6 Reasons Tempeh Should Be Part of a Healthy Diet
By Rachael Link
Tempeh is a fermented soy product that's a popular vegetarian meat replacement.
However, vegetarian or not, it can be a nutritious addition to your diet.
High in protein, probiotics and a wide array of vitamins and minerals, tempeh is a versatile ingredient that comes with a variety of health benefits.
This article will take a deeper look at the many advantages of tempeh.
What Is Tempeh?
Tempeh is a traditional Indonesian food made from soybeans that have been fermented, or broken down by microorganisms.
Following fermentation, the soybeans are pressed into a compact cake that is commonly consumed as a vegetarian source of protein.
In addition to soybeans, tempeh may also be made from other bean varieties, wheat or a mixture of soybeans and wheat (1).
Tempeh has a dry and firm but chewy texture and a slightly nutty taste. It can be steamed, sautéed or baked and is often marinated to add more flavor.
Much like other meatless sources of protein, such as tofu and seitan, tempeh is a popular choice among vegans and vegetarians because it's packed with nutrients.
Summary: Tempeh is typically made up of fermented soybeans and/or wheat. It can be prepared in a variety of different ways and is high in nutrients, making it a popular vegetarian source of protein.
Tempeh Is Rich in Many Nutrients
Tempeh boasts an impressive nutrient profile. It is high in protein, vitamins and minerals but low in sodium and carbs.
A 3-ounce (84-gram) serving of tempeh contains these nutrients (2):
• Calories: 162
• Protein: 15 grams
• Carbs: 9 grams
• Total fat: 9 grams
• Sodium: 9 milligrams
• Iron: 12 percent of the RDI
• Calcium: 9 percent of the RDI
• Riboflavin: 18 percent of the RDI
• Niacin: 12 percent of the RDI
• Magnesium: 18 percent of the RDI
• Phosphorus: 21 percent of the RDI
• Manganese: 54 percent of the RDI
Because it is more compact than other soy products, tempeh provides more protein than some other vegetarian alternatives.
Summary: Tempeh is a good source of protein, iron, manganese, phosphorus, magnesium and calcium. It is also low in carbs and sodium.
It Contains Probiotics
Fermentation is a process that involves the breaking down of sugars by bacteria and yeast (5).
Compared to other tempeh varieties, soy-based tempeh is especially rich in probiotics.
A 2013 test-tube study found that soy tempeh was more effective than bean-based tempeh in stimulating the growth of Bifidobacterium, a beneficial strain of bacteria (8).
Some studies have even found that probiotics could increase weight loss.
One study supplemented 210 adults who had large amounts of belly fat with probiotics. Following the 12-week study, participants lost an average of 8.5 percent of their belly fat (12).
Summary: Tempeh contains probiotics, which may help promote digestive health, increase weight loss and improve immune function, mental health and blood cholesterol levels.
It's High in Protein to Keep You Full
Tempeh is high in protein. One cup (166 grams) provides 31 grams of protein (2).
A diet high in protein can also aid in appetite control by increasing fullness and decreasing hunger (17).
One study found that high-protein soy snacks improved appetite, satiety and diet quality compared to high-fat snacks (18).
Additionally, research shows that soy protein can be just as effective as meat-based protein when it comes to appetite control.
In a 2014 study, 20 obese men were placed on a high-protein diet that included either soy-based or meat-based protein.
After two weeks, they found that both diets led to weight loss, a decrease in hunger and an increase in fullness with no significant difference between the two protein sources (19).
Summary: Tempeh is high in soy protein, which can promote satiety, reduce hunger and increase weight loss.
It May Reduce Cholesterol Levels
Tempeh is traditionally made from soybeans, which contain natural plant compounds called isoflavones.
Soy isoflavones have been associated with reduced cholesterol levels.
One review looked at 11 studies and found that soy isoflavones were able to significantly decrease both total and LDL cholesterol (20).
Another study looked at the effects of soy protein on cholesterol levels and triglycerides. 42 participants were fed a diet containing either soy protein or animal protein over a six-week period.
Compared to animal protein, soy protein decreased LDL cholesterol by 5.7 percent and total cholesterol by 4.4 percent. It also decreased triglycerides by 13.3 percent (21).
Though most available research focuses on the effects of soy isoflavones and soy protein on blood cholesterol, one study did focus specifically on tempeh.
A 2013 animal study examined the effects of nutrient-enriched soybean tempeh on mice with liver damage.
It found that tempeh had a protective effect on the liver and was able to reverse damage to liver cells. Additionally, tempeh caused a decrease in both cholesterol and triglyceride levels (22).
Summary: Tempeh is made from soybeans, which contain soy isoflavones. Studies show that soy isoflavones and soy protein may decrease blood cholesterol levels.
It Could Decrease Oxidative Stress
Studies show that soy isoflavones also possess antioxidant properties and may reduce oxidative stress (23).
Antioxidants work by neutralizing free radicals, atoms that are highly unstable and can contribute to the development of chronic disease.
The accumulation of harmful free radicals has been linked to many diseases, including diabetes, heart disease and cancer (24).
Other studies have found that supplementing with soy isoflavones may have a favorable effect on several diseases associated with oxidative stress.
Another study used data from 6,000 households in Japan and found that intake of soy products was associated with a decreased risk of death from heart disease and stomach cancer (28).
Tempeh may especially be beneficial compared to other soy products.
One study compared the isoflavones in soybeans to the isoflavones in tempeh and found that tempeh had greater antioxidant activity (29).
Summary: Soy isoflavones may possess antioxidant properties and could be beneficial in decreasing oxidative stress and chronic disease.
It Can Promote Bone Health
Tempeh is a good source of calcium, a mineral that is responsible for keeping bones strong and dense.
Adequate calcium intake may prevent the development of osteoporosis, a condition that is associated with bone loss and porous bones (30).
In one study, 40 elderly women increased their calcium intake through diet or supplements for two years. Increasing calcium intake decreased bone loss and preserved bone density, compared to control groups (31).
Another study looked at 37 women and showed that increasing dietary calcium intake by 610 mg per day helped prevent age-related bone loss (32).
Though dairy products are the most common sources of calcium, studies show that the calcium in tempeh is as well absorbed as the calcium in milk, making it an excellent option for increasing calcium intake (35).
Summary: Tempeh is high in calcium and may help increase bone density and prevent bone loss.
Tempeh May Not Be for Everyone
Tempeh, along with other fermented soy products, is generally considered to be safe for most people.
However, some individuals may want to consider limiting their intake of tempeh.
Those with a soy allergy should avoid tempeh altogether.
Eating tempeh may trigger an allergic response for those allergic to soy, which could include symptoms like hives, swelling or difficulty breathing.
Additionally, soybeans are considered a goitrogen, a substance that can interfere with thyroid function.
Though studies show that soy intake has little to no effect on thyroid function, those with impaired thyroid function may want to keep intake in moderation (36).
Summary: Individuals who have a soy allergy should avoid tempeh, while those with impaired thyroid function may want to limit their intake.
How to Use Tempeh
Both versatile and nutritious, tempeh is easy to incorporate into your diet.
Tempeh is typically marinated or seasoned to increase flavor, then crumbled, baked, steamed or sautéed and added to dishes.
It can be used in everything from sandwiches to stir-fries.
Here are a few other delicious ways to use tempeh:
Summary: Tempeh is usually marinated or seasoned and then crumbled, baked, steamed or sautéed. It can be used in a wide variety of dishes.
The Bottom Line
Tempeh is a nutrient-dense soy product with a high amount of protein, as well as various vitamins and minerals.
It may decrease cholesterol levels, oxidative stress and appetite while improving bone health.
Tempeh also contains probiotics, which can improve digestive health and promote weight loss.
Nevertheless, those with a soy allergy or impaired thyroid function should limit their intake of tempeh and other soy-based products.
Yet for most, tempeh is a versatile and nutritious food that can be an excellent addition to the diet.
Reposted with permission from our media associate Authority Nutrition.
Environmental officials and members of the U.S. Coast Guard are racing to clean up a mysterious oil spill that has spread to 11 miles of Delaware coastline.
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By Dr. Kate Raynes-Goldie
Of all the plastic we've ever produced, only 9% has been recycled. So what happened to all that plastic you've put in the recycling bin over the years?
Triangle of Mistruths<p>The myth created around plastic recycling has been one of simplicity. We look for the familiar triangle arrows, then pop the waste in the recycling bin so it can be reused.</p><p>But the true purpose of those triangles has been misunderstood by the general public ever since their invention in the 1980s.</p><p>These triangles were actually created by the plastics industry and, according to a report provided to them in July 1993, <a href="https://www.npr.org/transcripts/912150085" target="_blank">were creating "unrealistic expectations"</a> about what could be recycled. But they decided to keep using the codes.</p><p>Which is why many people still believe that these triangular symbols (also known as a <a href="https://sustainablepackaging.org/101-resin-identification-codes/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">resin identifier code</a> or RIC) means something is recyclable.</p><p>But according to the American Society for Testing and Materials International (ASTM) – which controls the RIC system – the numbered triangles "<a href="https://www.astm.org/Standards/D7611.htm" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">are not recycle codes</a>." In fact, they weren't created for the general public at all. They were made for the post-consumer plastic industry.</p><p>In other words, the symbols make it easier to sort the different types of plastics, some of which cannot be recycled – <a href="https://www.ecobin.com.au/understand-recycling-codes/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">depending on the recycling facility</a>.</p><p>"Unfortunately, just placing your plastic into the recycling bin doesn't mean it will get recycled," says Lara Camilla Pinho. She is an architect and lecturer at the UWA School of Design who is researching novel uses of plastic waste.</p><p>"The recycling system is complicated and often dictated by market demand. Not all plastic is recyclable. We cannot recycle plastic bags or straws for example."</p>
Behind the Scenes<p>So, what makes recycling plastics so difficult?</p><p>"Essentially, there are two types of plastics – thermoplastics and thermosets. While thermoplastics can be re-melted and re-molded, thermosets contain cross-linked polymers that cannot be separated meaning they cannot be recycled," says Lara.</p><p>"Even thermoplastics have a limit to the amount of times we can recycle them, as each time they are recycled they downgrade in quality."</p><p>Even when plastics are recyclable, it is <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/oct/13/war-on-plastic-waste-faces-setback-as-cost-of-recycled-material-soars" target="_blank">often more costly</a> than simply making new plastics.</p>
Sugar, Seaweed and Mushrooms<p>If the conventional recycling system isn't working, what else can we do with all the plastic we've created?</p><p>Lara is looking for ways to add value to recycled plastics such as using it in the design and development of architectural products. She hopes to use these architectural products to help underserved communities that are disproportionately affected by plastic waste.</p><p>In addition to recycling, we also need to find ways to reduce our use of virgin petroleum-based plastics.</p><p>Bioplastic is one such product that has been getting a lot of hype over the last few years. And although they're better than petroleum-based plastics, bioplastics also come with their own <a href="https://phys.org/news/2017-12-truth-bioplastics.html" target="_blank">set of challenges</a>.</p><p>"There are already a lot of bio-based alternatives to plastic, such as bagasse – a byproduct of sugar cane processing," says Lara.</p><p><a href="https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/observations/the-mycelium-revolution-is-upon-us/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Mycelium</a>, a type of fungi we most often associate with mushrooms, are also providing an interesting plastic alternative.</p><p>"In the field of architecture, mycelium is starting to be used as an alternative to plastic insulation, but also as compostable packaging and bricks," says Lara.</p><p>"The bricks take around five days to make and are strong, durable, water resistant and compostable at the end of their use."</p><p><a href="https://www.arup.com/news-and-events/hyfi-reinvents-the-brick" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Hy-Fi Tower</a>, created by <a href="http://www.thelivingnewyork.com/living_about.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">The Living</a>, is an example of a building made from these bricks.</p><p>And finally, there's seaweed.</p><p>"[Seaweed is] cheap and can reproduce itself quickly without fertilizers. In architecture, there is use for seaweed as an alternative to plastic insulation but also as cladding," says Lara.</p>
More Money, More Problems<p>While all these alternatives are great, the main cause of our plastic dilemma is not scientific or technological, but economic.</p><p>As long as it remains <a href="https://engineering.mit.edu/engage/ask-an-engineer/why-is-it-cheaper-to-make-new-plastic-bottles-than-to-recycle-old-ones/" target="_blank">cheaper to create new plastics</a> from fossil fuels rather than from bioplastics or from recycling, we're going to be stuck with plastic garbage islands floating in our oceans.</p><p>The true cost to our health and our environment has yet to be included in the equation. But once it is, maybe that is when the real shift will happen.</p>
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