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Textured Vegetable Protein (TVP) Nutrition Information
To determine if textured vegetable protein (TVP) is healthy, I turned to Anya Todd MS, RD, LD.
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 praise-worthy 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 textured vegetable protein either.
Author and vegan dietitian Virginia Messina, MPH, RD, concurs.
“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.
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 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 studies along with the benefits noted in clinical trials soy is not only safe to eat, but it’s also beneficial when consumed in moderation. (2, 3)
Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs)
Some people will avoid textured vegetable protein (TVP) because they are afraid to consume GMOs.
A genetically modified organism (GMO) is any organism whose genetic material has been manipulated in a lab using genetic engineering techniques. Scientists alter genes using DNA from different 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.
Buying Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs)
There are criticisms about the practice surrounding bioengineering and the production of genetically modified organisms. In more than 60 countries worldwide, there are significant restrictions or outright bans on the manufacture and sale of them.
Here in the US, the government has approved the use of bioengineered crops. (4)
When buying TVP, unless the product has a specific GMO-free label, then there’s a good chance it’s genetically modified.
For those who are looking to avoid GMO soy, finding non-GMO textured vegetable protein is easy. Look for the information on the label when purchasing.