So-called fake meat, or alternative meat products, is rising in popularity as consumers look to eat a more sustainable diet. But are the plant-based burgers really better for the environment? And how do they compare to meat in terms of calories and health benefits?
There is no industry-wide term for these products. Traditional meat companies argue that the word “meat” should apply only to animal-raised protein. In general, alternative meat products fall into two categories: plant-based protein and cell-based protein, NBC News reports.
Based on calories alone, plant-based protein is healthier than animal-based meat. The Impossible Whopper from Burger King is lower in calories, fat and cholesterol than the regular Whopper. Cell-based meat also has the potential to be healthier than regular animal meat because it can be engineered to contain more protein, essential amino acids and vitamins while reducing the amount of saturated fat and minimizing the chance of animal-borne illnesses (such as salmonella and E. coli) contaminating the meat.
The Impossible Whopper is lower in calorie content, but it contains significantly more sodium than the regular Whopper as well as a myriad of other highly processed ingredients like modified food starch, cultured dextrose and soy protein isolate.