Did you know that Incogmeato contains an ingredient that’s also used as a laxative? It’s true, and that sounds pretty gross… But is it anything to actually be worried about? Is Incogmeato healthy?
Incogmeato is cholesterol-free, high in fiber, colored with natural ingredients, and lower in fat compared to real meat. However, it also has processed ingredients like canola oil, palm oil, soy protein concentrate, methylcellulose, and quite a bit of salt. As a result, Incogmeato is only moderately healthy.
Below, we’ll analyze the ingredients and nutrition facts for two of Incogmeato’s most popular products—the Burger Patties and Chik’n Nuggets. We’ll also look closer at methylcellulose (the laxative) and processed soy, to see if you should be concerned!
What Is Incogmeato Made Of?
Are the ingredients in Incogmeato highly processed? Are there any sketchy chemicals you should be worried about? Well, let’s take a look at the ingredients lists for two of their most popular products.
First, the Burger Patties:
Incogmeato Burger Patties Ingredients: “Water, soy protein concentrate, canola oil, palm oil, methylcellulose. Contains 2% or less of natural flavors, potato starch, dextrose, salt, cultured dextrose for freshness, apple juice powder (color), yeast extract, cornstarch, sunflower lecithin, vegetable juice concentrate (color), vegetable juice (color), pectin, citric acid, vitamin B1 (thiamin hydrochloride), vitamin B12, ascorbic acid for freshness.”
Now, for another example, the Chik’n Nuggets:
Incogmeato Chik’n Nuggets Ingredients: “Water, wheat flour, soy protein concentrate, vegetable oil (corn, canola and/or sunflower), soy protein isolate. Contains 2% or less of wheat gluten, yellow corn flour, methylcellulose, potato starch, cornstarch, yeast extract, sugar, wheat starch, salt, natural flavors, spices, dextrose, onion powder, color added, leavening (sodium acid pyrophosphate, sodium bicarbonate), potassium chloride, yeast, paprika (color), garlic powder, paprika extract color, sodium gluconate, citric acid, xanthan gum.”
Here’s what I notice from reading these ingredients:
- Soy protein concentrate and vegetable oils are main ingredients in both products. These would definitely both qualify as processed ingredients. The oils used are not the healthiest oils, either. Some people also have specific concerns about processed soy, which I will discuss below.
- The other main ingredients are also processed: Wheat flour, soy protein isolate, and methylcellulose. These are definitely not whole foods.
- Both products contain methylcellulose, which is also used as a laxative. Should you be concerned about this? It sounds pretty nasty for your burger to contain a laxative, but is it really an issue? I’ll explore this topic more below.
- The coloring is natural and seems to be harmless. Ingredients like vegetable juice, apple juice powder, and paprika are used to achieve the color of Incogmeato. This is nice, considering how other brands use artificial colors with possible side effects.
Nothing else jumped out to me as shocking or amazing. Incogmeato is mostly made of processed protein and oil, with starches as fillers and natural ingredients for color and flavor. It’s definitely processed food, but there’s nothing shockingly bad in it.
I’ll come back to soy and methylcellulose below, but first: Let’s take a look at the nutrition facts to get a sense of the numbers.
Incogmeato Nutrition Facts
A big part of what makes a food healthy or unhealthy is how much it contains of various nutrients. So let’s take a look at the numbers for Incogmeato patties and nuggets.
I’ll share my observations below the table:
|Nutrition Facts||Incogmeato Burger Patties||Incogmeato Chik’n Nuggets|
|Serving Size||1 Burger (120g)||4 Nuggets (86g)|
Here are my big takeaways:
- They each have some saturated fat—but the Burger Patties have 5x as much. Many health organizations recommend limiting saturated fat. Even when it comes from plant-based oils, it can raise your LDL cholesterol. Incogmeato has less saturated fat than most meat—but I’d still count this point against Incogmeato Burgers.
- They each have over 300 mg of sodium. That’s not crazy high, but it’s moderate. Eating too much sodium can lead to high blood pressure and other problems. The American Heart Association is “moving toward an ideal limit of no more than 1,500 mg per day for most adults.” (source)
- Both products have 0g of trans fat and 0mg of cholesterol. Trans fat is the most dangerous kind of fat, so it’s best to avoid completely. Dietary cholesterol is more debated, but there’s some evidence saying it’s best to avoid, too. Igcogmeato is free of both!
- Both products have a decent amount of fiber. Fiber helps with all kinds of disease prevention and health issues. Real meat typically has 0g of fiber per serving. So Incogmeato is a big improvement in this area, with 5g and 8g per serving.
- The Burger Patties have more protein than the Chik’n Nuggets. And that’s not just because of serving size. For each 100 calories, the Burgers have over 8g of protein—the Nuggets are closer to 6 or 7g. Protein boosts satiety (fullness) and muscle synthesis.
So, I see a mix of pros and cons when I look at Incogmeato. Mainly, I see improvements over real meat… But it’s clearly still processed food with a quite a bit of sodium and saturated fat from oil.
Is Incogmeato Good for Weight Loss?
What if your main goal isn’t just overall health and disease prevention, but losing weight? Is Incogmeato a good choice for that?
The fiber and protein in Incogmeato makes it a reasonable choice for a weight loss diet. However, as a processed food that contains vegetable oil, it is more calorically dense than whole foods like vegetables and beans. Therefore, portion control is important.
Here are some of the factors that affect Incogmeato’s suitability for a weight-loss diet:
- The fiber and protein help to keep you full. Weight loss dieting is a lot easier when your food is filling. Protein and fiber are two key nutrients that help with fullness, and Incogmeato has a good amount of both.
- The realistic taste helps with the switch to a plant-based diet. Vegans and vegetarians have lower body-mass index (BMI) on average. And using realistic mock meats like Incogmeato can be very helpful to make the transition to a veg*n diet.
- The burgers are relatively high in calories. It’s possible to find veggie burgers that are only 80 to 120 calories per patty. Incogmeato burgers are more than double that. Granted, Incogmeato burgers are more filling. But just be careful about eating multiple per sitting.
As you can see, Incogmeato is not the perfect food for weight loss. Beans and veggies are much better to focus on. But Incogmeato can definitely be part of a successful weight-loss diet.
Methylcellulose: Why Is There “Laxative” in Incogmeato?
The Center for Consumer Freedom is a non-profit org that is funded in part by the meat and fast food industry. And they made the following Super Bowl ad for 2020. In it, a student at a spelling bee is asked to spell “methylcellulose.”
When she asks for an example sentence, she is told methylcellulose is a laxative, and it’s also used in synthetic meat. It’s brilliant marketing against mock meats. I mean, it’s true, and it sounds gross!
But is methylcellulose actually a harmful food ingredient? And do mock meats like Incogmeato include enough for it to have any laxative effect?
Well, the laxative Citrucel uses methycellulose as its sole active ingredient, and the standard dosage is 2g (in one scoop). If you read the directions for the Rite Aid brand tablets, it recommends anywhere from 1g to 3g.
Representatives from Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods have both clarified that their burgers contain less than 2 grams of methylcellulose each. (They wouldn’t disclose the exact amount.)
I couldn’t determine whether Incogmeato contains more or less methylcellulose than these competitors.
It’s a little concerning to me that the Incogmeato Burgers have methylcellulose listed fifth in the ingredients, above the “Contains 2% or less” part of the list. But I still doubt it will be an issue for most people.
Methylcellulose is approved as safe by many organizations, including the FDA. It’s included in many processed foods like cakes and breads, not just mock meats. And there are no commonly observed side effects. (source)
If you have issues with digestion after eating Incogmeato, then the methylcellulose provides an interesting possible explanation… But if you don’t experience digestive issues, then I wouldn’t worry about it.
Is Processed Soy Like Incogmeato Bad for You?
Soy has many critics. And that’s even more true when it comes to processed soy ingredients like “soy protein concentrate” and “soy protein isolate.” And Incogmeato makes prominent use of these ingredients.
Does this mean Incogmeato should be avoided? Well, here are some things to consider:
- Soy protein is a complete protein, high in branched chain amino acids (BCAAs) that help stimulate muscle synthesis. (source)
- Soy protein is considered a high-quality protein, with a perfect score of 1.0 on the “Protein Digestibility Corrected Amino Acid Score” system. (source)
- That said, if you eat 5+ servings of soy per day, research suggests it may raise IGF-1 levels in your body, which could increase long-term cancer risk. (source)
- It also appears to be possible to achieve feminizing effects in men with very high levels of soy consumption—but this has only been observed at 14 to 20 servings per day. (source)
From what I can tell, the amount of processed soy in Incogmeato is unlikely to be an issue when eaten in moderation. And it’s generally considered high-quality protein in terms of bioavailability. Just don’t eat like 10 of these burgers per day.
[Related Post: “Eating a Block of Tofu a Day: How Much Tofu Is Too Much?“]
Is Incogmeato Vegan?
All Incogmeato products are 100% vegan, with no dairy, egg, meat, or other animal ingredients. This is distinct from some other Morningstar Farms mock meats in the past, which have contained eggs and milk.
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