Impossible Burgers have become a popular plant-based alternative to traditional beef burgers. Many people choose Impossible Burgers because they are marketed as a healthier and more sustainable option. However, some consumers are concerned that Impossible Burgers may be high in calories compared to beef burgers. In this article, we’ll take a detailed look at the calorie content of Impossible Burgers versus beef burgers to find out how they truly compare.
What are Impossible Burgers?
Impossible Burgers are plant-based patties designed to mimic the taste, texture, aroma, and cooking experience of beef. The key ingredient in Impossible Burgers is heme, an iron-containing molecule that comes from the roots of soy plants. Heme gives Impossible Burgers their characteristic “meaty” flavor and makes them “bleed” like real beef burgers. Other ingredients in Impossible Burgers include:
– Protein from soy and potatoes
– Coconut oil and sunflower oil
– Soy leghemoglobin (a soy-based heme)
– Yeast extract
– Various vitamins and minerals
Impossible Foods launched its flagship Impossible Burger in 2016. Since then, the company has reformulated the product multiple times to improve taste, texture, and nutrition. The Impossible Burger is now sold in thousands of restaurants nationwide and available in many grocery stores as packaged patties intended for home cooking.
Calorie content of Impossible Burgers
So how does the calorie content of Impossible Burgers compare to traditional beef burgers? Let’s take a look at the nutrition facts:
– A 4-ounce (113 gram) Impossible Burger patty contains approximately 240 calories, 13 grams of fat, and 370 milligrams of sodium.
– A standard 80/20 ground beef burger patty of the same 4-ounce (113 gram) size contains about 295 calories, 23 grams of total fat, and 75 milligrams of sodium.
Based on these comparisons, we can see that a 4-ounce Impossible Burger actually contains fewer calories, less total fat, and more sodium than an equivalent 4-ounce beef burger patty. An Impossible Burger clocks in at about 55 fewer calories and 10 fewer grams of fat compared to beef.
However, it’s important to note that calories and fat can vary significantly depending on the leanness of the beef patty. Compared to a 93/7 very lean ground beef burger, the difference in calories and fat is less substantial. A 4-ounce (113 gram) 93/7 beef burger patty contains around 200 calories and 9 grams of fat – only about 40 calories and 4 grams of fat less than an Impossible Burger.
Nonetheless, based on standard 80/20 ground beef comparisons, Impossible Burgers generally contain fewer calories than an equal-sized beef burger.
Calories in an entire Impossible Burger
Looking just at the isolated patty calories doesn’t tell the whole story. To determine the total calorie content, we need to consider an entire Impossible Burger compared to an entire traditional cheeseburger.
A typical Impossible Burger consists of:
– 1 Impossible Burger 4-ounce patty (240 calories)
– 1 burger bun (150 calories)
– Condiments like ketchup, mustard, pickles, onions (0-50 calories)
This puts the total calories of a standard Impossible Burger somewhere between 390 and 440 calories.
A traditional cheeseburger made with 80/20 beef contains:
– 1 beef burger 4-ounce patty (295 calories)
– 1 slice of cheese (50 calories)
– 1 bun (150 calories)
– Condiments like ketchup, mustard, pickles, onions (0-50 calories)
So a typical cheeseburger will have between 495 and 545 calories.
When considering the entire sandwich, an Impossible Burger still provides about 100 fewer calories than a beef cheeseburger made with equivalent ingredients and toppings.
However, calories will vary greatly based on the burger build. Adding extras like bacon, avocado, fried egg, or multiple cheese slices will increase calories significantly for both types of burgers. A heavily topped Impossible Burger could potentially end up with equal or higher calories compared to an equivalent beef burger. But for standard recipes, Impossible Burgers are lower in calories.
Other factors influencing calorie content
A few other factors impact the calorie content of Impossible Burgers compared to beef:
Cooking method: Pan-frying, deep frying, or grilling burgers adds additional calories through cooking oils and fats. Impossible Burger patties tend to release more oil and fat during cooking compared to lean beef patties. This can narrow the calorie gap between Impossible and beef burgers.
Restaurant preparation: Menu options at restaurants may have additional sauces, cheeses, or toppings that increase calories substantially beyond the patty itself for both Impossible and beef burgers. Restaurants may also use higher-fat beef blends, further decreasing any differences in calories. Check calorie info carefully when ordering.
Portion size: Many restaurants serve 6-8 ounce burgers rather than standard 4 ounce patties. Larger portion sizes will again raise calories for both Impossible Burgers and beef burgers. Stick with single patty 4-5 ounce portions to limit calories.
Ingredients: Impossible Burger recently changed their recipe to remove gluten and increase protein without heavily altering calories. But future recipe tweaks could potentially increase calorie counts. Always check updated nutrition facts.
Nutrients in Impossible Burgers
Looking beyond just calories, how do the overall nutrients in Impossible Burgers compare to beef burgers?
Protein: A 4-ounce Impossible Burger patty contains 19g of protein, comparable to the 20g in an equivalent beef burger patty. Both provide a good source of filling protein.
Fat: Impossible Burgers contain 8g of saturated fat compared to 9g in beef burgers. They have no cholesterol while beef contains 80mg. The plant oils in Impossible provide healthier unsaturated fats.
Carbs: An Impossible patty has 9g net carbs compared to essentially zero in beef. The additional carbs come from plant-based ingredients like potatoes and wheat.
Fiber: Impossible Burgers offer 3g of fiber versus 0g in beef. The fiber comes from their high-plant ingredient profile.
Sodium: Impossible Burgers are higher in sodium, at 370mg vs 75mg for a 4-ounce patty. The heme ingredient and other flavorings increase sodium content.
Micronutrients: Impossible Burgers offer some micronutrients from plant sources, but beef has higher levels of iron and certain B-vitamins. Both can fit into an overall balanced diet.
In summary, Impossible Burgers provide comparable protein to beef burgers, with the main nutritional differences being higher carbs but more unsaturated fat and fiber. Neither beef nor Impossible Burgers are considered health foods on their own, but Impossible Burgers do offer some nutritional advantages.
Are Impossible Burgers healthy?
Given their slightly lower calorie and fat content, are Impossible Burgers considered a healthy meal option? Here are some key considerations around Impossible Burger’s healthfulness:
– Moderately high in sodium: With 370mg sodium in a 4-ounce patty, or about 16% of the daily value, Impossible Burgers are considered high sodium foods. Those limiting dietary sodium may want smaller portion sizes or to avoid adding additional salty toppings.
– Heavily processed: While made from plants, Impossible Burger patties are heavily processed foods engineered to replicate the taste, texture, and cooking properties of meat. Some of the processing methods and additives may be unhealthy if consumed in large amounts.
– Fortified with vitamins/minerals: Impossible Burger patties are fortified with some synthetic vitamins and minerals not inherent in the base plant foods. Too much fortification can also be unhealthy.
– Plant-based: The plant-based, GMO-free soy and potato proteins at the core of Impossible Burgers do provide some health benefits and nutritional value not found in beef. But they aren’t whole foods either.
– Lack of nutrients found in beef: As noted earlier, beef burgers contain higher levels of bioavailable iron and vitamin B12 than Impossible Burgers made of only plants.
– Should be eaten in moderation: Like beef burgers, Impossible Burgers are high in calories, fat, sodium and cholesterol (for beef) if consumed in excess. Both are best treated as occasional indulgences rather than everyday meals.
Overall, while Impossible Burgers may provide some advantages over beef, they aren’t objectively a “healthy” food, just less unhealthy than a beef burger. For maximum health, unprocessed whole plant foods prepared at home would be ideal. But as an alternative to traditional beef burgers, Impossible Burgers are a better option calorie and nutrition-wise in moderation.
Are Impossible Burgers good for weight loss?
Can switching from beef to Impossible Burgers help with losing weight? Here’s an overview of the evidence:
– Lower calorie than beef: With about 100 fewer calories than a typical cheeseburger, Impossible Burgers can modestly reduce calorie intake.
– Increased satiety: Plant proteins help increase satiety, decreasing hunger. One study found Impossible Burgers resulted in higher fullness ratings compared to beef.
– Heme iron helps metabolism: The soy leghemoglobin heme in Impossible Burgers may increase metabolism and calorie burning compared to other plant proteins.
– Lean protein aids fat loss: Dietary protein requires more calories for the body to break down compared to carbs or fats. Protein increases thermogenesis which burns calories.
– Potentially lower post-meal blood sugar: Some research indicates heme and protein keeps blood sugar steadier after eating compared to rapidly-spiking refined carbs.
– No proven direct weight loss effects: Currently no studies specifically show Impossible Burgers produce greater weight loss compared to beef burgers or other meals when calories are equal.
So while swapping beef for Impossible probably won’t directly melt off pounds, incorporating them in place of higher calorie fast food burgers may contribute modestly to an overall calorie deficit needed for weight loss. Impossible Burgers provide protein, reasonable satiety, and potential indirect metabolic benefits like stable blood sugar for managing hunger and appetite.
Are Impossible Burgers safe for people with diabetes?
What about people with diabetes – is it safe for them to consume plant-based Impossible Burgers? Here are some considerations:
– Generally safe in moderation: Impossible Burgers are likely safe for most people with diabetes if portion sizes are controlled and carbohydrates accounted for. But check with your doctor.
– Monitor carb counts: Impossible patties contain about 9g net carbs from plant-sources. Bread, sauces, and toppings add more. Total carb counts should be integrated into meal insulin dosing.
– Look out for gluten: Those with celiac disease or gluten intolerance should note Impossible Burgers likely contain trace amounts of gluten from wheat-sources. The new recipe has reduced gluten, but check for individual tolerance.
– Soy allergy warning: Impossible Burger’s core protein comes from soy. Those with soy allergies should avoid.
– May affect glucose response: Some research indicates heme may reduce blood sugar spikes and insulin demand compared to other proteins. But results are mixed. Plant-based diets in general may improve insulin sensitivity.
– Ensure adequate protein: Impossible patties provide filling protein important for regulating blood sugar. Make sure to add other protein sources to round out amino acid profiles if replacing meat entirely.
Overall, people with diabetes should consult doctors and dietitians about integrating occasional Impossible Burgers into well-balanced, low-glycemic meals tailored to individual glucose control needs. Moderation is key.
Does cooking method impact calories?
The cooking method used to prepare Impossible Burgers can alter the calorie content compared to beef burgers:
Grilling: High heat from grilling tends to release more oils and fats from Impossible patties vs lean beef patties. Some excess calories may be grilled away in beef burgers whereas plant oils may accumulate in Impossible Burgers.
Pan/skillet: Frying Impossible Burgers may add 45 or more calories through absorbed cooking oils. Lean beef patties absorb less oil since more fat renders away.
Oven baking: Oven baking avoids added cooking fats, but may dry out Impossible patties. Bake on a lightly greased pan and top the bun with olive oil to compensate.
Air frying: Air frying avoids added fats and mimics greasy flavor. But air frying uses circulated hot air rather than direct contact with a cooking surface to crisp and brown the patty.
Microwaving: Microwaving patties without added fat makes a rubbery texture. Pre-cooking patties via other methods and microwaving just to reheat can help reduce total calories.
Following package instructions is ideal. Light oils, nonstick pans, and shorter cook times reduce calorie uptake for all burgers. Weighing patties before and after cooking can also quantify amounts of fat absorbed.
How Impossible Burgers fit into a healthy diet
Despite being lower in calories than beef, Impossible Burgers remain high-calorie, sodium-rich foods best enjoyed in moderation. Here are some tips for fitting them into a balanced diet:
– Limit portion size to a single small/medium patty
– Bun alternatives: use lettuce wrap or lower-calorie buns
– Load up on veggies for volume, nutrients and fiber
– Choose healthier toppings like avocado instead of cheese/bacon
– Enjoy as an occasional meal rather than a staple
– Balance with nutrient-dense whole foods and plants
– Stay hydrated and limit sugary drinks to cut empty calories
– Incorporate exercise after indulging to burn extra calories
– Prioritize intake earlier in the day to allow calorie burning time
While not health foods, burgers of any kind can be worked into an overall healthy lifestyle. Just use portion control, make smart accompaniment choices, and see it as a sometimes food within routines focused on fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, fiber and healthy fats. Moderation and balance is key.
In summary, Impossible Burgers generally contain fewer calories and less saturated fat compared to traditional beef hamburgers due to their plant-based protein source. A 4-ounce Impossible Burger patty clocks in at about 240 calories and 13g fat compared 295 calories and 23g fat for a beef burger.
When accounting for the entire sandwich build, an Impossible Burger contains approximately 100 fewer calories than a similar beef cheeseburger. Cooking method can impact the calorie difference, with frying boosting calories more for Impossible patties that absorb oil. Overall Impossible Burgers aren’t considered a healthy meal, but a better option than beef burgers nutrition-wise when consumed occasionally in moderation as part of a balanced diet.