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On October 6, 2021, Burger King announced that the Impossible Whopper would be joined by equally “impossible” chicken nuggets. This, CNBC notes, continues Burger King’s trend of being the first large-scale chain to embrace Impossible products. Indeed, they beat the market to the punch with their burger and have now jumped ahead with their chicken.
However, celebrity chef and nutritionist Serena Poon wasn’t able to fully endorse the Impossible Nuggets in an interview with Mashed: “Processed foods really don’t offer as much nutritive value as fresh, wholesome foods, regardless of whether or not they’re plant-based.” The most noticeable way they are not nutritious, she continues, is in their sodium content. “It is pretty common for processed plant-based foods to be high in sodium,” she states. “Eating a diet that is high in sodium can lead to cardiovascular problems such as high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke.”
Based on the information given by Impossible Foods, one serving of Impossible Nuggets will fill you with 480 milligrams of sodium. But the serving size for Impossible Foods is only five, while Burger King serves the nuggets in groups of eight, making the sodium content 768 milligrams. This represents about a third of the 2,300 milligrams recommended as an absolute maximum by the American Heart Foundation and is a slightly higher count than the regular nuggets. Still, Poon does balance that concern with the admission that the Impossible Nuggets do contain more beneficial nutrients like iron than the chicken nuggets.
Junk food veganism refers to giving up meat in favor of eating large amounts of Impossible Nuggets and other alternative meat products. It’s not derogatory, as The Minimalist Vegan explains. Rather, it acknowledges that while you have stopped hurting animals, you are still not helping your body. And Serena Poon makes a similar point: “If you are a plant-based eater, or exploring the possibility, it’s really best to stick to wholesome plant foods as close to their natural form as possible, rather than something processed. Processed and fried foods, plant-based or not, can really be detrimental to your health if you are eating them all the time.” However, it’s also true that the highly processed alternative meats do serve as a good transitioning tool and occasional treat for those trying to renounce meat. “I would simply caution against building a diet on the foundation of processed plant-based foods,” she summarizes.
The issue goes beyond simple sodium. A glance at the Impossible Nuggets ingredient list extends into a look as your eyes travel over more than twenty ingredients, including sunflower oil. Sunflower oil, Poon cautions, is high in omega-6 fatty acids, which can lead to inflammations that can develop into chronic issues. In short, the Impossible Nuggets are fried food and should be treated as fried food — even though they’re vegan.