GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — By now you’ve likely seen the ads: Impossible Burgers, all the burger with zero the beef.
National chains like Burger King, Qdoba and even McDonald’s are starting to provide a variety of meatless options of classic menu items, but are they any better for you than their meaty counterparts?
Dr. Krisit Artz, medical director of lifestyle medicine & virtual health at Spectrum Health says the answer is no.
“People hear that they’re plant-based alternatives to meat products, so they think they may be healthier. But in fact, when you look at the ingredient list, they’re typically high in saturated fat, high in sodium, and they’re really just a processed food,” Artz said. “They don’t have the health halo that people think they should have.”
According to Burger King’s nutrition website, one thing their 100% meatless Whopper has going for it is 80 milligrams less cholesterol than the original sandwich. However, it does have 10% more sodium and nearly 20% more carbohydrates — both ingredients Artz says are needed to help compensate the flavor and qualities a burger normally has before removing the meat.
“These burgers actually sizzle like ground beef would. People are really surprised when they see the product, they smell it, they see how it cooks and it’s really similar,” Artz says. “They aren’t a whole food though — very much processed, kind of developed in a test tube, put into the products, so it even bleeds, which is really crazy.”
Given the similarities between both, Artz says the Impossible Burger is a nice transitional product for those who suffer from cardiovascular disease and others looking to remove beef from their daily diet.
“Heart disease, stroke, even things like diabetes other brain disorders, auto immune diseases there’s definitely evidence to support whole food plant-based eating to improve your health,” Artz said. “You don’t really eat a burger to be healthy. Those who really want something healthier would be better off eating a black bean burger or something along those lines.”
The true benefit the Impossible burgers provide isn’t nutritional, but environmental. As a more sustainable food option, the patties don’t come from animals, therefore reducing greenhouse gas emission from beef farms.
And while the meatless burgers may not be the healthiest meal you could eat, Artz is convinced they will stick around and improve soon.
“It’s probably here to stay. I think there’s definitely a growing trend toward people moving to more plant-based diets,” Artz said. “I think like with everything else, we’ll see these products becoming better, healthier, better ingredients being used, and there are still already great products on the market that are based on whole foods.”