Are you curious about the surge in popularity of plant-based burgers like the Impossible and Beyond Burgers? Wondering our thoughts on these new food products? This article provides insights and recommendations that will help you make the best decisions for your health and your principles. 

Eating it up…

Both Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat (makers of the Impossible Burger and Beyond Burger, respectively) are astoundingly-fast-growing businesses. Beyond Meat took the IPO step earlier this year – a Forbes contributor, in September, called them ‘probably the hottest stock in the world’ and described it as ‘the top-performing IPO of the year and one of the best of all time.’ ‘I’ve never seen anything quite like this…’ ponders this same expert. 

iftheir degree of processing is to use the NOVA classification system, the most prominent system used in scientific investigations and by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. NOVA recognizes four levels of processing of foods: unprocessed or minimally processed, processed culinary ingredients, processed foods and ultra-processed foods.

  • Classes of additives whose function is to make the final product palatable or more appealing: these include flavors, colors, emulsifiers, thickeners, etc. 

AccA the Impossible Burger and Beyond Burger are considered ultra-processed food products. Here is a list of their ingredients, which shows the use of fractionated whole foods, ingredients with other types of industrial processing, flavors, and additives. 

Impossible Burger Beyond 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), Vitamin B12. Sourced from Impossible Foods 11-03-19Ingredients: Water, Pea Protein Isolate*, Expeller-Pressed Canola Oil, Refined Coconut Oil, Rice Protein, Natural Flavors, Cocoa Butter, Mung Bean Protein, Methylcellulose, Potato Starch, Apple Extract, Salt, Potassium Chloride, Vinegar, Lemon Juice Concentrate, Sunflower Lecithin, Pomegranate Fruit Powder, Beet Juice Extract (for color) Sourced from Beyond Meat 11-03-19

awal Medicine we don’t consider the Nutrition Facts box to be the be-all-and-end-all of a food’s health value. There’s a whole host of nutrition information not covered by it after all. However, it is readily available and often compared. So let’s take a look – how do the Beyond Burger and Impossible Burger stack up in the Nutrition Facts box?

To do th, her processed, fast-food burger, the Big Mac with no bun. Is it a fair comparison? Impossible Foods seems to think so – their website says: The Impossible Burger is made from proteins, flavors, fats, and binders, like almost every burger you’ve eaten in your life. They themselves are comparing their product to processed burgers. 

Here’s the cp:p:paragraph –>

Nutrient Factsan Big Mac patty without bun 

3. ghssible Burger)

Heme is the magic cosi taste and bleed as a beef burger would. Although you don’t see it on the ingredient list, it’s there within soy leghemoglobin (SLH). Impossible Foods makes SLH by first genetically engineering yeast to contain the SLH gene. They then grow the yeast via fermentation and then isolate the SHL and add it (and the heme within it) to the burger mix. 

In July 2019, the FDA s:/document?D=FDA-2018-C-4464-0002″>Rule document amending the color additive regulations to allow for the use of SLH as a color additive. In it it states that: “Impossible Foods made its own determination, to which we had no questions, that the use of soy leghemoglobin preparation to optimize flavor in ground beef analogue products intended to be cooked is generally recognized as safe (GRAS).” They state that their decision was made based on results from a 14-day and two 28-day rat studies that showed “no evidence of mutagenic activity or increased chromosomal aberrations in cells.”

The Center for Science in the iz of SLH calling it a ‘barebones’ review of safety. CSPI Senior Scientist Lisa Lefferts said: “FDA’s guidance recommends long-term safety testing for additives like soy leghemoglobin, which fall in the agency’s highest ‘concern level’ category due to the extent of exposure. Instead, FDA relied heavily on a short-term (28-day) study, which provides no evidence of long-term safety.”

Other industrially produced ingredients once aps reversed as better data became available: partially hydrogenated oils, are perhaps the best known. In 2018, the FDA banned seven artificial flavors commonly used in baked goods, ice cream, candy, beverages and chewing gum, that were found to cause cancer in lab animals. Companies were given a rather generous 24 months to find substitute ingredients. 

4. Potential pesticide residues (Bug –>

Since the Impossible Burger uses soy that is geneo (the main active ingredient in Round Up), several groups have posited the concern that the burgers may contain pesticide residues. 

Impossible Foods has published reports from their six batch tests showing that glyphosate was not detected above 0.005 ppm (essentially a ‘negative’ result). The consumer advocacy group, Mom’s Across America (MMA) published their own testing done in April this year contradicting the Impossible Foods findings – the MMA tests, done through Health Research Institute Laboratories, showed glyphosate levels of 11.3 ng/g (equivalent to 0.0113 ppb). Impossible Foods has heavily contested MMA’s publication with scorching, defamatory tactics.

We’d say the jury’s still out about pesticide exposure fr Bentally, are non-GMO (non-genetically engineered) verified and so have less of a concern (but not no concern) about potential pesticide residues.

While we’re on the subject, are vegan diets really

Health is often a major reason for choosing to restrict or avoid m cee that poorly-implemented vegan diets lead to nutrient insufficiencies (seen on lab tests as well as through other indicators), are harmful to health and can perpetuate the very diseases our patients were trying to address or prevent. 

Vegan diets are not alone there – any diet poorly implemented cti are always to help patients implement the healthiest version of diets, respectful of their wider principles and dietary preferences. 

Where blood sugar and insulin dysregulation are factors however, diCOS/hormonal imbalances, overweight/obesity, cognitive impairment, and cancer are some relevant examples), vegan diets can in some cases be too high in carbohydrates and too low in other nutrients to be effective therapeutically. 

Our dietary toolkit is broad and evidence-based; applied in a higo works with us. Barring some unique medical situations, plant food dominates our dietary plans, but not usually to the absolute exclusion of meat and fish.   

Let’s not give up on the goals

g more plant foods is beneficial for healthonls, fiber and powerful (and still not comprehensively understood) phytonutrients, which are essential for addressing the epidemic of chronic disease. High meat consumption, especially processed red meats like bacon, hot dogs, sausages, is associated with an increased risk of type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, certain types of cancer and overall mortality.  

We also concur that finding sustainable foods with low envir/s//www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/sustainability/”>pressing societal need. We fully recognize the interconnections between ecological and human health and have written and discussed those very issues before

However, we cannot conclude that an ultra-processed food southredients, is the solution.

In fairness to Beyond Meats, we think their burger does come ouister ingredients and non-GMO status. They are, however, secretive about their production processes making it hard to evaluate, and ultimately still fall into the ultra-processed foods category. 

A smattering of the conclusions reached by research on ultra-procesthenience) as a group is pretty convincing:

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, issues raised with UPFs are that they:

  • use chemically-manufactured ingredients not found naturally 
  • imli>
  • displace whole foods in the diet 
  • are often aggressively marketed without comprehensively or accurately informing the consumer. (For instance, the marketing for plant-based burgers is often more in line with natural, organic items whereas in fact they are highly processed.)
  • are, in general, associated with increased rates of chronic disease – obesity, cardiovascular, cancer, depression, asthma, gastrointestinal disorders and all-cause mortality

What would we recommend instead?

  • Aim for 8+ cups of varied and colorful, non-starchy vegetables per day.
  • olwhenever possible.
  • Choose grass-fed, free range, antibiotic / hormone free animal products whenever possible.
  • When opting for packaged foods, choose the least processed options available (e.g., short ingredient list, natural / recognizable ingredients, minimal preservatives / additives / flavorings / colorings). 

To find animal protein sources with a lower carbon footprint, check out our blog post, and to choose and source local food as much as possible, you can use this resource

An alternative to processed burgers, we hope you’ll consider making your ow Hul suggestions: 

And for the occasional meat burger, we like to mix it up with plant foods too. Chec=”zgerald.com/recipe/beet-beef-burger-salad-methylation-support/” target=”_blank” rel=”noreferrer noopener”>Beet Beef Burger for Methylation Support. It contains rosemary too, which has been shown to reduce heterocyclic amine (pro-oxidant, pro-carcinogenic compounds formed from grilling all types of foods) formation during cooking.

So, should I buy stock in Beyond Meat?

ss of financial advice! However, the same Forbes contributor cited above gave some relevant thoughts that further contextualize the market for plant-based meats and the choices we, as consumers, face. He fires a blazing caution to those who are considering jumping into the Beyond Meat stock craze. He braised it down to two main reasons why your fingers could get a little charred:

Firstly, despite first-mover advantages, plant-based burgers are replicable. Big”hm/2019/10/14/business/the-new-makers-of-plant-based-meat-big-meat-companies.html”>are already developing and launching their own versions. Secondly, it’s a craze! The hysteria will fade away. The ‘next new thing’ will rise above it.

From our vantage point, we would simply add that if something doesn’t deliver on one eslast in the long run. 

Thanks to in training in our clinic as she works towards the Certified Nutrition Specialist credential.