What Is Textured Soy Protein?
Textured soy protein (also known as Textured Vegetable Protein) is a common plant-based meat substitute found in many vegetarian alternatives. Originally engineered in the 1960s by the Archer Daniels Midland Company, Textured Vegetable Protein (TVP) is their registered trademark. Various companies, like Solae, produce a wide range of coloured and natural shade versions today. The product’s generic name is textured soy protein (TSP).
As the interest in plant-based diets and the demand for meat alternatives continues to grow, textured soy protein will only become more widely used. It creates a nutritious foundation for meat analogue products, a replacement for meat in recipes, and can even be used in meat products as an extender. Textured soy protein is a cost-effective and appealing meat alternative, and a thorough understanding of this ingredient will benefit future product developments.
What is textured soy protein?
Textured soy protein is a highly versatile product, lending itself to a wide range of vegetarian meat alternatives and recipes. An extruded ingredient that has had a majority of the carbohydrate removed, it provides an excellent source of protein and fibre—all without any cholesterol and with very low sodium. This high protein content (13 grams or higher, levels of protein per 25 gram serving) in particular makes it a great swap for meat, especially considering that TSP contains none of the “bad” LDL cholesterol found in meat. Furthermore, TSP comes with a good amount of fibre (5 grams per 25 gram serving), while meat has zero dietary fibre.
It is created from the flour of soybeans that has had the fat stripped from it. The defatted soy proteins can form a wide range of chunks of varying sizes, from flakes to much larger pieces. It naturally lacks flavour and easily lends itself to seasonings and flavours.
How is it made?
The process all starts with defatted soy flakes. The fats are removed and sold as soy oil. Depending on the processor, a wide range of processes are used to remove most of the carbohydrates that are the primary source of the soy flavour. This concentrates the proteins in the powder and raises the protein levels to approximately 65%. After the concentrate is created, the liquid slurry is forced through a series of small nozzles, a process called “extrusion” which rapidly raises the temperatures of the slurry, which then puffs as it passes through the orifice and cooks the protein to create textured soy protein. Extrusion cooking is a thermo-mechanical process, incorporating high shear, high heat, and high pressure to mould the ingredient. After the extrusion step, the textured soy is then dried out to leave residual moistures in the low single digit percentage levels.
A different texture, taste, and nutritional make-up can be achieved through variations in the bean selection, additives, extrusion process, particularly in regards to temperature changes and finally the drying process.
Uses of TSP
Since textured soy protein is inexpensive, widely available, and versatile, it is a commonly used meat substitute and meat extender found in a multitude of products. Meat and Veggie hot dogs, burgers, sausages, jerkies, chickens, and meatballs are some examples of food products that often incorporate TSP into their recipes. With the correct recipe, the TSP becomes a nutritious way of either creating texture or extending existing texture in an economical and nutritious way. Since TSP in use is less expensive than some meat cuts, this is an excellent method of reducing costs of meat dishes without diminishing the end product qualities.
When cooked, the texture of TSP is similar to that of ground meat. Although it has no natural flavour, it absorbs spices and flavourings extremely well, thus allowing it to closely mimic whatever style of meat it is replacing. This fact also contributes to the product’s overall versatility, since it can be made to taste a variety of different and distinct ways.
Soy is classified as one of the major allergens, however the percentage of people with actual soy allergies is very low, so it is considered one of the lower allergen concerns. To ensure that sensitive or people with actual allergies to soy are notified, Regulatory bodies in both the United States and Canada require on product labelling to educate consumers about what products contain soy.
Twenty-five grams of textured soy protein contain:
- 0 grams of fat
- 0 grams of sugar
- 3 mg of sodium
- 5 grams of fibre
- 7 grams of carbs
- 13 grams of protein
- 68 calories
Soy, from which TSP is made, has a multitude of health benefits. Studies have shown that it may lower cholesterol, decrease the risk of cardiovascular disease, improve bone density, and reduce the risk of some cancers. Additionally, it can improve the symptoms of menopause and lower the risk of bone fractures in post-menopausal women. Soybeans are also a fantastic source of omega-3 fats and monounsaturated fats, which are very healthy for the body. All nine essential amino acids are found in soy.
The upwards trend of plant-based meat alternatives has been encouraged by most health experts and nutritionists. Studies have found that optimum health and disease prevention (including cardiovascular disease—the leading cause of death in the United States) involves a diet that is rich in plants and includes less animal-based foods.
Both Canada’s Dietary Guidelines and the American Heart Association recommend opting for more plant-based protein sources, such as nuts, seeds, and legumes. With high levels of protein and other nutrients, soybeans are a powerful legume that can easily replace meat.
The Future of TSP
TSP is high in protein and provides great texture in simulated meat products, meaning that it has mass appeal to vegans, vegetarians, and anyone looking to cut back on their meat consumption. As well, it is an excellent way to extend meat products in a healthy and nutritious way as it contains no LDL cholesterol and has very low sodium, thus making it an excellent addition to meat.
While naturally bland, it is easily seasoned and will adopt the flavour profile of whatever it is cooked with. Since it can be made to taste like anything, TSP can be used in a variety of ways to create new and exciting products. Traditional meat dishes can easily be reimagined using textured soy protein.
As the plant-based market continues to grow, the use of meat substitutes like textured soy protein will only increase. While it is already a common ingredient in vegetarian and meat products, TSP has vast potential to become the foundation for many more new product developments.
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