Complete Guide to the Nutritional Value of TVP

What sounds a lot like plastic tubing is the most versatile vegan protein in existence.

Textured Vegetable Protein, or TVP, are dried soy flakes and are a by-product of extracting soybean oil. They come in all different shapes and sizes, from tiny granules resembling ground meat, to larger bite-size chunks and nuggets perfect for stew and stir-fry.

TVP doesn’t have much flavor on its own, which makes it an incredibly flexible product for use in anything from subbing for ground meat in chili to a high-protein alternative to oatmeal.  

To find out exactly how to use TVP, be sure to read: How to Prepare and Cook Textured Vegetable Protein.

At less than a third of the cost per pound of ground beef, it’s also super economical.

As if that weren’t enough, TVP is also highly nutritious and packs an impressive number of nutrients into each tiny granule.

Let’s take a closer look at the stellar nutritional profile of this humble food – the table provided will give an overview of each nutrient in a serving of TVP, and then we’ll dig into the details of each one.

TVP Nutritional Information

per ¼ cup dry granules

Nutrient

Amount

Calories

80

Fat

0g

Carbohydrates

7g

Protein

12g

Dietary Fiber

4g

Sodium

2mg

Magnesium

18% daily intake

Iron

15% daily intake

Calcium

8% daily intake

Phosphorous

17% daily intake

The Macros: Calories, Fat, Carbs, and Protein

Let’s touch on the big four first: our calories, fat, carbs, and protein that come from TVP. A standard serving of TVP is a ¼ cup of dry granules, which suck up liquid and expand to nearly double their size when rehydrated.

A serving of TVP comes in at only 80 calories, meaning you can have a hearty amount of the stuff to feel full and satisfied without consuming a lot of calories.

What’s even more amazing is the rest of the macronutrient in those 80 calories – zero fat! 7g of total carbs! 12g of protein! I can eat a half cup of dry granules for breakfast as a protein-rich alternative to oatmeal, and that gets me 24g of protein before I even leave my house in the morning. Next time someone asks you where you get your protein, you tell ‘em “Textured Vegetable Protein – where do you get yours?”

Low-energy-dense foods, which are low in calories and high in volume, help you feel fuller longer, which can help you achieve and maintain a healthy weight.

That half-cup of TVP “oatmeal” sits in my stomach like a brick until lunchtime, and only costs me 160 calories – that’s about the same amount of calories in the same amount of rolled oats, but with way more protein.

Additionally, TVP, like all plant-based foods, contains absolutely zero cholesterol and boasts zero fat (which makes more room in your diet for things like, say, peanut butter).

Sure, it’s got a funny name, but TVP’s macronutrient profile is nothing to laugh at. Let’s see meat try to step to this!

Amino Acids

Stop the presses – we’ve got a complete vegan protein here, people!

That’s great…but what does it mean?

Proteins are made up of “building blocks” called amino acids. There are 22 in total, but out of all of them, we must consume 9 of them through food because our bodies cannot produce them on their own.

Food that contains all 9 – the “essential” amino acids is called a complete protein because it provides all of the essential building blocks for protein. Because TVP is made from soy, it already has those nine essential amino acids in a neat little package.

You might hear a lot of concern about vegans getting complete protein, but the truth is, if you’re eating a vegan diet rich in color and variety, you’re more than likely getting enough complete protein for the day.

Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need each bite of your food to be a complete protein all day, every day, to reap the benefits.

However, the fact that TVP is a complete protein is great news, especially since its flexibility allows it to be incorporated into any meal of the day, ensuring that you’re getting some complete protein at each meal.

Dietary Fiber

As far as purposes go, fiber’s is pretty unsexy – it’s probably best known because it keeps you “going” regular and can prevent and relieve constipation. But let’s face it, not every nutrient needs to be sexy – especially one that is so critical to us feeling good.

Fiber falls into two categories: soluble and insoluble. Soluble fiber dissolves in water to form a gel and acts like a little sponge for blood cholesterol.

Soluble fiber is mostly found in foods like oats and legumes. Meanwhile, insoluble fiber promotes movement in your digestive tract and comes from whole-grain products and cruciferous veggies.

Dietary fiber is important to the human diet, and TVP is chock full of it – 4g per ¼ cup dry. That’s 16% of what you need in a day! Incorporate a ¼ cup serving of TVP into your meal plan and you’re a sixth of the way there!

Sodium

The sodium section for TVP is kind of like golf – the lowest score wins!

Sure, some sodium is necessary for maintaining cellular fluid balance, but too much can be strenuous for your heart, and most Americans get more than enough sodium as it is.

Lucky for us, TVP is hardly a blip on the sodium radar with 2mg of the stuff per ¼ cup serving. Of course, the porous nature of TVP means you can add a little sodium by rehydrating it in vegetable broth or seasoning it with soy sauce, but the beauty of it is that you’re in complete control of the amount of sodium you’re adding to your dish.

TVP is a great option if you or someone you’re cooking for needs to watch their sodium intake.

Magnesium

A mineral that wears many figurative hats, magnesium is responsible for tons of functions happening in your cells. Breaking down fat and glucose, producing enzymes and antioxidants, and even creating DNA are just a few services that this essential mineral provides.

Most of the magnesium in our bodies is stored in bones and soft tissues, while about 1% is present in the blood. Because magnesium is part of so many different functions, adults ages 19-30 should get 300-400mg of magnesium per day.

Our ¼ cup serving of Textured Vegetable Protein provides a whopping 18% of your recommended daily amount of magnesium.

If you wanted to combine TVP with other magnesium-rich foods, try mixing rehydrated granules with black beans for a tasty burrito filling, or combine with wilted spinach and mushrooms to stuff into a baked potato.

With such a high magnesium intake per relatively small serving size, you won’t have to worry about getting all the magnesium you need from a varied vegan diet.

Iron

Your blood plays an important role in transporting nutrients, hormones, enzymes, and oxygen throughout your body.

Iron is essential to life because it allows your blood cells to carry out their all-important duties – every living cell needs iron to keep working.

The amount of iron you need will vary based on your age, activity level, and gender – on the whole, women of childbearing age need about 18mg of iron every day, more than double that of men, who can get away with about 8mg per day.

Women need the extra iron to make up for the blood lost each month during menstruation. After menopause, women’s iron needs to drop down to the same level as men – 8 manageable milligrams.

An iron deficiency is a common culprit for anemia, which occurs when there isn’t enough oxygen in your blood. Symptoms of iron deficiency anemia are characterized by a general sallowness, fatigue, and problems with cold hands and feet and brittle nails.

Many people want to simply take a supplement, either because they don’t want to worry about iron intake through food, or they simply want to take out some extra insurance to make sure they’re getting the right amount every day.

However, in this case, too much of a good thing is a bad thing – too much iron in the body can cause its set of health problems. Additionally, iron is best absorbed when it’s taken in small amounts throughout the day rather than all at once. You’re best off incorporating small amounts of iron into your meals all day long instead of relying on a supplement.

Fifteen percent of your daily iron intake is packed into ¼ of dry TVP granules. Since Iron is absorbed best when paired with vitamin C, add bell peppers, tomatoes, and chopped cilantro to a hearty chili made with TVP, all of which are high in vitamin C and will help best absorb the iron.

Calcium

Chances are, you already know all about calcium and that it is almost entirely stored in our bones and teeth to support their structure and strength.

But did you know that calcium is also used for muscle movement and the transportation of hormones and enzymes in our bloodstream?

Don’t worry; I didn’t know either.

You’re also probably familiar with the idea of dairy products being your best bet for calcium intake – simply not true! Leafy greens like broccoli, kale, and Chinese cabbage are all great vegan sources of calcium, and the calcium from plants is just as effective as that consumed through products like cow’s milk and cheese.

In fact, a study found that bone structure and strength was no different between people who consumed dairy products and those who consumed only plant-based sources of calcium.

Adults between the ages of 19 and 50 should try to consume about 1,000mg of calcium per day – this number goes up as you get older to help support your bones through the aging process [Source]

A standard serving of TVP provides 8% of your recommended daily calcium intake. For a calcium- and protein-rich breakfast, cook ½ cup dry TVP granules in fortified soy milk and add your favorite oatmeal toppings.

Plant-based fuel to help you take on your day, all while keeping your teeth and bones strong and healthy – the vegan way!

Phosphorous

Food aside, phosphorous is one of the most plentiful minerals in our body, making up about 1% of our total body weight. In your body, it works with calcium to help build strong, healthy bones, and like any partnership, there needs to be a balance between the two. Too much calcium and your body will absorb less calcium – too much phosphorous, and the less calcium gets absorbed.

So how do you know if you’re not getting enough phosphorous? A deficiency in this mineral can cause overall tiredness and muscle/joint pain due to weaker, softer bones.

Not to worry, though, because Textured Vegetable Protein is here to protect your bones! One standard serving of TVP serves up 17% of your daily recommended amount of phosphorous.

With such a gorgeous nutritional profile, you shouldn’t let the strange name of Textured Vegetable Protein scare you off. The perfect combination of nutritious, low-calorie, inexpensive, and versatile makes TVP a great addition to the vegan pantry. Incorporating just a small amount of the stuff into your day will provide you with much-needed protein, vitamins, and minerals in a tasty, easy-to-use ingredient.

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