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The Great Big Vegan Guide to Textured Vegetable Protein (TVP)

By KD Angle-Traegner on January 15, 2018

Textured Vegetable Protein (TVP) — or Textured Soy Protein (TSP) — is a product made from soy flour with the soybean oil extracted, then cooked under pressure, extruded, and dehydrated.

Because of its low cost and high nutrition, TVP is a favorite of food service, retail, and institutional — think school lunch and prison meal programs — facilities everywhere. It’s lightweight and has a long shelf life, which makes it perfect for backpacking and disaster preparedness and even rescue-type situations.

Mild in flavor, Textured Vegetable Protein absorbs flavorings extraordinarily well and has a fibrous, spongy texture that is similar to animal meat. This toothy texture makes it a great choice for people who are looking for alternatives to the familiar textures of their pre-vegan days.

Here’s everything you need to know about Textured Vegetable Protein.

Is Textured Vegetable Protein — TVP — Safe to Eat?

Let’s talk about soy and our health. Unlike other whole soy foods like tempeh and minimally processed soy foods like tofu, textured vegetable protein is a processed soy product. You might be thinking, “Eating a bunch of processed soy food doesn’t sound all that healthy to me,” and you’d be right but only because no healthy eating plan should consist of a bunch of processed foods, soy or otherwise.

Don’t listen to me though; I’m not a dietitian. I turned to an expert on vegan nutrition, Anya Todd MS, RD, LD to get her thoughts on textured vegetable protein.

According to Todd, the nutrients in soy foods can vary among different preparations. She admits that, while the nutrition in textured vegetable protein isn’t as praisable as a whole soy food like tempeh, TVP can still be a part of a healthy vegan diet.

“Bottom line, soy is perfectly fine in moderation. When looking at soy though, ideally we should be eating soy as minimally as possible, but even processed soy can have the occasional place in a vegan diet.” (1) Todd isn’t alone in her thoughts on TVP either.

Author and vegan dietitian Virginia Messina, MPH, RD, agrees. “Healthy vegan diets should be based mostly on whole plant foods. But the all or nothing approach that bans processed foods and added fats isn’t necessary for good health.” Messina believes vegan diets need to be realistic and that means making allowances for foods that help people go and stay vegan, like TVP.

Finally, keep in mind that soy products are not the only plant-based protein options. Legumes, seitan, nuts, and seeds are excellent protein sources as well. 

But what about those other scary soy articles about soy isoflavones and genetically modified soy? Glad you asked.

Soy Isoflavones

Soybeans contain phytoestrogens called isoflavones. Some people claim that these soy isoflavones act like the female sex hormone estrogen in the body and can potentially increase the risk of cancers — especially breast cancer — as well as reduce the testosterone levels in men.

But concerns about adverse effects are not supported by the clinical or epidemiologic literature available at the time of this writing. Soy is one of the most researched foods — nearly 2,000 soy-related papers published annually — and based on the health benefits in these epidemiologic studies along with the benefits noted in clinical trials soy is not only safe to eat, but it’s also beneficial when eaten in moderation. (2, 3)

Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs)

Some people will avoid tempeh because they are afraid to consume GMOs. A genetically modified organism (GMO) is an organism whose genetic material has been manipulated in a lab using genetic engineering techniques. Scientists alter genes using DNA from different species of living organisms like bacteria or viruses to get specific traits such as resistance to disease or tolerance of herbicides or pesticides. (4)

Soybeans are the second-largest crop grown in the US after corn, and they’re also one of the top genetically-modified crops. These numbers are significant because even if you’re not eating soy foods directly — if you’re eating animals — you’re most likely still consuming soy. Currently, 85 percent of all GMO soybeans end up in animal feed for farmed animals where it eventually ends up on your plate.

There are criticisms about the practice surrounding the bioengineering and the production of genetically modified organisms. In more than 60 countries around the world, there are significant restrictions or outright bans on the manufacture and sale of genetically modified organisms. Here in the US though, the government has approved the use of bioengineered crops. (4)

When looking at soy tempeh, unless the product has a specific GMO-free label, then there’s a good chance the product is genetically modified.

For those who are looking to avoid GMO soy, finding non-GMO textured vegetable protein is simple. Look for organic textured vegetable protein or TVP labeled explicitly as using non-GMO ingredients.

Medical Disclaimer

The content of the Web Site including without limitation, text, copy, audio, video, photographs, illustrations, graphics and other visuals, is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis, treatment or recommendations of any kind. Read the full Medical Disclaimer.

Finding TVP In Stores

Finding textured vegetable protein in stores is easy, just head to the dried goods section of your favorite grocery store. If you don’t spot it here, check out the bulk aisle.

Shop for TVP Online

Look for a pale-colored, dry crumble or nuggets, similar looking to dry cereal or soup mixes. In its dehydrated form, TVP has a shelf life of more than a year, but it will spoil within several days after hydrated.

What’s the difference between Textured Vegetable Protein (TVP) and Textured Soy Protein (TSP)?

Textured Vegetable Protein (TVP) and Textured Soy Protein (TSP) are similar products that can be used interchangeably. The difference is that TVP is the registered trademark of Archer Daniels Midland Company.

Vegan TVP Recipes

Are you ready to get cooking with TVP but not sure where to start? Here is a selection of vegan recipes for breakfast, lunch, and dinner inspiration.

Vegan Gravy & Biscuits with TVP Hash from Olives for Dinner | The Great Big Vegan TVP Guide | Your Daily Vegan

Vegan Sawmill Gravy & Biscuits with TVP-Shiitake Hash | Olives for Dinner

Recipes to Try

Do you have a vegan TVP recipe that isn’t listed here? Please contact me.

Vegan TVP Guide | Your Daily Vegan

Truth in Advertising

 I am committed to providing accurate information to the vegan community. To that end, I have meticulously researched each topic presented in Your Daily Vegan. These guides contain the information available at the time of publication and are reviewed and updated when needed.

Changes to the guides are dated and listed at the end of every guide. Please contact me if you find out-of-date or incorrect information.

References

  1. Todd, A. (2018) Personal Interview. http://www.anyatodd.com/
  2. Messina, M., & Messina, V. (2010). The Role of Soy in Vegetarian Diets. Nutrients,v2(8), 855–888. http://doi.org/10.3390/nu2080855
  3. Norris, J. (2100). Soy: What’s the Harm? VeganHealth.org. http://www.veganhealth.org/articles/soy_wth
  4. Learn About GMOs. Non GMO Project. https://www.nongmoproject.org/gmo-facts/

Feature Photo Credit: Shutterstock

This guide is authored by KD Angle-Traegner. Last update January 2018

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The Great Big Vegan TVP Guide - A Textured Vegetable Protein (TVP) Guide that has nutritional information, a shopping guide, plus lots of vegan recipes to try at home.

3 Comments

  1. Kim November 13, 2017 at 6:08 am - Reply

    I didn’t find the reference to the studies where no proof was found that soy does effect your hormones. Can you provide the links to those studies? I’d like to see them to understand that better. I’ve stayed away from soy products specifically for this reason, but I’d be open to using them if they were safe in this way. I’m cautious because my mother had breast cancer, and anything I can do to avoid it, I will. Thank you!

    • KD Angle Traegner January 17, 2018 at 4:19 pm - Reply

      Hi Kim! All of the studies mentioned in this guide are listed in the Truth in Advertising section under ‘Sources’. You’ll find the links there as well :)

  2. Christina Castaneda October 14, 2017 at 1:06 pm - Reply

    I’m transitioning to vegan and use tvp & tsp frequently. Love your article and your honesty!!!! Looking forward to reading more from “your daily vegan!”
    Thank you!

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