"cubed tempeh" by Stacy Spensley is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Is Tempeh Good For You?

As veganism grows in popularity, meat substitutes that provide adequate levels of protein and an equally satiating flavor have surged in popularity as well. This has opened a market for plenty of meat-replicating substitutes such as Beyond Meat or Impossible Foods. However, the best substitutes for meat do not necessarily need to replicate its attributes.

Tempeh, a fermented soy product originating in Indonesia, has become a popular substitute for meat due to its high protein levels, 15g per 3-ounce serving, and additional nutritional value. Its high levels of calcium, manganese, phosphorus, iron, and magnesium, in addition to its low levels of carbohydrates and sodium, make it a particularly healthy meat substitute.

As it is with any food, tempeh is best in moderation, and there are noteworthy side effects of consuming the product. However, there are plenty of health benefits that make tempeh an intriguing meat substitute. First, let us go over the many benefits of consuming tempeh.

What are the Health Benefits of Tempeh?

As mentioned in the preceding section, tempeh contains high levels of protein and several minerals that provide our bodies with important nutrients. Let us take a look at the nutrients that tempeh offers and the scale of these nutrients per 3-ounce serving of tempeh.

NutrientProteinCarbsCalc.IronMag.Phos.Mang.Sod.Fats
Amount15g7.8g93.3mg2.4mg68.1mg223.5mg1.2mg7.5mg9g
& of DV30%3%9%12%18%21%54%~0%3%

This table makes it clear that tempeh is an excellent source of protein and mineral nutrients while limiting the amount of sodium and total fats entering your system. Although these nutrients all sound good, it is probably still unclear what the actual health benefits of tempeh are. Here is a list that details the various health benefits of consuming tempeh.

  • Reduces Cholesterol Levels: As tempeh is a fermented soy product, it contains many of the health benefits present in other soy products. This includes natural plant compounds present in soy called isoflavones, which have been correlated with reduced cholesterol levels.

Furthermore, soy proteins have been observed to reduce LDL cholesterol, sometimes referred to as “bad” cholesterol, by nearly 6%. Therefore, tempeh’s soy foundation is vital to some of its most beneficial health benefits.

  • Offers Prebiotic Benefits: In addition to its foundation as a soy product, tempeh’s foundation as a fermented product provides it with additional health benefits. 

Although tempeh contains little to no probiotics as it is typically cooked prior to consumption, the fermentation process does leave tempeh with prebiotics, a type of fiber that nourishes the beneficial bacteria.

Prebiotics possess several health benefits. For one, prebiotics has been observed to have systemic anti-inflammatory effects, particularly when supplemented with synbiotics, pre- and probiotic combinations.

Furthermore, prebiotics can have modulatory effects on your gut microbiota, which can support your digestive health and even benefit your cognition.

  • Strengthens Bones: Evident in the table above, tempeh is also an excellent source of calcium. Calcium has been observed to have a positive correlation with bone density and has even been linked to preventing bone loss. 

Furthermore, the calcium in tempeh has been observed to be as well absorbed as the calcium in dairy products, which makes it a comparable source of calcium.

  • Excellent Source of Protein: Finally, as evident in the table above, tempeh is an excellent source of protein. In just a 3-ounce serving, tempeh provides about 15 grams of protein, which is nearly one-third of your suggested daily intake.

What are the Side Effects of Tempeh?

While there is nothing exclusive to tempeh as a soy product that makes it harmful, there are a couple of side effects present within any soy product that may cause you harm.

It is worth noting that tempeh is a relatively healthy form of soy product, particularly due to its fermentation process. Therefore, some side effects commonly linked to soy will not apply as harshly to tempeh.

  • Cancer-Promoting Phytoestrogens: Phytoestrogens are plant-derived compounds present within every soy product. These can include compounds such as isoflavones, which were previously mentioned as excellent cholesterol reducers.

Although these plant compounds are typically safe in moderation, an excessive intake of these compounds has been linked to promoting cancer. 

There are studies that suggest that non-Asian populations are particularly susceptible to this side effect as soy products are not as built into non-Asian societies, suggesting a lack of resilience to these negative effects.

  • Allergic Reactions: This is a fairly obvious one, but as soy is the foundation for tempeh, those with a soy allergy will experience side effects related to their allergy. These side effects can vary between breaking out in hives, esophageal swelling, and difficulty breathing. Therefore, those with soy allergies should simply avoid tempeh altogether.

Although any side effects related to an allergic reaction should prompt a complete avoidance of tempeh, cancer-related side effects are still not explicitly proven. It is likely that any correlation would be caused by the overconsumption of soy products, so moderation is always the best method for consumption.

How to Prepare Tempeh

There are a number of inventive and absolutely scrumptious tempeh recipes. Tempeh bacon is perhaps the most famous of these recipes. However, if you are looking for a simple guide on how to prepare your tempeh correctly, look no further! 

Here are four common methods for preparing tempeh:

  • Marinated Tempeh: Like most other fermented soy products, tempeh does not offer much on its own in the flavor department. However, tempeh is particularly effective in soaking in flavors, which makes it a perfect candidate for a marinade.

It is best to chop up the tempeh into smaller pieces before soaking these pieces in any marinade of your choosing. Typically, it does not take longer than two hours to marinate tempeh but leaving it to marinate overnight will create a much richer flavor.

Then, simply pan-fry the finished product until it becomes crispy in texture.

  • Steamed Tempeh: If you are averse to tempeh’s flavor even after a deep marinade, then steaming it before beginning the marinating process may help reduce its somewhat bitter flavor. 

To do so, simply bring a saucepan of water or vegetable broth to a boil, then place the tempeh into the saucepan, reduce the heat, and let it simmer for roughly 10 minutes.

  • Blackened Tempeh: If you include tempeh in a cold dish such as a salad, then blackened tempeh will likely pair best with this type of dish.

To blacken tempeh, use a prepared seasoning or make your own using equal measures of paprika, black pepper, garlic powder, cayenne, dried oregano, dried thyme, and salt. Then, lather the tempeh in oil, coat it with the seasoning, and sear in a frying pan for 5-10 seconds on high.

  • Cooked into a Stew/Soup Dish: If you simply want to include your tempeh as a supplement to a greater dish, then simply cooking smaller chunks of tempeh into flavorful soups and stews is an excellent way to provide it with flavor.

Similar to other fermented soy products, tempeh tends to absorb the flavor of whatever it is cooked in, so the more flavorful the soup or stew, the more flavorful the tempeh.

Also check out these 5 delicious tempeh recipes for more cooking inspiration!

Final Thoughts

Ultimately, as is the case with all other foods, tempeh is best consumed in moderation. There are many significant health benefits to consuming tempeh: it is an excellent source of protein and mineral nutrients, it offers prebiotic benefits, reduces cholesterol levels, and even supplements bone strength at a comparable level to most dairy products. 

“cubed tempeh” by Stacy Spensley is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Latest posts by Marvin Allen (see all)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *