What Is Tempeh? The Indonesian Vegan Protein Benefits Explained - Tourism Indonesia




Monday, July 11, 2022

What Is Tempeh? The Indonesian Vegan Protein Benefits Explained


Image Ella Olsson on Unsplash

Haven’t heard of tempeh yet? This vegan protein is full of benefits for you and the planet. Here’s what to know.

When you think of vegan protein, a few culprits usually come to mind: beans, maybe tofu (technically a bean). Or maybe you think of something like a Beyond or Impossible Burger, both of which look, cook, and taste like meat. But one staple vegan protein for a large chunk of the planet may not be top of mind: tempeh.

What Is Tempeh?

Rooted in Indonesian culture, tempeh is a traditional food made from soybeans. The beans are fermented and compressed into dense, chewy cakes with a meaty-like texture. Where tofu is creamy and smooth, tempeh is filled with chunks of whole beans, softened through the fermentation process. It has texture and a dense mouthfeel that contrasts from tofu.

Tempeh can be made from other beans as well. Mung, garbanzo, and black beans, for example, may be common substitutes. The beans can also be processed and mixed with wheat gluten—another common vegan protein called seitan–to form a hybrid protein source.

Photo by cottonbro from Pexels

Tempeh Nutrition Benefits

Looking for a low-fat high-protein food? Like all vegan protein, tempeh may be a good choice. A 3-ounce serving contains 15 grams of protein and just nine grams of carbs. Credit its compacted nature for its high protein content—tempeh’s 15 grams per three-ounce serving compared to tofu’s six.

It’s rich in iron—about 12 percent of the RDI—as well as calcium. The high calcium levels make tempeh an excellent food for supporting bone health, reducing bone loss, and improving bone density.

But it’s a real powerhouse when it comes to manganese, boasting 54 percent of the RDI. It’s about 18 percent of riboflavin and magnesium, a good source of phosphorous, and niacin. In other words, tempeh is healthy.

Soy products, particularly the isoflavones, have also been linked to heart health. Regular consumption of soy-based foods like tempeh has been linked to decreased LDL (bad) cholesterol levels as well as decreased triglycerides—markers for heart disease.

Regularly consuming soy has also been linked to decreased risks of certain types of cancer. According to Healthline, soy may help the body attack and rid itself of dangerous free radicals linked to certain types of cancer.

A Fermented Food

The fermented nature of the soy cakes may make it more digestible for people with soy allergies, too.

Microbes have played important roles in our food for millennia and tempeh is one of the best examples. Bacteria and yeast that break down sugars also break down the phytic acid in soybeans. For some people, phytic acid can disrupt digestion and nutrient absorption.

There’s another benefit, too: probiotics. Unpasteurized fermented foods like tempeh can provide a healthy dose of probiotics, which may help to balance the gut’s healthy bacteria. These bacteria, however, are typically destroyed during cooking.

But tempeh is also rich in prebiotics—fiber that supports the growth of healthy bacteria. These foods for healthy bacteria have been linked to a number of health benefits including healthier elimination, reduced inflammation, and improved brain function.

Sustainable Soy

Unlike beef and other animal-based protein sources, tempeh is one of the better foods for the planet. Claims that soy is destroying the rainforest are misleading—it’s soy cultivated for beef production, particularly in Brazil, that’s the real issue. Beef production is linked to egregious deforestation of the Amazon at such a massive scale that the former carbon sink is now producing more emissions than it sequesters.

But soy can be one of the best low-impact crops produced. According to the Sustainability Alliance, 95 percent of U.S. soy farmers participate in conservation programs and use sustainable production practices. “Since 1980, U.S. soy farmers increased production by 96% while using 8% less energy,” the Alliance notes. “94% of U.S. soybean acres are non-irrigated and 75% of sediment is removed by conservation buffers, improving water quality.”



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