What Is the Impossible Burger, and Is It Healthy?
By Jillian Kubala, MS, RD
The Impossible Burger is a plant-based alternative to traditional meat-based burgers. It's said to mimic the flavor, aroma, and texture of beef.
Some claim that the Impossible Burger is more nutritious and environmentally friendly than beef-based burgers. Others argue that certain ingredients in the Impossible Burger may not be optimal for your health.
This article explains what the Impossible Burger is, what it's made of, and whether it's nutritionally superior to beef-based burgers.
What is the Impossible Burger?
The Impossible Burger was created by Impossible Foods, a company founded by Patrick O. Brown in 2011.
Brown is a scientist and professor emeritus at Stanford University in California. He holds a medical degree and a Ph.D. and has worked as a research scientist for many years.
Through conferences, Brown tried raising awareness about how using animals for food harms the environment. However, this had little impact, so he created a business that produced plant-based alternatives to popular animal products.
Its signature product — the Impossible Burger — aims to perfectly mimic the taste of beef.
Impossible Burger Ingredients
Using carefully selected ingredients, Impossible Foods created a plant-based burger that some say perfectly resembles the taste, aroma, and texture of beef.
The original Impossible Burger contains the following ingredients:
Water, textured wheat protein, coconut oil, potato protein, natural flavors, 2% or less of leghemoglobin (soy), yeast extract, salt, konjac gum, xanthan gum, soy protein isolate, vitamin E, vitamin C, thiamine (vitamin B1), zinc, niacin, vitamin B6, riboflavin (vitamin B2), and vitamin B12.
In 2019, the company introduced a new recipe featuring the following changes:
- uses soy protein instead of wheat protein, making it gluten-free
- contains a plant-based culinary binder called methylcellulose to improve texture
- replaced a portion of the coconut oil with sunflower oil to reduce saturated fat content
Heme, or soy leghemoglobin, is the ingredient said to set the Impossible Burger apart from other plant-based burgers. It adds to the flavor and color of the burger and makes it "bleed" like a beef burger does when cut.
It's also perhaps the most controversial ingredient in the Impossible Burger.
Unlike the heme found in beef, the heme in the Impossible Burger is genetically engineered by adding soy protein to genetically engineered yeast (1).
Though Generally Recognized As Safe (GRAS) by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), some raise concern about its potential health effects (2).
Currently, the Impossible Burger is only available at certain restaurants and fast food establishments in the United States, Hong Kong, and Macau. The company also plans to sell the Impossible Burger in U.S. grocery stores from 2019.
The Impossible Burger is a plant-based burger option said to replicate the flavor, texture, and aroma of beef.
Impossible Burger Nutrition
There are nutritional differences between the Impossible Burger and beef-based burgers.
Impossible Burgers are significantly lower in protein than beef-based burgers, yet they contain more fiber. Impossible Burgers are also higher in fat and contain carbohydrates, while beef burgers do not contain any carbs.
Furthermore, the Impossible Burger beats beef in many vitamin and mineral categories like folate, B12, thiamine, and iron.
However, it's important to note that these nutrients are added to the product, unlike the nutrients found in beef.
Impossible Burgers also contain a high amount of added salt, packing in 16% of the daily value for sodium in one 4-ounce (113-gram) serving.
The Impossible Burger is higher in certain vitamins and minerals than beef burgers, as they are added during processing. Impossible Burgers are also higher in salt and carbohydrates.
Impossible Burger Benefits
Impossible Burgers offer several health benefits.
High in Important Nutrients
The Impossible Burger contains an impressive amount of nutrients, as vitamins and minerals like iron, thiamine, zinc, niacin, riboflavin, and vitamin B12 are added during processing.
Some of these nutrients, such as vitamin B12, iron, and zinc, are especially important for those following plant-based diets, including vegans and vegetarians.
What really sets the Impossible Burger apart from other vegan and vegetarian foods enriched with iron is that it provides heme iron. Heme iron is better absorbed by your body than the non-heme iron you get from plant foods.
Moreover, soy leghemoglobin has been shown to have an equivalent bioavailability to the iron found in meat, making it a potentially important source of highly absorbable iron for those who don't consume animal products (8).
The iron in the Impossible Burger has been approved by the FDA for use in food, although it's long-term safety is still unknown.
Suitable for Plant-Based Diets
The Impossible Burger is a good choice if you enjoy the taste of beef burgers but want to limit your intake of animal products.
Given that Impossible Burgers are offered at certain restaurants and fast food establishments, it's a tasty and easy, on-the-go meal choice for those following plant-based diets.
May Be a More Environmentally-Friendly Choice
The Impossible Burger website claims that producing this plant-based burger uses roughly 75% less water, generates 87% fewer greenhouse gasses, and requires 95% less land than producing conventional ground beef from cows (9).
Indeed, research shows that cattle farming is the largest contributor to greenhouse gas and ammonia emissions in the livestock industry (10).
Greenhouse gas emissions from livestock farming contribute to global warming. This leads many climate experts to recommend that people eat a more plant-based diet in order to mitigate pressure on the environment (11, 12).
The Impossible Burger is an environmentally-friendly food packed with nutrients that vegan and vegetarian diets often lack, such as iron and vitamin B12.
Impossible Burger Precautions
Although the Impossible Burger offers some benefits, there are some downsides to consider as well.
Concerns Over Plant-Based Heme
Although soy leghemoglobin — the heme used in Impossible Burgers — was deemed GRAS by the FDA, its long-term safety is still unknown.
Current studies on soy leghemoglobin have only been conducted in animals and over short periods.
For example, a 28-day study in rats found that those fed the equivalent of 750 mg/kg per day of soy leghemoglobin, which is over 100 times greater than the 90th percentile estimated daily intake in humans, had no adverse effects (13).
However, it's currently unknown whether it's safe for humans to eat this man-made compound over longer periods.
Contains Potentially Allergenic Ingredients
The original Impossible Burger recipe contains wheat and soy, both of which are common food allergens.
In fact, 1% of the world's population has celiac disease, which is an immune reaction to gluten-containing grains.
What's more, it's thought that 0.5–13% of the general population has non-celiac gluten sensitivity — an intolerance to gluten that results in unpleasant symptoms like headache and intestinal issues (14).
While the new Impossible Burger recipe has swapped gluten-containing wheat protein for soy protein, the burger still contains ingredients that some people can't tolerate.
Concerns Over GMOs
Impossible Foods does not hide the fact that the Impossible Burger contains genetically modified (GMO) ingredients like soy leghemoglobin and soy protein.
Most scientists agree that GMO foods are safe. However, some are concerned about the use of GMO crops that are resistant to commonly used herbicides like glyphosate and 2,4-Dichlorophenoxyacetic acid (2,4-D) (16).
Glyphosate has been linked to potentially harmful effects on humans, plants, and animals, leading many experts to demand further research on the possible hazards of this herbicide to both humans and the environment (17, 18, 19).
Additionally, some studies have linked exposure to 2,4-D with non-Hodgkin lymphoma, a type of cancer (22).
There are several downsides to the Impossible Burger, including its content of potentially allergenic ingredients and the use of GMO ingredients like soy leghemoglobin.
Is the Impossible Burger Healthy?
If taste and convenience are your only concerns, the Impossible Burger may be a good choice. However, if you want to eat a more nutritious plant-based burger, consider a more whole-food-based veggie burger.
There Are Healthier Plant-Based Burger Options
The Impossible Burger contains mostly soy or wheat protein, as well as added preservatives, salt, flavorings, and fillers to enhance its taste, shelf life, and texture.
Although these ingredients are considered natural, they aren't necessary for a healthy diet, and some people prefer to avoid them.
Another downside to the Impossible Burger is that any restaurant can put their own spin on it, meaning that other ingredients — aside from those listed on the official website — may be present in the final food product.
Other veggie burgers on the market usually contain similar ingredients. However, some contain more whole-food-based ingredients like lentils, quinoa, hemp, and black beans.
Fortunately, you can make healthier and more whole-food-based veggie burgers at home. Delicious plant- and nutrient-dense burger recipes can be found online and are often based on plant proteins like beans, grains, and nuts.
Plus, many recipes pack in fresh vegetables like sweet potato, onions, cauliflower, leafy greens, and spices to further elevate the nutritional benefits of the final dish.
The heme iron in the Impossible Burger is more bioavailable than non-heme iron in plant foods.
Luckily, if you eat a plant-based diet, you can instead meet your iron needs by eating nutrient-dense whole foods like legumes, nuts, seeds, and grains. Alternatively, you can take iron supplements.
Additionally, pairing plant-based iron sources with foods rich in vitamin C, as well as soaking, sprouting, or fermenting grains and legumes before eating them, are simple ways to naturally enhance the absorption of non-heme iron (23, 24).
While the Impossible Burger may be a good option for vegans and vegetarians on the go, you can make healthier plant-based burgers at home.
The Bottom Line
The Impossible Burger has made headlines for its impressive similarity to beef-based burgers.
It boasts high protein, vitamin, and mineral contents, including a genetically engineered, plant-based source of heme iron known as soy leghemoglobin.
However, there are concerns about some of its ingredients. These include soy hemoglobin and potentially allergenic protein sources like gluten and soy.
Although the Impossible Burger may be a tasty and convenient option on the go, you can make more nutritious plant-based burgers from whole-food ingredients at home.
Reposted with permission from our media associate Healthline.
After ongoing pressure from environmental groups and Indigenous communities, Bank of America has said it will not finance any oil and gas exploration in the Arctic, making it the last major U.S. financial institution to do so.
- Bank of America Sponsors Polluted Air and Chicago Marathon ... ›
- Youth Activists Hit the Streets to Protest Bank of America - EcoWatch ›
- Environmental and Economic Justice Communities Target Bank of ... ›
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Astrid Caldas
As we reach the official end of hurricane season, 2020 will be one for the record books. Looking back at these long, surprising, sometimes downright crazy past six months (seven if you count when the first named storms actually started forming), there are many noteworthy statistics and patterns that drive home the significance of this hurricane season, and the ways climate change may have contributed to it.
A summary infographic showing hurricane season probability and numbers of named storms predicted from NOAA's 2020 Atlantic Hurricane Season Outlook. NOAA
The updated 2020 Atlantic hurricane season probability and numbers of named storms. NOAA
- Tropical Storm Theta Is Record-Breaking 29th Storm of 2020 ... ›
- Hurricane Delta Breaks Record for Earliest 25th Named Storm ... ›
By Dana Drugmand
An unprecedented climate lawsuit brought by six Portuguese youths is to be fast-tracked at Europe's highest court, it was announced today.
The European Court of Human Rights said the case, which accuses 33 European nations of violating the applicants' right to life by disregarding the climate emergency, would be granted priority status due to the "importance and urgency of the issues raised."
‘Protect Our Future’<p>Cláudia Agostinho (21), Catarina Mota (20), Martim Agostinho (17), Sofia Oliveira (15), André Oliveira (12) and Mariana Agostinho (8) are <a href="https://www.desmogblog.com/2020/09/03/youth-climate-lawsuit-portugal-33-european-countries" target="_blank">bringing the case</a> with nonprofit law firm Global Legal Action Network (<span style="background-color: initial;">GLAN</span>), arguing that none of the countries have sufficiently ambitious targets to cut their emissions.</p><p>Portugal recently sweltered through its <a href="https://www.ipma.pt/pt/media/noticias/news.detail.jsp?f=/pt/media/noticias/textos/resumo-clima-julho-20.html" target="_blank">hottest July in 90 years</a> and has seen a rise in devastating heatwaves and wildfires over recent years due to rising temperatures. Four of the applicants live in Leiria, one of the regions worst-hit by the forest fires that killed more than 120 people in 2017. </p><p>Responding to the development, André Oliveira, 12, said: "It gives me lots of hope to know that the judges in the European Court of Human Rights recognise the urgency of our case." </p><p>"But what I'd like the most would be for European governments to immediately do what the scientists say is necessary to protect our future. Until they do this, we will keep on fighting with more determination than ever."</p>
‘Highly Significant'<p>The decision represents a "highly significant" step, <a href="https://www.glanlaw.org/about-us" target="_blank">GLAN</a> Director Dr. Gearóid Ó Cuinn said in a <a href="https://youth4climatejustice.org/" target="_blank">press release</a>.</p><p>"This is an appropriate response from the Court given the scale and imminence of the threat these young people face from the climate emergency," he added. </p><p>By suing the 33 countries all together, the youths aim to compel these national governments to act more aggressively on climate through a single court order, which would potentially be more effective than pursuing separate lawsuits or lobbying policymakers in each country.</p><p>If successful, the defendant countries would be legally bound not only to ramp up emissions cuts, but also to tackle overseas contributions to climate change including those of their multinational enterprises.</p>
‘Major Hurdle’<p>The <a href="https://youth4climatejustice.org/the-case/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">countries targeted</a> include all of the European Union member states as well as Norway, Russia, Switzerland, Turkey, Ukraine and the United Kingdom, none of which are currently aligned with <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/tag/paris-agreement">Paris agreement</a> target to limit global temperature rise to well below 2 degrees C (3.6 degrees F) and pursue a limit of 1.5 degrees C (2.7 degrees F).<a href="https://climateactiontracker.org/countries/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"> </a></p><p><a href="https://climateactiontracker.org/countries/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Climate Action Tracker rates</a> most of Europe as "insufficient" in terms of its emissions reduction policies based on the Paris target, while Ukraine, Turkey and Russia are assessed as "critically insufficient" – meaning they are on track for a warming of 4 degrees C or higher.</p><p>The European Union has pledged to slash its emissions by <a href="https://ec.europa.eu/clima/policies/eu-climate-action/2030_ctp_en" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">at least 55 percent by 2030</a>. But the Portuguese youth plaintiffs are calling for cuts of at least 65 percent by 2030, a level that <a href="http://www.caneurope.org/energy/climate-energy-targets" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">European climate campaigners say</a> is necessary to meet the 1.5 degrees warming limit.</p><p> The 33 countries must each respond to the youths' complaint by the end of February, before lawyers representing the plaintiffs will respond to the points of defense. </p><p>"Nothing less than a 65 percent reduction by 2030 will be enough for the EU member states to comply with their obligations to the youth-applicants and indeed countless others," Gerry Liston, legal officer with GLAN, said in a press release.</p><p>"These brave young people have cleared a major hurdle in their pursuit of a judgment which compels European governments to accelerate their climate mitigation efforts."</p><p><span></span><em>Reposted with permission from <a href="https://www.desmogblog.com/2020/11/29/court-advances-landmark-youth-climate-lawsuit-against-33-european-nations" target="_blank">DeSmog</a>. </em></p>
Will concern over the climate crisis stop people from having children?
- 'BirthStrike' Movement Encourages People to Stop Having Children ... ›
- Should You Have Kids Despite Climate Change? - EcoWatch ›
By Liz Kimbrough
Six grassroots environmental activists will receive the prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize in a virtual ceremony this year. Dubbed the "Green Nobel Prize," this award is given annually to environmental heroes from each of the world's six inhabited continents.
Kristal Ambrose, the Bahamas<img lazy-loadable="true" src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDg0NzI3MC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY1MDM5NTk5MX0.fdMrrUqf0HvWq0Uh0Ii3mXxJczHPyN1jcnSsQoXoerE/img.jpg?width=980" id="b9e66" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="b8b8777f7964bb7100672b3be0abf3fe" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Kristal Ambrose. Goldman Environmental Prize
Chibeze Ezekiel, Ghana<img lazy-loadable="true" src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDg0NzM2MS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY1MTgzOTE3OX0.KoEZr3oMPKbeG2uT8q-ZsGPOGtIZ3l6V6NXEK5U90FU/img.jpg?width=980" id="65224" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="6ec640a8ba56a4db22b57e4f8734a7a4" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Chibeze Ezekiel. Goldman Environmental Prize
Nemonte Nenquimo, Ecuador<img lazy-loadable="true" src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDg0NzM2Ny9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYwNzYxODYwM30.cys5ZsFGd75UcjybADGBPFt20jrzgrsFujoj_qMTK4E/img.jpg?width=980" id="96b5a" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="0778ab7334e3297e0ead52d5fd1499e5" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Nemonte Nenquimo. Goldman Environmental Prize
Leydy Pech, Mexico<img lazy-loadable="true" src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDg0NzQwNy9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY0NzkzOTYzOH0.uHlN2FQoJJ_KFJWTn4oL__lDyjA0-HDnxewBhwgQRVg/img.jpg?width=980" id="9ab07" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="ccc347126d4ce9ddbb3b9c1b4673391b" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Leydy Pech. Goldman Environmental Prize
Lucie Pinson, France<img lazy-loadable="true" src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDg0NzQxMS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY2NzE0NTU1NX0.OutmX3sfl4pMaoYssTQ4zk7Y14_hans7-Z-0B0xsjfM/img.jpg?width=980" id="4bcd7" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="4bff14750dc0a70fc79e9484ea2bdbd4" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Lucie Pinson. Goldman Environmental Prize
Paul Sein Twa, Myanmar<img lazy-loadable="true" src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDg0NzQxNS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY1NDAyNjU0MH0.DHrKykngmcJyJ5rn4r91ANH7FmQ7Us6ZMEOis8yAzGY/img.jpg?width=980" id="8fa36" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="0e703d62288df00931cd678c861c6e0b" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Paul Sein Twa. Goldman Environmental Prize
- 'Erin Brockovich of Slovakia' Becomes Slovakia's First Female ... ›
- 'Work Together' or 'Destroy it': Goldman Prize Winner on World's ... ›
- World's Largest Environmental Prize Honors Historic Number of ... ›
- 'Moved and Inspired': Meet the 2019 Goldman Environmental Prize ... ›