Beyond Burgers and Impossible Burgers: Good or Bad for Your Health?

Beyond Burgers and Impossible Burgers Good or Bad for Your Health

Do you love a good, juicy burger? Are you wondering if you should give up beef for one of those plant-based burgers that look and taste like the real thing but without the meat? Meatless burgers like the Impossible Burger (the one that “bleeds” like the real thing) and Beyond Burger are everywhere these days, from high-end restaurants to Walmart. Even the nation’s ubiquitous fast food joints are adding them to the menu—McDonald’s, Burger King, White Castle, Carl’s Jr., and Hardee’s are all serving up meatless varieties of their most popular sellers.

And people are gulping them down by the millions. It isn’t just vegetarians and vegans who are indulging in the meatless burgers. Even tried and true beef lovers are giving these latest plant-based options a try. But what’s actually in these faux-meats and are they really good for you, or are they hiding ingredients that don’t serve you?

Be aware that the foods you eat either enhance your brain health, moods, and focus, or they can sabotage your mental well-being and contribute to anxiousness, low moods, and brain fog. According to a 2015 paper by a group of 18 scientists in The Lancet, “Diet is as important to psychiatry as it is to cardiology, endocrinology, and gastroenterology.” Increased awareness about the impact of food on mental health has led to a whole new field of nutritional psychiatry.

What you put in your mouth matters!

Beyond Burgers and Impossible Burgers vs. Beef Burgers

For optimal brain health, you need to learn to scrutinize the nutritional profiles of everything you eat. First, what’s in a typical beef burger patty?

Ground beef, 97% lean meat, 3% fat, cooked (4 oz):

Calories: 200

Fat: 11 g (including 4.5 grams of saturated fat)

Carbs: 0 g

Protein: 23 g

(Source: CalorieKing)

Here’s what’s on the labels for the Beyond Burger and Impossible Burger to see how they compare to the real thing.

Beyond Burger nutritional profile (4 oz):

Calories: 260

Fat: 18 g (including 5 g of saturated fat)

Carbs: 5 g (including 2 g of dietary fiber and 0 g of sugar)

Protein: 20 g

Impossible Burger nutritional profile (4 oz):

Calories: 240

Fat: 14 g (including 8 g of saturated fat)

Carbs: 9 g (including 3 g of dietary fiber and 1 g of sugar)

Protein: 19 g

As you can see, the amount of protein is close to what you’d find in a lean beef patty, but the plant-based versions are higher in calories, fats, and carbs.

What’s Really in Beyond Burgers and Impossible Burgers?

When reading nutrition labels, be sure to scour the entire list of ingredients. That’s where you are likely to find hidden sugars, potential allergens, artificial dyes, food additives, and other food-like substances that can mess with your brain health and mental well-being.

Here’s a look at the ingredients in these two popular plant-based burgers.

Beyond Burger ingredients:

Water, pea protein, expeller-pressed canola oil, refined coconut oil, rice protein, natural flavors, cocoa butter, mung bean protein, methylcellulose, potato starch, apple extract, pomegranate extract, salt, potassium chloride, vinegar, lemon juice concentrate, sunflower lecithin, beet juice extract (for color)

Impossible Burger 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), and vitamin B12.

First, notice that neither of these plant-based burgers contains any real vegetables—and no, pea protein and beet juice extract don’t really count.

The Downside of Meatless Burgers

In the Beyond Burger, there is canola oil, which is high in omega-6 fatty acids that are associated with increased inflammation. Chronic inflammation has been linked to depression, bipolar disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, schizophrenia, personality disorders, and Alzheimer’s disease.

In addition, the mung beans are a legume, which means they have high concentrations of lectins. These are carbohydrate-binding proteins, and in some people, they can be toxic, allergenic, and pro-inflammatory.

In the Impossible Burger, there are trace minerals and vitamins—such as B12, folate, thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, zinc, iron, and selenium—which is a good thing. However, there are several ingredients that are concerning, including the sunflower oil (high in omega-6 fatty acids that are pro-inflammatory), soy protein concentrate, soy protein isolate, and soy leghemoglobin.

Soy is a protein derived from soybeans, and it contains components that can be troublesome, including lectins; large amounts of pro-inflammatory omega-6 fatty acids; and phytoestrogens that may contribute to the development of cancer, early puberty in girls, and impotence in men. Soy protein isolate can also be an issue because it may contain monosodium glutamate (MSG), which has been linked to anger and irritability.

However, it’s the genetically engineered soy leghemoglobin, the stuff that gives this burger its signature “bleeding” effect, which is the most controversial. Safety testing of soy leghemoglobin has only been performed on animals, including a 2018 study on rats in the International Journal of Toxicology. In a 2019 statement, the Center for Science for Public Interest said that FDA testing on soy leghemoglobin remains inadequate.

Make Smart Food Choices

If you want to enhance your brain health and your mental well-being, always be informed about what you’re eating. If you’re considering an alternative to meat because you think it’s “healthier” be aware of the potentially concerning ingredients meatless burgers may contain. If you’re committed to an animal-free diet, then having one of these plant-based burgers once in a while is an option, but it’s probably best not to make them a part of your everyday diet. And if you decide to go for the real thing, opt for antibiotic-free, hormone-free, grass-fed, and free-range beef whenever possible.

At Amen Clinics, we take a brain-body approach to helping people overcome debilitating symptoms and achieve peak performance. We perform comprehensive evaluations that include brain SPECT imaging, as well as looking at the many lifestyle factors, such as diet, that can contribute to mental health symptoms or hold you back from reaching your potential. Our wrap-around services focus on the least toxic, most effective solutions, including brain health nutrition coaching.

At Amen Clinics, we’re here for you. We offer in-clinic brain scanning and appointments, as well as mental telehealth, remote clinical evaluations, and video therapy for adults, children, and couples. Find out more by speaking to a specialist today at 888-288-9834. If all our specialists are busy helping others, you can also schedule a time to talk.

4 Comments

  1. My son age 48 had been taking prescribed medication for mental health. When he tried to stop taking these he would have problems, which I now believe were from withdrawal. He now use herbs supplements, food, as well as cbd. Unfortunately we have little funds & he has medicaid which provided pills & that pill one size fits all. He is doing better except living in blighted Detroit along with covid stay @ home he is isolated from people & doesn’t drive. This makes him feel hopeless. Many people near me have been murdered as well & he feels unsafe. He complains when I drive him because he doesn’t have a car or a life & often blames me for that. I dont have sufficient funding for the essential s such as a new non-leaking roof. Between a rock & a hard place.

    Comment by Kathleen hales — July 16, 2020 @ 8:10 AM

  2. Thank you for publishing this article about the ingredients in beef burger plant-based substitutes. I’d like to add a caveat and a small correction for people about buying and consuming them: First, do you really want to pay the large food companies for another highly processed item? At least when you buy meat, the beef producer gets some of the dollar. As the article pointed out, they put some questionable ingredients into the meat substitute. Second, if you want to get the healthiest beef possible, buy it directly from the rancher. There are some ranchers that sell their beef directly online. Conventionally raised beef animals spend a few weeks living in a feed lot, which is a small, outdoor space in which they can’t walk a long way, and can eat only the feed provided, which is commonly corn and soy, which is not a steer’s natural food. However, this diet adds fat to the animal. Then they go to the slaughter house. The healthiest meat is grass finished. This means the steer eats grass near the end of its life, *not* the corn and soy of the conventionally raised animal. The meat from this animal also has a slightly different flavor from the conventionally raised animal, which many people prefer. I’m a Nebraskan, and I’ve eaten both kinds of beef (I prefer grass finished, but don’t eat it exclusively). Please, support the ranchers and buy real meat, not the fake stuff produced by big food.

    Comment by Susan Grande — July 17, 2020 @ 4:54 AM

  3. I have been meat free for over a decade and these are new and better tasting than the original garden burgers. I still say that ‘real’ meat is worse. It still increases cancer and heart disease and digestion issues abound, even if it’s organic rancher produced. It is still bad for the environment and exploits animals. Meat is an addiction, just try to quit and you’ll be met with withdrawals and condemnation from others who still use it. Of the two, the Beyond is better as it’s both gluten free and non GMO.

    Comment by Brad — July 17, 2020 @ 3:43 PM

  4. Thank you for pointing out that theses burgers are not better than eating meat. I am a vegan and although I occasionally eat veggie burgers I won’t eat these. They are so fattening and very high in saturated fat. I don’t eat meat to get away from that! Unfortunately my local grocery stores are carrying these burgers over others and many vegan cheeses that are also high in saturated fat. They’ve replaced the meat replacements they used to carry with those that are unhealthier. A lot of people still don’t read labels I’m afraid. And the fast food places are pushing them, mostly to meat eaters. I have written to Beyond Meat about this but didn’t get much of a reaction.

    Comment by Laurie A Jircitano — July 19, 2020 @ 12:08 PM

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