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WHAT IS HYDROLYZED VEGETABLE PROTEIN AND WHY IS IT UNHEALTHY?

Hydrolyzed vegetable protein (HVP), simply put, is a flavor enhancer. It is used to improve the flavor of processed food and some snacks that you enjoy. This substance comes from boiling soy, wheat or corn foods in hydrochloric acid. It is neutralized by a base, preferably sodium hydroxide. The acid then breaks down the protein from the vegetables into various amino acids. The hydrolyzed vegetable protein has the filling effect, so it is strongly recommended by vegetarians and dieticians for production use. 

Ever heard of Monosodium glutamate (MSG), the cruel cousin to HVG that caused the Chinese restaurant syndrome? It is a flavor enhancer that is made from glutamic acid. Hydrolyzed vegetable protein contains about 10 to 30% of MSG.

WHY IS HVP BAD?

  1. Manufacturers tend to use HVP in place of MSG because of the negative controversies surrounding the latter. Use may still bring about the same effects of MSG such as excessive sweating, facial pressure, heart palpitations, chest pain, nausea, weakness, etc.
  2. Claims of salmonella contamination in HVP: There is some evidence claiming that HVP can be contaminated by salmonella. This issue is very serious as it can be fatal to young children. Although more investigations about this are ongoing, it calls for caution when consuming products with this ingredient. However, it should be noted that any food can be a carrier or a contaminant of this bacteria, not just hydrolyzed vegetable protein.
  3. MSG is a strong headache trigger, and people with a low tolerance level can develop the MSG symptom complex. It is advisable for people who are allergic to MSG to avoid foods that contain hydrolyzed vegetable protein, or anything with the word ‘hydrolyzed’ written on it.

HOW DOES HVP END UP IN PRODUCTS?

As stated above hydrolyzed vegetable protein is added to food as a flavor enhancer. When food is stripped of nutritional value and taste, chemical compounds have to be added to make it taste good. This is one of the reasons HVP is added to food. Real and natural food is naturally flavorful.

WHAT PRODUCTS ARE HVP FOUND IN?

As a flavor improver, it is found in hundreds of food products like soups, stews, gravies, sauces, potato chips, pretzels, dips. Virtually any processed foods can have this as an added ingredient.

HOW TO IDENTIFY HVP ON A LABEL

For your health sake, look at the ingredient section of the product you are about to purchase and search for keywords like hydrolyzed vegetable oil, gluten, glutamate, monosodium glutamate and even autolyzed and hydrolyzed yeast extract.

CONCLUSION:

Although two of the three words in hydrolyzed vegetable protein indicate health and nutrition, it is anything but. It is becoming increasingly important to learn what ingredients are under the hood so we don’t fall as a victim based on a misleading name.

HVP is not a vegetable despite its name

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