The Impossible Burger is a vegan burger substitute that’s becoming more and more popular as an alternative to meat burgers. It’s made by Impossible Foods, a company that develops meatless food that is as close to red meat as possible.
The Impossible Burger has attracted a fair amount of controversy since its release. Is it really healthier than red meat?
Nutritionists and dietitians have weighed in from both sides of the argument. Proponents of the Impossible Burger claim it’s healthier than a beef burger, while others claim that some Impossible Burger ingredients do you more harm than good.
Is the Impossible Burger healthy? And, as a follow-up question, is the Impossible Burger keto?
This article will cover the carb content and ingredients in the Impossible Burger, how it compares to a normal beef burger, and whether or not you should eat the Impossible Burger on a ketogenic diet.
The Impossible Burger is a plant-based, vegan burger substitute. It’s made up primarily of soy protein, potato protein, dextrose, yeast, vegetable (and other plant oils), and fortified with some vitamins.
One of its most notable characteristics is that the Impossible Burger contains a chemically-modified heme molecule. This makes it “bleed” just like real beef.
But unlike the heme found in beef, Impossible Burger creators genetically-engineered plant-based heme molecules. They do this by taking DNA from the roots of soy plants and inserting genetically-engineered and fermented yeast.
The Impossible Burger’s creators took great care in creating a veggie burger that mimics the taste and feel of real beef. The Impossible Burger includes:
- Soy Protein Concentrate
- Coconut Oil
- Sunflower Oil
- Natural Flavors
2% or less of:
- Potato Protein
- Yeast Extract
- Cultured Dextrose
- Food Starch Modified
- Soy Leghemoglobin
- Soy Protein Isolate
- Mixed Tocopherols (Vitamin E)
- Zinc Gluconate
- Thiamine Hydrochloride (Vitamin B1)
- Sodium Ascorbate (Vitamin C)
- Pyridoxine Hydrochloride (Vitamin B6)
- Riboflavin (Vitamin B2)
- Vitamin B12
At first glance, these ingredients may not seem too bad. After all, the creators have managed to manipulate a fully bleeding burger from some soy protein, additives, and vitamins.
But is the Impossible Burger healthy? Let’s just say you might want to avoid eating too many of these if you’re vegetarian or vegan.
And if you’re a meat-eater? Always opt for high-quality beef over franken-meats. Let’s dive into some of the details and learn why you might want to avoid the Impossible Burger as a main protein source.
However, the Impossible Burger has a few questionable ingredients you’ll want to be aware of.
The Impossible Burger is a highly processed and genetically-engineered food product that you should avoid at all costs. Especially if you can get your protein from other whole foods-based sources.
Crafted mostly from soy protein and genetically-engineered heme protein to enhance the “meaty” taste and make the burger “bleed” like real meat, the Impossible Burger is up there with some of the most processed food on the planet.
Here’s a glimpse into some of the worst offenders on the ingredients list:
The majority of the fat in an Impossible Burger comes from sunflower oil.
Sunflower oil is a dense source of omega-6 fatty acids, which may contribute to inflammation and metabolic disease[*]. Omega-6s are essential fats — your body needs a small amount of them to survive. But if you eat too many omega-6s, they compete with healthy omega-3s, driving low-grade inflammation throughout your body.
For long-term health, you want to maintain an omega-6 to omega-3 ratio of 4:1 of lower[*]. Most Americans have a ratio of closer to 20:1, and it’s largely because so many foods contain vegetable oils like sunflower oil.
For comparison, a grass-fed beef burger contains abundant omega-3 fats and lots of high-quality saturated fat, with very few omega-6 fats. Between the Impossible Burger and a grass-fed beef burger, the beef burger wins in terms of fatty acid composition.
GMO Soy Leghemoglobin and Soy Protein
The Impossible Burger’s creators, Impossible Foods, are proudly pro-GMO. They use GMO soy in their products, and they state on their website that they’ve “always embraced the responsible, constructive use of genetic engineering to solve critical environmental, health, safety, and food security problems.”
And to be fair, there are legitimate benefits to genetically modifying food. GMO crops allow for a higher yield on smaller plots of land, which can help feed the growing global population. GMOs also decrease the cost of food, making it more affordable for the average person.
The Concern with GMOs in Food
The typical argument against GMOs is that we don’t know their long-term effects. While that’s true, it doesn’t make a particularly compelling case — food has been changing through evolutionary pressures and selective farming for thousands of years.
The more pressing concern with GMOs is how they’re modified. Genetically engineered soy is made to withstand massive amounts of glyphosate, the main weedkiller produced by agricultural giant Monsanto.
Genetic modification allows farmers to spray their soybean plants with several times more glyphosate than organic plants can handle. The excess glyphosate kills everything that might damage or compete with the soybeans, but thanks to genetic modification, the soybeans stay intact.
Monsanto, the creator and leading manufacturer of glyphosate, is currently facing more than a thousand lawsuits from people who have developed lymphoma after using glyphosate. Monsanto has also lost several high-profile court cases in the last few years. Most recently, they paid $2 billion in damages to a couple, both of whom developed non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma after regular glyphosate use in their garden[*].
On top of that, glyphosate causes significant environmental damage by degrading soil quality and interfering with local ecosystems. A recent study found that glyphosate-based herbicides reduced earthworm activity by 56% and increased soil nitrate concentration by more than 1500%, posing considerable risk to both farmland and nearby water-based habitats[*].
And, finally, glyphosate decreases nutrient density in soybeans[*].
So while GMO plants may not be an issue on their own, the pesticides sprayed on them are concerning, both for the environment and for your health. You’re better off eating an organic, grass-fed beef burger that comes from local cows.
The Impossible Burger has nine grams of total carbs and six grams of net carbs per burger. From a carb standpoint, you could get away with eating an Impossible Burger and probably staying in ketosis.
But as a comparison, a grass-fed beef burger contains zero carbs and doesn’t include a laundry list of additives and GMOs.
This veggie burger plays pretty nice with ketogenic macros with 6 grams of net carbs:
- 240 calories per 4-oz serving
- 14g fat (including 8g saturated fat)
- 6g net carbs
- 19g protein
Other than the extra carbs, those macros are a fairly close match to the real thing. Take a look at the nutrition of a beef patty made with 85% lean meat:
- 240 calories per 4-oz serving
- 17g fat (including 7g saturated fat)
- 0g net carbs
- 21g protein
From a macronutrient standpoint, the Impossible Burger may not kick you out of ketosis. However, eating a couple of servings of fake meat products like this might.
And don’t let the macronutrients sway you. The Impossible Burger is HIGHLY processed and contains a number of ingredients you shouldn’t eat on any diet, let alone a healthy keto diet.
Yes, the Impossible Burger is 100% vegan. But while they don’t contain any animal products or animal byproducts, the company did employ animal testing to make sure their genetically-engineered plant heme molecules were safe for human consumption[*].
Something to keep in mind if you avoid certain products for animal welfare reasons.
While the Impossible Burger has a fairly good macronutrient ratio, it contains ingredients like GMO soy and canola oil that leave a lot to be desired. If you follow a keto diet, a grass-fed beef burger is a way better choice for you when it comes to both taste and health.
While we don’t recommend a fully vegetarian or vegan diet while going keto, it is technically possible. We just recommend working with a qualified practitioner to make sure you’re getting your protein and micronutrient needs met.
If you’re a vegetarian or vegan and you want to try keto, check out this guide to keto for vegetarians. It’ll show you how to take advantage of all the delicious plant-based options that fit into a keto diet.