Health Benefits of Tempeh

Uniquely high in vitamin B12, extremely low in sodium, and high in fiber, Tempeh is a fermented superfood of the mushroom family. It’s health benefits are impressive:

  • Lowers cholesterol
  • Increases bone density through calcium uptake
  • Reduces menopausal symptoms
  • Improves muscle recovery through better protein bioavailability
  • Contributes to the prevention of diabetes

Chronic diseases like obesity, type II diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer share physiological aberrations and stressors – things like inflammation, oxidative stress, and alterations in the body’s metabolism.  Fermented legumes and grains have high levels of several bioactive compounds that appear to combat these conditions.  Still, it is important to note holistic diet choices, microbiome composition, genetics and lifestyle choice are also affectors. 

What makes tempeh so unique?

Natural Digestive Enzymes.

The stages of making tempeh include (1) soaking the legumes, grains or seeds-known amongst tempeh makers as the “substrate” (2) cooking the substrate (3) inoculating the substrate (4) and incubation, fermentation or mycelium growth.  Between the initial soaking of the substrate and its fermentation, vitamins and minerals are enhanced, bioavailable essential amino acids and fatty acids are unleashed, and antinutrients that typically keep the vitamins and minerals locked away from our bodies are drastically reduced.

What makes tempeh so unique is that in the final stage, the Rhizopus species of fungus produce three enzymes – lipases, proteases, and amylases – in order to digest the substrate.  There is nothing magical or foreign about these enzymes as they are within our bodies.  Whenever we eat, our pancreas secretes these enzymes into our intestines, and each enzyme goes to work processing carbohydrates, fats, and proteins.  Therefore, tempeh comes not only already loaded with the enzymes needed for digestion, but with much of the enzymatic work of digestion already done.  In our bodies the enzymes lipase, protease and amylase convert fat into fatty acids, proteins into amino acids and starches & carbohydrates into simple sugars respectively.  This digestive process of conversion is critical for the metabolic absorption of our food.  This is exactly what the Rhizopus is doing for us when tempeh is made.  In effect, the substrate used to make tempeh becomes more immediately nutritious for consumption and is more easily digested by our bodies--not unlike when we blend up a smoothie or juice fruits and vegetables.  Yum.

As is the bioavailability of fats, proteins and sugars wasn’t already enough, as tempeh is made and Rhizopus digestion occurs, some key vitamins – like iron, B12, magnesium and folic acid – that were locked up in protein complexes are freed, making them more available to us when we eat Tempeh.

Reduction of Naturally Occurring Antinutrients.  Tempeh also reduces antinutrients.  During tempeh production, antinutritional compounds are reduced by at least 65% and up to 90%.  Additionally, tempeh is packed with antioxidants.  Antioxidants fight the oxidation process caused by unstable molecules in our bodies known as free radicals.   Free radicals are part of normal metabolism and oxidation but too many of them can lead to damaged DNA and decrease our bodies ability to defend itself against disease.  The high levels of isoflavones and phytochemicals in tempeh lead to a high level of antioxidant activity.



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