Can Plant-based Protein “Do the Impossible?”

I have tried to cut meat out of my diet several times in my life to no avail. Sampling elaborate diets, and looking for creative ways to make green vegetables taste anything but banal. Most of all trying to find ways to keep food interesting day-to-day without breaking down and crawling to in-and-out for a cheeseburger after 10pm like a junkie needing to score, because I was still so hungry after dinner. After a couple of months of pure torture, I broke down and started cheating. I realized I simply wasn’t capable of denying my carnivoric past even though now it was in moderation. So, I had to find something that could perhaps help me find a balance between a satisfying meal and sticking to staying green. With all of the new advances of generated foods trickling down to the local supermarkets I thought I would finally take the plunge so I tried one of the new “impossible burgers” and what I discovered might surprise you.

Firstly, for those of you that haven’t heard an impossible burger is a vegetarian patty that boast it has all of the texture, flavor, aroma, and “meat-like” taste of a typical meat patty that comes from cows. I’m paraphrasing from the website of the manufacturer, Impossible Foods. They also state that the production process generates less greenhouse gasses than cattle farming, something that my 10-year old daughter just told me about, and is healthier for your body.

First up was the “eye test” which was easy enough as despite considering myself a burger connoisseur honestly wouldn’t have looked twice if I didn’t know something other than beef was coming. The truth is that you really can’t tell just looking at it that the ingredients are different. For instance, some of the highest rated burgers for taste are made with blends, such as 60% ribeye 40% sirloin, and obviously if you had a burger that was 100% filet the texture and color are noticeably different than something you get from McDonald’s or Wendy’s. So mark one point for the Impossible Burger (IB).

Then comes the most important test, taste. Once again, go in with a mind not set on finding a difference but rather simply asking if you like what you taste. Now, when there are lots of condiments, lettuce, tomatoes, ketchup, mustard, cheese, etc. you’re not going to realize a big difference. Conversely, if you a meat & potatoes woman and you like your guilty pleasure on the plain side then perhaps you will notice a difference but even then its on the subtle side and if you’re devoted to your cause then enjoy, it’s like going from regular coke to diet coke.

For the big finale, one of the main reasons why many are looking to make the change to meat alternatives like the impossible burger or other products from companies like Impossible Foods or Beyond Meat is to eat healthier, so we lined up the ‘tale of the tape’ between the two options to see which one is better for your specific circumstance. So we put two burgers, side by side, about 4 ounces each. I can’t imagine eating a half pound of meat so I thought this would be practical for most of us.

Impossible Burger

Serving Size: 4 ounces

  • Calories: 240
  • Total Fat: 14g (18% DV)
  • Saturated Fat: 8g (40% DV)
  • Trans Fat: 0g
  • Cholesterol: 0mg
  • Sodium: 370mg (16% DV)
  • Total Carbs: 9g
  • Dietary Fiber: 3g (11% DV)
  • Total Sugars: <1g
  • Protein: 19g
  • Calcium: 15% DV
  • Iron: 25% DV
  • Potassium: 15% DV
  • Thiamin: 2350% DV
  • Vitamin B12: 130% DV
  • Zinc: 50% DV

In comparison, here’s what you’ll find in the same-sized 4oz beef patty:

  • Calories: 260
  • Total Fat: 16g (25% DV)
  • Saturated Fat: 6g (30% DV)
  • Trans Fat: 0g
  • Cholesterol: 94mg (32% DV)
  • Sodium: 89mg (4% DV)
  • Total Carbs: 0g
  • Dietary Fiber: 0g
  • Total Sugars: 0g
  • Protein: 28g
  • Iron: 17% DV
  • Potassium: 11% DV

To surmise the nutrition facts the calories are about the same but the Impossible Burger actually has more carbs (9-0) than a beef patty, which totally surprised me, but the natural burger has 2 grams more of fat. The IB does have protein (9 less) but more Iron (25-17). And if you’re going to line them up on a dryboard the biggest difference is the 94mg in cholesterol in a real burger versus 0 in IP but in totality is it enough to make you make the switch?

So, it appears we have a split decision. “If you simply love burgers and do love burgers and you’re opting in on the Impossible Burger because ‘plant-based’ seems like the healthier alternative, I’d rather you go with the regular burger and enjoy every bite,” London say. “The best option if you’re cutting back on meat for sustainability’s sake would be to halve the amount of meat you’re using in that burger, and fill the rest with veggies, especially mushrooms.”


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