By Cary Neff, Experience Life
Tempeh is often confused with tofu. But, in fact, these two soy products are quite different: Tofu is a curd made from unfermented, mashed soybeans. Tempeh is a fermented soybean cake that’s less mechanically processed, more dense in nutrients, less likely to create digestive distress, and, thus, far better for you.
A terrific source of protein, tempeh (which originated in Indonesia) is made from whole soybeans that have been layered and, like miso and soy sauce, fermented. When cooked — and tempeh should always be eaten cooked — it has a nutty, smoky and mushroom-like flavor.
Because of its firm, chewy texture, tempeh can be handled much like meat and used as a meat substitute. It’s affordable, easy to prepare and can be incorporated into a wide range of dishes.
Best when marinated, tempeh mixes with various ingredients to create great flavor combinations, including Asian (soy, ginger, garlic, sesame), Mexican (cumin, chili powder, cilantro, tomato), Italian (basil, oregano, balsamic vinegar, olive oil) and Thai (basil, coconut milk, fish sauce, ginger).
While traditional tempeh is made with soybeans alone, you can also purchase it with other grains included, like barley, millet and brown rice. Some stores also carry a thinly sliced smoked tempeh that can be used as a vegan version of bacon.
If you haven’t already made tempeh a part of your healthy-cooking repertoire, it’s high time you did! Here are some ideas and recipes to get you started.
• A 4-ounce serving of cooked tempeh provides 41 percent of the daily recommended amount of protein.
• Tempeh is a good source of probiotics, gut-friendly microbes that help control harmful bacteria in the body.
• The fermented soy in tempeh is high in vitamin K2, which can help prevent osteoporosis, cardiovascular disease, certain cancers and diseases of the brain — including dementia.
• Tempeh’s isoflavones have been shown to reduce symptoms of menopause in women and to reduce the risk of prostate cancer in men.
• The protein and fiber in tempeh can help regulate blood-sugar levels. Tempeh’s fiber also helps remove carcinogenic toxins from the body and may be able to lower rates of colon and breast cancer.
• Tempeh is rich in minerals, including calcium, magnesium, iron, zinc, manganese, copper, phosphorous and potassium.