Dr. Becky Maes - Is It Bad For You? Approved by Dr. Becky Maes

Is Textured Vegetable Protein Bad For You?



Short answer

Yes, textured vegetable protein (TVP) is bad for you. It is nothing more than heavily processed soybeans.



Long answer

Textured vegetable protein is a plant-based protein substitute derived from soybeans. It is also commonly referred to as TVP. Many vegetarians consume TVP as a protein source in replacement of meat. TVP is a popular product because it is low in fat and cholesterol free. In order to make it, soybeans are stripped of their protein, soaked in a solution, then pressure cooked and dried. It has a long shelf life and can be used for up to two years, or possibly longer if stored properly. When cooked, TVP resembles the texture of ground beef and can be used in a variety of dishes. However, there are controversial theories concerning the processing of this protein substitute and its effects as part of a healthy diet. 

TVP is found in the organic aisle in many grocery stores or can also be purchased online. Most of the time, TVP is dried however, it can also be found frozen. It is cheap, and it’s quick and easy to prepare. With the capability to absorb seasonings and flavors, this protein can be a tasty and satisfying addition to any meal. TVP can be added to soups, sauces, and main meals. There are many ways to use the protein. For example, TVP is a great way to bulk up soups or stews. There is no need to cook the protein first, simply add the dried form to the pot, and it will cook in the warm liquid. TVP can also be prepared separately and used in main meals.

In order to produce TVP, soybeans are treated with a chemical to separate the fat from protein. The beans are soaked in hexane, a toxic petroleum distillate chemical. It is an air pollutant and a by-product of gasoline refining. Currently, there is not enough evidence to confirm if consuming TVP is hazardous to health, other than the general concerns with the consumption of soy. However, it is clear that petroleum distillates are harmful to the human body. Distillates like hexane or any other “light fuel” byproducts are immediately dangerous to life and health. Moreover, these chemicals have been proven to cause brain damage, cancer, and even death. Keep in mind that these chemicals can gain entrance into the body by inhalation, injection, absorption and in the case of TVP would be ingestion; albeit in extremely small amounts.

The most concerning issue with TVP is the controversy over soy in general. Individuals that have soy allergies should avoid TVP altogether. However, there is a significant amount of research regarding the negative effects soy has on natural hormones in the body, which can cause problems in mood, reproduction systems of both men and women, complications with the menstrual cycle, and carcinogenic properties. Additionally, soy grown in the United States is typically genetically modified (GMO) and grown in environments loaded with pesticides. TVP is completely avoidable since it is purposefully added to food. It is best to find alternative protein sources that do not contain soy.


Possible short-term side effects

  • soy allergy
  • menstrual complications
  • mood changes

Possible long-term side effects

  • cancer
  • infertility
  • reproductive system complications

Commonly found in

  • vegan / vegetarian versions of meat-based products

Ingredients to be aware of

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Written by DeeAnne Oldham | 04-05-2016

Written by DeeAnne Oldham
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