Plant-based foods are taking the world by the storm and it should come as no surprise. With the evidence of climate change all around us, we are all becoming increasingly environmentally aware and according to a study published in the journal Science in 2018, avoiding meat and dairy products is possibly the single biggest way to reduce your environmental impact. Joseph Poore from University of Oxford who led the research stated “A vegan diet is probably the single biggest way to reduce your impact on planet Earth, not just greenhouse gases, but global acidification, eutrophication, land use and water use”. Additionally, by embracing plant-based eating and letting meat take the back seat (at least every now and then) we can improve our health.
Fortunately, nowadays you can walk into almost any shop and find at least one meat alternative – and we’re not talking about dried beans or lentils here (although they are great!). But are there other options out there beyond the familiar pulses and tofu, and the new(er) kids on the block, processed meat substitutes? All of these certainly have their place in the market and on our plates, but is there something else deserving of our attention?
The short answer is: ‘Yes’. Tempeh, the all-natural plant-based protein originating in Indonesia has all the qualities needed to become one of the world’s leading protein sources.
Tempeh (pronounced tem-pay) was originally discovered in Java Island in Indonesia over 300 years ago. Its production involves cooking and fermenting soybeans (or any other legume, nut, grain or seed) to transform them into a firm, meaty block that is packed with protein, fibre and vital micronutrients. Through the tempeh fermentation process, the substrate’s protein content increases, fat content decreases and the nutrients in the substrate become far more easily absorbed by the body.
As an example, fermenting soybeans into tempeh increases the protein absorbed by the body by 25%, and this even rises to 87% in buckwheat groat tempeh (references below).
Tempeh is also a complete protein source, meaning it contains all of the 9 essential amino acids that cannot be made by the body and that we need to get from food.
Tempeh has the same protein content per 100g as cod and mackerel and more than that of eggs. It has 2-4 times the fibre of an apple per 100g and counts as one of your five a day. It is all-natural, minimally-processed and packed with micronutrients like iron and calcium. Not only is tempeh made with natural ingredients and extremely nutritious, it is also super versatile and easy to cook with.
Tempeh has a great, firm texture and it absorbs flavours really well so you can really experiment with different marinades, sauces and spice mixes. Tempeh can be cooked in many ways so it is well suited for numerous dishes and cuisines.
Whether you bake, grill, steam or fry it – cooked tempeh has a rich, meaty bite and is the perfect addition to almost any dish from stir-fries and curries to tacos, wraps and pasta dishes. What a delicious and nutritious way to add a punch of protein and fibre to any meal!
It is not just its taste, versatility and nutritional profile that make tempeh a great protein source. It is also a much more sustainable option compared to meat. Soy tempeh creates 94% less CO2 emissions than beef, 78% less than pork and 62% less than chicken (references below). The protein it provides per kilogram of CO2 emitted is approximately 93% higher than beef, 77% higher than pork and 64% higher than chicken (references below). It also uses less water and land than meat, as the beans are fed directly to humans rather than being fed to animals first.
More and more people are looking for ways to reduce their reliance on animal products and to incorporate more plant-based meals into their week without compromising on taste or nutrition. Going through tempeh’s credentials it seems that tempeh might very well be exactly what they are looking for.
This article was written by the good folks at Better Nature, whose mission is to make protein without compromise, affordable, accessible and delicious!