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The Impossible Burger? Or the Imposter Burger?

Made from plant proteins (usually wheat, pea, lentils, or soy) and heme (the iron-containing compound that makes meat red), several meat-like foods have popped up recently, including the Impossible Burger and the Beyond Meat Burger.

So should you give up beef burgers and opt to eat only Impossible Burgers (or another plant-based brand) instead?

The answer depends on how much you like beef burgers.

That’s because the Impossible Burger is not healthier than a beef burger. It’s just another option.

It contains roughly the same number of calories and saturated fat as a beef burger. It also has more sodium and less protein.

And, much like breakfast cereal, it’s fortified with some vitamins, minerals, and fiber.

Rather than a health food, think of the Impossible Burger as a meat substitute that doesn’t come from a farm dependent on prophylactic antibiotics, which can lead to antibiotic resistance. If you want to go out and get a burger with friends, this is one way to do it.

But meat-like burgers are not equal to kale, sweet potatoes, quinoa, and other whole foods.

The same is true of pastas, breads, and baked goods that are fortified with pea, lentil, and other plant protein sources.

These options are great for people who lead busy, complex lives—and especially helpful when used as a substitute for less healthy, more highly-refined options. But they’re not a substitute for real, whole foods like broccoli.

Whether the Impossible Burger is right for you depends a lot on your values and where you are in your nutritional journey.

If you want to give up meat for spiritual reasons (for example, you can’t stand the thought of killing an animal), but aren’t ready to embrace a diet rich in tofu, beans, lentils, and greens, protein-enriched meat-free substitutes may be a good way to help you align your eating choices with your values.

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