Eating more plants is one of the best things you can do for your health. Fruits and vegetables are the most nutritionally dense foods on the planet and were created to be the perfect foods for us (at least that’s my perspective). From nutritional research I’ve learned that plant foods are key players when it comes to supplying the nutrients necessary for the body to recover, prevent and reverse disease. Clinical studies show a positive impact in all body systems from gum health to immune regulation to heart disease and more when plant foods are increased.
There’s been a lot of interest and marketing hype about the plant burgers on the market now especially with the introduction of the Impossible burger. Although the Beyond burger has improved it’s original formulation and is “meatier’ and has been available for a couple years now, the Impossible burger is new and has been reviewed as tasting so close to beef, that it’s hard to tell the difference, it even bleeds like beef. (For those who are grossed out by meat, these burgers would not be appealing.)
So should the Beyond burger and Impossible burger be thought of as healthy and a beneficial plant based option for those seeking to increase their plant consumption? Many people think that because they are plant-based, they must be good for you. However, to determine that, the ingredients should be considered even when the nutritional label looks good, as I recommend with any food product. Both burgers have highly processed ingredients. There is not one whole plant food in either one. Take a look at the labels…
Beyond Burger ingredients: water, pea protein isolate, expeller-pressed canola oil, refined coconut oil, contains 2% or less of the following: cellulose from bamboo, methylcellulose, potato starch, natural flavor, maltodextrin, yeast extract, salt, sunflower oil, vegetable glycerin, dried yeast, gum Arabic, citrus extract (to protect quality), ascorbic acid (to maintain color), beet juice extract (for color), acetic acid, succinic acid, modified food starch, annatto (for color).
Impossible Burger ingredients: Water, Soy Protein Concentrate, Coconut Oil, Sunflower Oil, Natural Flavors, 2% or less of: Potato Protein, Methylcellulose, Yeast Extract, Cultured Dextrose, Food Starch Modified, Soy Leghemoglobin, Salt, Soy Protein Isolate, Mixed Tocopherols (Vitamin E), Zinc Gluconate, Thiamine Hydrochloride (Vitamin B1), Sodium Ascorbate (Vitamin C), Niacin, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride (Vitamin B6), Riboflavin (Vitamin B2), Vitamin B12
Both burgers are formulated to be similar in protein content, fat and taste to beef. Although neither burger claims to be whole food based, the “plant-derived” and “plant-based” marketing message makes them seem healthy and appealing to those consumers who are interested in increasing their plant consumption or for those concerned about reducing the environmental effects of the meat industry. They may certainly be better for animals and the environment, but that doesn’t mean they are healthy for us to eat? They should be considered a processed food, and should make up only a very small portion of the diet, if any. To maintain or improve health, whole plant foods should make up the majority of food that’s consumed.
Is one burger healthier than the other? I believe the Beyond burger is the better choice, mainly because it does not contain GMO leghemoglobin-yeast and soy, which are present in the Impossible burger. There are studies that show the detrimental affects of consuming different GMO foods (See Institute of Responsible Technology and Genetic Roulette). For that reason alone, I will not eat the Impossible burger. There have not been any long term human studies evaluating the consumption of that particular kind of GMO food. It is something our bodies have never been exposed to before. So no one really knows what will result. The Center For Food Safety, which is a watchdog group that opposes genetically engineered food, has asked the FDA to recall the Impossible burger because of safety concerns about the genetically engineered soy and heme.
The fact that these burgers are created in a laboratory and they are not something I can replicate in my kitchen also influences my choice not to consume them. The whole foods created for us by the Creator provide better health results. Those foods are whole plant based foods including: fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes, nuts and seeds. If animal products are included, keeping the quantity low and quality high (studies show that it should be 2-3 oz. 2 X week or less and grass fed, organic and wild caught) has shown positive results in maintaining health.
But please keep in mind, that with increases in animal based foods, health risks also increase. The imitation burgers can possibly meet a need for those transitioning to a more pant focused diet. But whole foods need to be the focus with the occasional processed or animal based food.
For a plant-based burger recipe that does not mimic beef, check out my recipe HERE