Gabrielle Mancella, RD
With major national brands launching lines like Incogmeato and menu items like the Impossible Whopper, faux meat is moving from a specialty item to mainstream trend. The Beyond Burger and Impossible Burger get a lot of the credit for driving the buzz about plant-based patties that mimic the taste and texture of a beefy burger.
But as more people shift to meatless eating, it’s worth exploring whether these meat substitutes actually are better for us than beef.
Meatless Eating on the Rise
There was a time when the world was divided into two categories: meat-eaters and vegans. Those categories have blurred as fewer people eat meat and those who do consume less of it. Seventy percent of the world’s population has decreased its meat consumption. Some reasons include concerns about animal welfare, the environmental impact of ranching and health effects.
Even though people may eat less meat, they still crave it (or a reasonable facsimile). Enter the meat-alternative industry. Although meat substitutes have been around for years, recently two brands have come closer than any other to approximating the texture and taste of genuine meat.
Beyond the Impossible: A Comparison
The Beyond Burger is made of pea protein, with beet extract, which gives it a red color. The Impossible Burger is primarily made from water and soy protein concentrate and is fortified with vitamins and minerals lost in processing. An ingredient in the Impossible Burger, called soy leghemoglobin, makes the burger appear to bleed like real meat.
The nutritional breakdown between the two brands is similar. However, compared to beef, the meatless options are lower in calories, cholesterol, fat and saturated fat. While comparable in protein, they are superior in fiber. Although sodium in these meatless options is higher than for beef, that often can be countered by increasing your water intake.
In addition to nutritional values, plant-based foods can help reduce inflammation and are easier for the body to break down and digest. Meat substitutes with less fat and more fiber can fill you up without the additional calories, an attractive option if you’re trying to lose weight.
The Choice Is Yours
The Beyond Burger and the Impossible Burger are not the only meatless choices available. If you’re considering trying faux meat, be sure to read the ingredient list. Bean or pea protein should be at the top of the list, indicating ingredients that are used the most. Some options have 10 or fewer ingredients (which essentially means there are not as many fillers).
My rule of thumb is to see if I can pronounce the ingredients on the list. If they aren’t too complex, it helps confirm they are as close to their natural state as possible.
As more meatless choices continue to be added, we’ll get the best of both worlds: We’ll have even more options to have our hamburgers and be healthy too.