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Tempeh: What Is It, And Why It’s Healthy

Published February 11, 2019 (Revised: July 09, 2019)
<article> <section> <p>If you are on the ketogenic diet or just looking to be healthier, you probably have placed a lot of value on your protein intake. For vegans and vegetarians, however, this can be a really tricky area for you, one that requires some mindfulness and a spare thought during your day: <i>Did I eat enough protein?</i></p> <p>One of the signs of a healthy diet is diversity in food sources and colors on your plate, which is why we would like to talk about a protein source you might not have considered before: tempeh. If you are a vegan or vegetarian, you have probably heard of this healthier alternative to tofu, but if you are just someone looking to expand your protein tastes, you might be surprised to find that tempeh has a lot to offer you. Tempeh (tem-PAE) is made out of fermented soybeans, and they are a top protein substitute or meal addition for many reasons.</p> <picture class="lazy-load"> <source data-srcset="" type="image/webp"> <source data-srcset="" type="image/jpf"> <source data-srcset=""> <img src="" class="img-fluid" alt="spices-in-spoons-0075"> </picture> </section> <hr class="divider-50 divider-medium mx-auto"> <section> <header>Tempeh Comes From A Legume</header> <p>Tempeh is a fermented soy product, coming from the original plant, the soybean. Soybeans have found a niche as the heavy-hitting protein source for vegans and vegetarians, carrying twenty-eight grams of protein per cup <sup>1</sup>. Soy creations are used in most ‘mock meat’ dishes because of its special flavor abilities.They do not have much of a flavor on their own, but they absorb the flavor of whatever they are cooked with very well, which is why they make malleable protein substitutions when cooking. Soybeans are especially helpful for people on the ketogenic diet as they also carry fifteen grams of fat in that same cup of twenty-eight grams of protein.</p> <p><a target="_blank" href="" rel="noreferrer">Vegans and vegetarians on the ketogenic diet</a> have to be very careful with their protein sources because of <i>protein combining</i> and the heavy carbs found in most meat substitutes. Protein combining is the act of combining different protein sources in order to give your body all of the building blocks of proteins that it needs; these building blocks are called <i>essential amino acids</i>. While vegans and vegetarians can normally get all of the essential amino acids they need from a wide range of legumes and grains, when they go on the ketogenic diet, some may feel like they have to choose between their ketogenic diet or their ethical lifestyle. But with soybean creations like tempeh providing all of the necessary essential amino acids, vegans and vegetarians can easily find success on the ketogenic diet.</p> </section> <hr class="divider-50 divider-medium mx-auto"> <section> <header>Why Tempeh Should Be Your Soy Go-To</header> <p>Of all the soy products on the market, tempeh is the best to try. Tempeh and nato are the fermented versions of soybeans. Only where nato still looks bean-like and is fermented with bacteria, tempeh get’s fermented with fungi spores and gets melded into a cake-like substance. This is a part of the reason we love tempeh over nato, it’s far more malleable to use as a meat replacement. Even better, the fungi spores give it a slightly nutty flavor.</p> <p>It is rumored that the original tempeh spores were discovered by accident, when soybeans were left out too long in tempeh’s home country of Indonesia. The spores took root and caused fermentation. Today, the fungi cultures are started with a specialized tempeh fermentation starter. If you have any reservations about eating fungi spores, don’t worry! These are good for you. In fact, they’re <i>great</i> for you!</p> <p>The fungi fermentation that creates tempeh breaks down a lot of the harder to digest stuff found in normal soybeans and edamame. Because some of this tougher stuff is broken down, the nutrients that are locked away inside are more readily available. Fermented tempeh offers more nutrients to your body, bite per bite, than other soy creations like raw edamame or tofu.</p> <p>Tempeh’s fermented origins also allows it to act as a great <i>probiotic</i> food. Probiotics are foods or supplements that carry <i>healthy microbes</i> into your <i>microbiome</i>, which is a complex network of living bacteria, fungi, and other microbes inside of your digestive system. New science is reporting that the microbiome does a million things from helping you to digest your food to helping your brain create enough serotonin <sup>2</sup>. It’s so important!</p> <p>In order to keep these important microbiomes healthy, we need to maintain and tend to them. When we eat probiotic foods, made by fermentation or supplements, we replenish the supply of good bacteria or fungi in the gut. This is so good for us because it helps to strengthen the network of healthy microbes, and a strong network within the microbiome translates to a healthy body.</p> <p>We here at Warrior Made are big fans of tempeh as a plant-based protein substitute because of these probiotic benefits, but tempeh’s healthy advantages do not stop short of its probiotic nature. For example, <i>did you know that fermented soy can lower your blood pressure and cholesterol? </i></p> <p>A study done in Japan cited fermented soy as having a positive impact on patients with high blood pressure, and they found that eating unfermented soy products had little to no effect on the blood pressure readings <sup>3</sup>.</p> <p>Along with the protein prowess that comes from it’s soybean origins, tempeh works wonderfully with a ketogenic diet as tempeh eaten with a high-fat diet can improve your liver health. In a study done on rats with three different tempeh probiotic strains, the rats that were subsequently fed a high-fat diet saw an increase in liver function that was unrivalled by that of the control<sup>4</sup>. While eating a ketogenic diet has a known benefit of helping with organ function, when combined with tempeh, you can give your liver a powerful boost.</p> <picture class="lazy-load"> <source data-srcset="" type="image/webp"> <source data-srcset="" type="image/jpf"> <source data-srcset=""> <img src="" class="img-fluid" alt="woman-silhouette-sunset-0075"> </picture> </section> <hr class="divider-50 divider-medium mx-auto"> <section> <header>Why Tempeh Over Other Soy</header> <p>When most people think of soy products, their first thought is tofu. Tofu is the common mock meat substitute in restaurants for vegan cooking because it is completely flavorless. Whether you are vegan or not this brings up a valid question...If it’s the most common substitute when eating out, should dieters shrug their shoulders and eat whatever options they have available to them?</p> <picture class="lazy-load"> <source data-srcset="" type="image/webp"> <source data-srcset="" type="image/jpf"> <source data-srcset=""> <img src="" class="img-fluid" alt="milk-and-nut-bowl-0075"> </picture> <p>It depends on how you feel about processed food. Tofu is made from curdled and then coagulated soy milk. And neither of those processes occur naturally for soy milk. Special reactive agents are added to the soy milk, which is already processed with thickening agents and gums. Additionally, because tofu is made from soy milk, it has already lost most of its nutritional value.</p> <p>Tempeh, on the other hand, is made from the whole bean, so it contains more nutritional value than the coagulated milk proteins. That, combined with its fermented origins, puts tempeh above the rest of soybean’s creations.</p> <p> <table style="width:100%; text-align: center;"> <tbody> <tr> <td></td> <td><b>Soybeans</b></td> <td></td> </tr> <tr> <td style="border: 1px solid black;">Raw</td> <td style="border: 1px solid black;">Fermented</td> <td style="border: 1px solid black;">Processed</td> </tr> <tr> <td style="border: 1px solid black; border-bottom: none;">Soybeans</td> <td style="border: 1px solid black; border-bottom: none;">Tempeh</td> <td style="border: 1px solid black; border-bottom: none;">Soy Milk</td> </tr> <tr> <td style="border: 1px solid black; border-top: none;">Edamame</td> <td style="border: 1px solid black; border-top: none;">Nato</td> <td style="border: 1px solid black; border-top: none;">Tofu</td> </tr> </tbody></table> </p> <picture class="lazy-load"> <source data-srcset="" type="image/webp"> <source data-srcset="" type="image/jpf"> <source data-srcset=""> <img src="" class="img-fluid" alt="wok-cooking-vegetables-0075"> </picture> <p>Just because tofu is the common meat substitute, does not mean that tempeh is difficult to use in cooking. Tempeh is just as versatile as tofu, but with a little more structure to it from the pressed soybeans. You can find it in most grocery stores, normally in a fridge section near other vegan substitutes. It can be boiled, sautéed, roasted, grilled, and eaten chilled. It’s nutty flavor adds a little delicious richness to whatever you’re cooking, and, because of the way tempeh is pressed, the probiotic benefits survive the heat and fridge so they can make it to your gut.</p> </section> <hr class="divider-50 divider-medium mx-auto"> <section> <header>Soy Reactions to Watch Out For</header> <p>Tempeh is a great protein source to use in your diet, but even with all of its amazing health benefits, it is still a food made from soybeans. And soybeans do not always agree with with everyone’s body. Soy is one of the leading food allergies in the United States along with corn and wheat. This is due to the fact that most soybeans grown in the United States are genetically modified organisms, or GMOs, and are then conventionally farmed with pesticides and herbicides. Some sensitive stomachs can’t handle this sort of food treatment and might react to soy.</p> <p>Additionally, because of soy’s <i>isoflavones</i><sup>5</sup>, which act as estrogen in the body, women with reproductive issues and people suffering from autoimmune thyroid conditions like Hashimoto’s disease tend to feel better when they don’t consume soybeans. If a person finds that they are soy intolerant, the best thing they can do for their health is to listen to what their body needs.</p> <p>For those who can handle soy, tempeh makes for an excellent meat substitute or protein addition to any meal. From its probiotic advantages to its liver benefits, tempeh offers far more bang for your buck than processed tofu, while offering you more readily available nutrients than raw soybeans can. Vegans and vegetarians can thrive very well using tempeh on the ketogenic diet, and even if you are not a vegan or vegetarian, adding some tempeh to your cooking can supply you with a whole slew of benefits to help you on your health journey.</p> <div class="sub-head">Resources</div> <ol> <li><a target="_blank" href="" rel="noreferrer">Soybeans, mature cooked, boiled, without salt</a></li> <li><a target="_blank" href="" rel="noreferrer">Microbes Help Produce Serotonin in Gut</a></li> <li><a target="_blank" href="" rel="noreferrer">Beneficial Effects of Dietary Tempeh Prepared with Rhizopus stolonifer</a></li> <li><a target="_blank" href="" rel="noreferrer">Fermented Soy Product Intake</a></li> <li><a target="_blank" href="" rel="noreferrer">Soy foods, isoflavones, and the health of postmenopausal women</a></li> </ol> </section> </article>

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