Tempeh has kind of become a staple in our house. It has taken its place along side all those other magical veggies, seeds and nuts we eat on a regular basis. Tempeh is an outstanding source of protein as well a natural probiotic. It is made by fermenting soybeans. It orginated in Indosneisa and has been around since the 1800’s. Many believe it is a traditional Chinese dish. We lived in Japan for three years and much to my dismay I was not able to find fermented soy in tempeh form there. They are much more keen on the natto form of fermented soy beans, which honestly requires a very established pallate to consume. Here is a really great history if you’re a food nerd like me and want to know where it originated, SoyInfoCenter.com. It has the same texture as meat and absorbs the flavors of whatever it is cooked or marinated in. When cooked properly it has a delicious nutty flavor. The biggest bonus is that it’s a super easy, convenient and diverse option for a quick week night dinner that the whole family will enjoy and can truly benefit from.
Vitamins and Minerals
Tempeh is a whole food. It’s produced with little to no processing. The quality varieties that you will find in the market are organic, non-GMO and pasteurized by vacuum sealing, instead of the traditional heat pasteurization that is done to most food, maintaining it’s amazing nutritional benefits. Tempeh is nutrient dense, meaning it is loaded with a lot of important vitamins and minerals. It is super high in protein, 18 grams per serving to be exact, making it an easily digestible and outstanding plant-based protein. It is low in carbohydrates, has no sugar, it is loaded with B vitamins, calcium, copper, folate (great for growing mama bellys like mine), iron, manganese, magnesium and zinc
Copper and Calcium are essential for great bone health.
Manganese is important for fighting off illness and regulating hormones. It is has also been shown to help prevent the overly high blood sugar levels that can contribute to diabetes.
Folate is vital for fetal development and maintenance of red blood cells. It is not a naturally occurring substance in our body, much like vitamin D it requires the aid of other natural sources. We get it from the foods we eat. It is important to eat it often so that we can maintain proper levels in our body.
B-vitamins are essential for efficient metabolism function, that is energy production, and can help to reduce cholesterol levels.
Magnesium is required for numerous biological process in the body, including nerve and muscle function, immune support, regulating blood-glucose and maintaining good blood pressure.
Zinc is a huge supporter of immune function and it vital for mitosis, cell division, which ensures we are regenerating all those damaged cells and growing strong bodies.
Tempeh is a natural form of probiotic. The probiotics are a byproduct of the fermentation process. Probiotics have been proven to help to alleviate digestive issues such as candida, IBS, ulcerative colitis and even colic in babies. It can increase immune health, help to heal leaky gut syndrome which reduces inflammation in the body, clear acne and help with eczema. There are numerous other benefits associated with the consumption of probiotics. I will talk about them more in a later blog.
Isoflavones are essentially plant estrogen. They are found mostly in beans and are most dense in the beans of the soy plant. A 2005 study published in The British Journal of Nutrition tested if isoflavones, might be useful in the inhibition of tumor growth. The results suggest that the isolated isoflavones from unprocessed soy, such as tempeh and soy beans can be an important tool for the treatment of cancer and inflammatory diseases. A 1998 study published by the American Association for Cancer Research found that soy isoflavone consumption may exert cancer-preventive effects. The study involved 12 healthy pre-menopausal women who consumed soy protein supplements for 100 days. Compared with the control diet, soy isoflavone proved to have cancer treating effects.
Isoflavones have also been shown to be beneficial for women going through menopause. The estrogen in soy can help to replace the estrogen lost and alleviate some of the symptoms associated with the changes women many experience.
Over all, like all food, there are benefits and risks to eating each. Eating soy in whole food form, in reasonable portions and paying attentions to the effects it has on you will help you determine how much to eat. Each of us is different and unique and need to keep that in mind. Also, as we heal our bodies over time we may not need certain health foods as much or as often. So what is helping you now may need to be adjusted later. It is all about just paying attention to your body and what it is telling you.
Here is a great set of links of Isoflavone studies:
Possible Side Effects
You may have read about certain health risks from consuming soy, but it’s believed that a significant amount of these possible health risks involve consumption of soy in a highly processed form such as soy milk, meat alternatives and some tofu brands versus the whole food form. The good news is, tempeh is viewed as one of those whole food forms of soy. According to Dr. Axe it is recommended that if you have a history of specifically having estrogen-receptor positive breast cancer, you should avoid eating tempeh. There is chance that is could elevate levels of estrogen and trigger breast cell reproduction. The research on this issue is very mixed, most studies indicate that soy needs to be eaten in excessive amounts, however until the research is clear it is safer to avoid the food altogether if you are already at risk.
Soy is also considered one of the top food allergens. This is often a result of being overprocessed. When consumed in whole form, especially fermented like tempeh is, it is usally much more tolerated and easily digestible. If you have been diagnosed with a a soy allergy check with doctor before you start eating it though.
Finally as I mentioned tempeh is a natural probiotic, so over consumption right off the bat could lead to stomach discomfort, gas, diarrhea or very loose stool. Ease your way into eating it, over time your body with adjust to the healthy dose of good bacteria and you will see and feel the amazing benefits!
The traditional fermentation of soy beans to make tempeh is done in banana leaves.
Check out this link below for some beautiful images of the process.