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What is Hydrolyzed Vegetable Protein?

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  • Written By: Malcolm Tatum
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 06 November 2016
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Hydrolyzed vegetable protein (HVP) is a type of flavor enhancer that is created with the use of different types of vegetables. Among the most common vegetables used in the creation of this type of food filler are soybeans, corn, and wheat. HVP is helpful in manufacturing a number of packaged foods, aiding in the retention of flavor. It is also often utilized as part of the seasoning for types of meat substitutes using in the preparation of prepackaged vegetarian products.

The actual process that is used to create hydrolyzed vegetable protein involves boiling or otherwise breaking down the soy and other products with the use of hydrochloric acid. Once the vegetable matter is broken down, the mixture is treated with sodium hydroxide as a means of neutralizing the acid content. What is left is an amino-rich substance that is capable of helping to enhance the flavor of a number of different foods. As with most types of flavor enhancers, HVP is sometimes used to improve the taste of foods that are of lesser quality.

Hydrolyzed vegetable protein is commonly used in a number of different types of packaged foods. Condensed soups are likely to contain at least some HVP. Many powdered gravy and dip mixes utilize the product to enhance flavor. Frozen meat entrees like Salisbury steaks in gravy or frozen meatloaf may also contain this type of flavor enhancer. Even some snack foods like pretzels and spicy flavors of potato chips may contain HVP.

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In some areas, hydrolyzed vegetable protein is recommended as an alternative to another well-known flavor enhancer, monosodium glutamate or MSG. While the two enhancers are somewhat different in chemical composition, they also share a number of attributes. This means that people who are have allergic reactions when consuming MSG are also likely to experience similar responses when eating anything that contains HVP. Since a number of canned soups and other packaged foods include HVP, reading product labels before making a purchase is essential.

Negative reactions to hydrolyzed vegetable protein can range from mild to severe. For some people, the product may trigger headaches or mild nausea that goes away in a few hours. Other people experience more pronounced reactions, such as shortness of breath or a sense of weakness. Difficulty in breathing may occur, up to and including experiencing an asthma attack. There is also the possibility of chest pains and possibly seizures after consuming HVP.

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