So let me get this straight: there are vegans who want to eat something that looks like, smells like, and even tastes like....RED MEAT?!?! No, really?? Oh, and it even bleeds like meat. What the what?!?!
While I do not agree with the scientific/ecological arguments for vegetarianism, I understand that many people choose to be vegan or vegetarian for ethical/personal/religious reasons. I certainly can't argue those positions, and I respect them. That said, why would you want to replicate the sensation of consuming animal flesh if the mere idea of it is nauseating to you? I am not a cannibal, and if someone offered me a burger that looked like, smelled like, tasted like, and even bled like human flesh, I would most certainly pass!!!
A couple years ago I went out to a very fancy dinner in San Francisco with my boyfriend and another couple. For the first time ever, I saw something called "The Impossible Burger" on the menu. I recall being dumbfounded by the sheer idea of it. At the time, I wrote it off in my head as some silly nouveau chic and trendy food fad that would surely soon pass.
Now, here we are a few years later, and even Burger King is getting on the bandwagon with it's "Impossible Whopper!" In fact, I saw frozen faux burgers at Whole Foods today. It's everywhere. And companies like Impossible Burger and Beyond Meat are growing like crazy!! Every want-to-be-healthy trend-spotter is diving all in on the prospect of pseudo meat.
But this begs the question:
Is the Impossible Burger Possibly Healthy???
Or is it just all hype?
This wouldn't be the first time the public was duped into thinking a fake food-like substance was all that (and a bag of chips ;)
Remember Olestra? I bet your colon still does.
How about Canola Oil? Oh, did you still think this was healthy? Hint- the real seed it comes from is called "Rapeseed." No really.
Soy Protein Isolate? Uh, yeah, still in everything. My thyroid will never be the same.
Before I keep dumping on poor Impossible Burgers, let's take a look at their 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.
Now, before you tell me that soy is a health food, let's get some facts straight. Soy, in of itself, is not a demon or frankenfood. But the way it has been consumed for hundreds of years in Asia, is nothing at all like the ingredients you see above. Soy protein isolate and concentrate are exactly what they sound like: extracted and isolated/concentrated from soy. It is not the whole food at all. These extracted amino acids from the soy legume are not meant to be consumed by humans in large quantities, and when they are, they can wreak havoc on the thyroid and other hormones. I went on a bender with the stuff when I got into bodybuilding years ago, and didn't want to dig too deep on red meat or whey. So I proceeded to mainline soy protein shakes, and have now fried my thyroid to the point of needing replacement therapy for the rest of my life. But if you want to dig in on the harder science and not take my word for it, I recommend you read The Whole Soy Story.
Soy Leghemoglobin was a new one to me. According to Impossible Foods' website, leghemoglobin is just the legume hemoglobin found naturally in soy. They also say that the "heme" iron in soy (a legume) is exactly like that of real meat, and this is why their burgers taste like real burgers. Well the problem with that is that while it does indeed bind to oxygen, it does not function the same as heme found in animal products. Oh, and did I mention that it doesn't actually come from soy fields? They genetically modify and produce the soy used in these burgers in a lab! It actually took a while to get the go ahead from the FDA because soy leghemoglobin had NEVER been consumed by humans before. AND- the only study we have on it was done on rats eating high doses for 28 consecutive days with no ramifications. Considering rats can also eat through my thick plastic trash cans, I'm not taking that as solace.
When I looked into Beyond Meat's burgers, the ingredient list was actually much less concerning:
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).
But while the ingredients don't so much bother me, the nutrition label does. Not because it's egregiously bad for you, but because so many people think that this all plant-based option is lower calorie and fat. Wrong! Here is the nutrition label on a Beyond Meat burger:
Now, below is a label from the basic grass-fed/organic ground beef I buy for my family:
How interesting! The all-beef patty is lower calorie, lower fat, and lower carb. Hmmm.... and yet Beyond Meat is a healthier option??? Says who?? And why??
Okay, one final point, because I know you red-meat haters out there are going to slam me that a plant-based diet is healthier for Mother Earth. Uh, no.
I'm not saying that we shouldn't eat tons of varied healthy fruits, veggies, and other fibrous foods. What I am saying is that calorically, we cannot feed the world on plants alone. Secondly, we need ruminant animals to till the soil naturally for us, provide much needed fertilizer to make sure our crops are vitamin and mineral rich, and to allow crops to be rotated to avoid another dust bowl. That said, I also believe animals should be raised and slaughtered humanely and with as much care to use the whole animal as possible. Lastly, I think we should only feed the animals what nature intended them to eat- this does not include soy, and pieces of their brethren for Pete's sake!
While I could rant for ages on all the reasons a vegan diet is not ideal for our physiology and our planet, I do not need to, as some much wiser than I have already done so. Please learn more by visiting:
And my favorite go-to expert on the subject, Diana Rodgers
If you've read this far I thank you for listening to me rant and rave. I get frustrated and worried when the public gloms onto the latest in a "health food" fad without having the real information.
What do you think? Have you tried these burgers and are you a fan? Chime in below!