like eating beef a few times a week won’t hurt you. It’s best to treat fake meat like real meat: use it as a source of protein, not as a substitute for vegetables.
The information in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended to constitute medical or health advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you may have about a medical condition or health goals.