I mentioned a while back that I was looking into this topic for y’all. I’ve been researching it and wanted to make sure I had everything right, although I’m still not completely sure I do. It’s a HUGE topic to cover! However, I’ve teased y’all about it long enough so I should really put something up.
Textured Vegetable Protein (TVP) looks and smells harmless and is hailed as a great meat substitute for vegetarians and vegans. As with most vegan substitutes, it doesn’t have a very pleasant name–just think about nutritional yeast and wheat meat.
Because vegans and vegetarians have meat substitutes, we think “YES! Now I can have that dish!” It may be a beef taco, a sausage, a pepperoni pizza, or something else. If you have a look at the deli section for vegans and vegetarians, there are a lot of choices nowadays. There’s Tofurky, Field Roast, Yves Veggie Cuisine, and numerous other brands. However miraculous they are, they are still processed foods and should only be eaten in moderation. But since there’s none of the risk that comes with traditional meat (antibiotics and potential for contamination), then it should be fairly healthy right?
Is TVP Good?
TVP is, in my opinion, misleading. It has some good marketing: blogs and word of mouth. I don’t think there’s anything more powerful than those two (with the exception of social media). If you’ve fallen for the marketing, don’t worry because you’re not the only one.
You end up thinking TVP is healthy, or OK to use, because most sites praise it as having lots of protein, being low in sodium, and is a good source of fiber. TVP is easy to use and there are lots of ways to use it (just check Pinterest).
According to Bob’s Red Mill’s packaging:
Textured Vegetable Protein is a highly nutritious soy product. It is incredibly wealthy in complete protein and contains no fat, so it is an excellent alternative to meat. It is also a good source of dietary fiber, iron, magnesium and phosphorus. Textured Vegetable Protein is made from defatted soy flour that has been cooked under pressure and then dried.
Under the nutrient facts, a 1/4 cup contains 12g of protein. Because it has quite a bit of protein, it “can supply a woman with 24% of her daily protein requirements and a man with 19%.” (Livestrong)
Just about everywhere you look online, someone is praising TVP as being nutritionally beneficial. Besides the fact that it’s easy to use, it’s also marketed as being a meat extender. Apparently you can add it to a little bit of ground beef and you will magically end up with a lot more. “It’s commonly found in the cafeterias of institutions with limited financial resources, such as schools and prisons.” (HowStuffWorks)
Because TVP is usually used as a ground beef substitute, it’s typically used in dishes that call for ground beef: spaghetti, sloppy joes, chilli’s, tacos, and many others. TVP is perfect for these dish because it’s easy to use. All you do is add water and let it rehydrate. No cooking required! So you can go on cooking the other parts of the dish without worrying that you’ll burn the TVP or that it will boil over.
When the packaging of a company you trust says it’s “defatted soy flour that has been cooked under pressure and dried,” you think there’s nothing wrong with that. You trust the company and have never had problems with any of their other products, so why should you think otherwise? USA Emergency Supply, another company that supplies TVP, makes it seem like it’s totally benign and there’s nothing wrong with it.
In my mind, I pictured soy beans being ground up into flour, and then somehow the fat was miraculously removed (possibly by waving a sparkly star wand). Then whatever was leftover, I actually pictured it being put into a pressure cooker to be cooked and then dried. Seems like a harmless fairytale process, right? Just wait until I get to Part 2 of this story.
I promise I will aim to have Part 2 posted Tuesday. I want to make sure I have everything straight and have all my sources for you. You won’t be disappointed!!