Today in school, my teacher brought Impossible Burgers for us to try during lunch. We lit a grill and placed the patties on like a typical hamburger. So that raised the question, what are they if not meat?
While the patty is made of many ingredients ranging from soy protein concentrate to salt and water, the element that gives meat substitutes like Impossible Burger its flavor is heme. Heme is an iron-rich precursor to hemoglobin necessary for binding oxygen in the bloodstream. While this molecule is generally made in animal tissue and muscle, the heme in Impossible Burger is a product of yeast fermentation in the soy base.
While meatless burgers act and taste similar to beef, some people are turned off by the high degree of processing used to make such a burger. So, how bad is this meatless meat for your health? According to Harvard Health Publishing, wanting to stay away from such processed foods is a valid argument. To replicate a burger's texture and taste, high degrees of saturated fat and salt must be put into the plant base to make that happen—no matter what, this will always stunt the health benefits of eating a vegan burger. The article points out a compound in soy called isoflavones that reduces the chances of cancer. Even though the main base of the burger is soy, "one serving contains less than 8% of the isoflavones found in one serving of whole soy foods."
So why ever eat this burger? While the processed burger tends to limit its health benefits compared to the regular meat-based burger, you must remember that your average cheeseburger is not the healthiest. Regarding the health benefits of the impossible burger, it matches the meat version in terms of proteins and exceeds its counterpart frequently when it comes to minerals. However, it's not just the health benefits either. We haven't even discussed one of the most important benefits of a vegan burger yet. The fact that it's vegan! As the negative impacts of industrialized farming are being made known to more and more people, the vegan burger is one of the best tools to help people who want to turn away from meat but also enjoy the taste of ground beef.
While the impossible burger's processed label can bring it a bad reputation, it has its positives too, just like its meaty counterpart. If you haven't already, I recommend you try an impossible burger. It's not for everyone, but it is worth a shot.
Daniel Kim (August 2022)