How do you know if Impossible Burger is bad?

The Impossible Burger is a plant-based burger that mimics the taste and texture of real meat. It’s made by Impossible Foods, a company dedicated to creating plant-based replacements for animal products. The Impossible Burger contains ingredients like soy protein, coconut oil, and heme – an iron-containing molecule that contributes to the meaty flavor.

The Impossible Burger has skyrocketed in popularity in recent years as more people look to reduce their consumption of animal products. It’s now served in thousands of restaurants across the US and in grocery stores as well. However, some people question how healthy the Impossible Burger really is. This article will look at how to know if the Impossible Burger is bad for you.

Nutritional Profile

First, let’s examine the basic nutritional profile of the Impossible Burger patty compared to a similarly sized beef burger patty:

Nutrition Facts Impossible Burger Patty (4oz) Beef Patty (4oz)
Calories 240 290
Total Fat 14g 23g
Saturated Fat 8g 9g
Cholesterol 0mg 90mg
Sodium 370mg 90mg
Protein 19g 20g

Looking at this basic comparison, we can see that the Impossible Burger is lower in calories, total fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol compared to beef. However, it does contain significantly more sodium.


To understand whether the Impossible Burger may be unhealthy, we need to look deeper at its specific ingredients:

– Soy protein concentrate: This is the main protein source used to mimic the texture of ground beef. Soy is a common allergen and GMO concerns have been raised.

– Coconut oil: This plant-based oil provides fat and flavor. But some argue tropical oils high in saturated fat like coconut oil should be limited.

– Sunflower oil: Added for fat content. Sunflower oil is high in omega-6 fatty acids which some think could be too high.

– Natural flavors: Proprietary blend of yeast, spices, etc to mimic meat flavor. We don’t know the full details.

– Soy leghemoglobin (heme): Key ingredient providing meaty flavor. It’s produced by genetically engineered yeast which raises GMO concerns.

– Methylcellulose: Provides texture and binds ingredients. It’s an additive derived from cellulose.

– Potato protein: Used to mimic meat texture. Minimal concerns.

– Maltodextrin: Provides thickness and binding. It’s a lightly processed powdered carb.

– Yeast extract: Umami flavoring agent. Contains glutamates which may cause reactions in sensitive individuals.

So in looking at the specific ingredients, there are some potential concerns like allergens, GMOs, tropical oils, additives, and sodium content. However, many of these ingredients like sunflower oil and methylcellulose are considered relatively neutral and not too worrisome on their own by most experts. The ingredients do allow the Impossible Burger to closely mimic meat.

Heme and Controversy

One of the most controversial ingredients in the Impossible Burger is soy leghemoglobin, known as heme. This iron-containing protein molecule is found abundantly in blood and muscles and contributes to the taste and aroma of meat. Impossible Foods manufactures heme through fermentation of genetically engineered yeast. This allows the Impossible Burger to have a meaty, bloody flavor like beef.

Some argue that this highly processed GE ingredient using synthetic biology crosses a line in terms of technological modification of food. Questions remain about the long-term safety of widespread consumption of heme. The FDA did approve heme as GRAS or “generally recognized as safe” which allows it to be sold. But the ingredient does represent a new area of synthetic biotech-engineered food additives which merits further scrutiny.

Additionally, some studies have shown heme iron in red meat may contribute to increased risk of certain cancers or heart disease. The heme in the Impossible Burger could theoretically have similar effects and raises questions about whether it provides the same health issues associated with meat. More long-term research is needed.

Nutrition Factors

There are several nutritional factors to be aware of with the Impossible Burger:

– High sodium: Each patty contains 370mg sodium which is 16% of the daily recommended limit. Eating multiple patties or meals may risk going over the healthy threshold.

– Lack of nutrients: The heavily processed Impossible Burger lacks many of the vitamins, minerals, and nutrients found in beef and other less processed foods. Relying on it too frequently could lead to deficiencies long-term.

– Highly processed: The 22 ingredients allow the burger to mimic meat but result in a highly engineered processed food. Some ingredients like maltodextrin, methylcellulose and heme are made in labs unlike more whole food proteins and fats.

– Allergens: Contains potential allergens and sensitive ingredients like soy, coconut, yeast extract which could cause issues for some people with food sensitivities. Always check label.

– GMOs: Contains GMO corn and GMO yeast, along with controversial heme ingredient. Those wishing to avoid GMOs should be aware. Non-GMO certified Impossible Beef is unavailable.

So while the Impossible Burger compares decently from a basic nutritional standpoint to beef burgers, there are some vitamins, minerals, and fiber lacking compared to less processed options. There are also allergen and sensitive ingredients used to engineer this plant-based Frankenburger that merit consideration.

Environmental Impact

In terms of sustainability, the Impossible Burger does provide some advantages over industrial cattle farming which can negatively impact the environment through methane emissions, water usage, and land degradation.

However, the hyper-processing and manufacturing of the Impossible Burger does entail environmental tradeoffs as well, including:

– GMO monocropping: GMO corn and soy used as ingredients promote large-scale monocropping which can reduce agricultural biodiversity.

– Resource intensive production: The Impossible Burger requires energy, water, and resources to manufacture heme through fermentation, assemble ingredients, and distribute across the country.

– Potentially unsustainable palm oil: Early versions of the Impossible Burger contained palm oil associated with deforestation until Impossible Foods developed a “Sunflower Oil” containing alternative. However, sustainability concerns around their sourcing of coconut oil as another tropical oil remain.

– High amount of packaging: The Impossible Burger is sold in individual plastic wrapped packaging, contributing to plastic pollution and waste compared to buying locally sourced beef.

So while the Impossible Burger requires fewer resources than cattle to produce, it does still entail intensive agricultural and industrial processes during production, along with transportation emissions associated with national distribution.

Taste and Texture

In terms of taste and texture, the Impossible Burger does come astonishingly close to mimicking the flavor, aroma, color and juiciness of real beef burgers. The plant-based heme molecule closely replicates the taste and smell of meat, especially when cooked on high heat.

However, there are still discernible differences from beef for some tasters including:

– Less fatty mouthfeel: The plant-based fats like coconut oil don’t quite mimic the fatty mouth coating of beef fat.

– Mild aftertaste: Some notice a slightly odd aftertaste from the soy and coconut.

– Differences in texture: While very similar, the plant protein texture doesn’t perfectly replicate meat.

– Less flavor variation: The single optimized Impossible Burger formulation lacks the range of flavors from different beef cuts.

So while the Impossible Burger certainly replicates much of the sensory experience of eating beef, picky foodies may still notice subtle differences, especially in direct side-by-side taste tests. But it does come surprisingly close to real meat unlike any other vegetarian burger.

Potential Benefits

Despite some concerns, there are also a few potential benefits to the Impossible Burger for consumers:

– Lower calories and fat: The Impossible Burger is lower in total calories, fat, and saturated fat compared to a beef burger. This could help reduce intake of these dietary components if substituted.

– Source of plant protein: The soy and potato proteins in the Impossible Burger provide a high-quality plant-based source of protein comparable to beef. This makes it appealing to vegetarians/vegans.

– Heme iron source: The soy leghemoglobin in the Impossible Burger allows it to provide the unique iron nutrient heme iron, not typically found in plant foods. This could benefit those at risk of iron deficiency.

– Flexitarian option: The burger can appeal to flexitarians looking to diversify their protein sources and reduce meat consumption without compromising on taste.

– Gluten-free: The ingredients in the Impossible Burger make it suitable for those following a gluten-free diet, providing a plant-based burger option.

– Environmental impact: Replaces some of the environmental costs of industrial beef production through its plant-based manufacturing which may be viewed as beneficial.

So for certain consumers like vegans, vegetarians, flexitarians, and those seeking gluten-free plant proteins, the Impossible Burger can offer nutritional and sensory benefits compared to other options on the market.


The Impossible Burger offers a remarkably meat-like plant-based burger option thanks to ingredients like heme. But concerns have been raised about its highly processed formulation of GMO soy, coconut oil, artificial flavors, additives and synthetic biotech ingredients. From a nutrition standpoint, it lacks some of the micronutrients found in beef and contains excess sodium. While it provides an appealing plant-based option for some, the Impossible Burger cannot be considered a whole food or health food. Moderating intake and relying on it as an occasional substitute rather than dietary staple is probably wise until more research emerges on its long-term health effects. But overall, it succeeds remarkably at replicating the taste and texture of real beef burgers through innovative food engineering.

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