What Are the Benefits of TVP?
TVP is textured vegetable protein, a soy-based meat substitute that makes meal planning much simpler for new vegetarians. Available in solid form or in crumbles, it can be seamlessly substituted for meat in your favorite recipes, and is a major ingredient in many prepackaged meatless meals. Despite being sold in natural-foods stores, TVP is not natural — it’s the product of a long, involved production process under high heat. Nevertheless, TVP has several characteristics that make it a good choice for many.
TVP’s main draw is its protein content. Vegetarians can get stuck in a protein rut, tired of lentils and beans, searching for an alternative, and TVP fulfills the role. Registered Dietitian and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Vandana Sheth says that a 1/2-cup serving of TVP can provide 8 to 12 grams of protein. Made from defatted soy flour or soy protein isolates, TVP is a complete protein, providing all the amino acids your body cannot make for itself. Complete proteins are rare in the vegetarian diet, and TVP is a nutritious ingredient on days when your protein consumption has been otherwise spotty. TVP made from soy protein isolates can have as much as twice the protein of TVP made from defatted soy flour, so read labels before you buy.
Some days, you don’t mind spending time creating a meal from scratch. Other days, convenience trumps everything, and it’s hard to argue with a protein source that’s ready-made and can be tossed into a stir-fry or casserole straight out of the package. TVP is the basis for store-bought meat substitutes, and is the main ingredient in many brands of meatless burgers, meatballs and other convenience foods. Rather than soaking beans overnight then boiling them for an hour, it’s much easier to stir some TVP crumbles into a pasta sauce on those days when you’re too harried or exhausted to do much else.
While vegetarians may rely on sources of healthy fats to keep their calorie consumption adequate, it is possible to gain weight on a vegetarian diet. The easiest way to reduce calorie consumption is to reduce fat consumption, and TVP is low enough in fat to be a part of a low-fat vegetarian diet. It is also lower in carbohydrates than other vegetarian protein sources, like whole legumes and whole grains, due to the extensive manufacturing process, so it is suitable for vegetarians who follow a low-carbohydrate diet.
TVP is made from soybeans, which are a legume. As useful as legumes are to a nutrition-conscious vegetarian, they are notorious for producing gas. This happens because the particular type of carbohydrate in legumes — oligosaccharides — doesn’t digest until it reaches the large intestine, where it ferments with intestinal bacteria and produces gas. (See Reference 2) TVP has the advantage of being low in carbohydrates to begin with, and the particularly offensive sugar called Raffi nose is siphoned off during the extensive manufacturing process.