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A small, 3-ounce serving of this meat substitute contains over 15 grams of protein — here's why people love it

Because of the way it's fermented, it's also good for the microorganisms in your gut.

Tempeh, fermented soy beans

Photo Credit: iStock

For anyone who wants to reduce the amount of meat in their diet, plant-based sources of protein are crucial.

One nutritious option — which is now becoming much more popular — is tempeh, a soy-based protein originally from Indonesia. Studies from the last decade have illustrated the many benefits of this food that make it an ideal addition to any diet, whether you're adopting a vegan lifestyle or simply trying to eat healthier.

What is tempeh?

Tempeh is a firm cake usually made from fermented soybeans. It can also be made from other beans, wheat, or a combination of multiple sources. 

To make the dish, the soybeans go through fermentation, with microorganisms breaking them down in a process that takes one to two days. Fermentation makes the nutrients in the beans easier for the body to absorb. 

When fully fermented, tempeh has a nutty, savory flavor, which is why it's often used as a meat replacement.

Why is tempeh so healthy?

Tempeh is an even better source of protein than other soy products like tofu because there's more mass packed into it. A small 3-ounce serving contains over 15 grams of protein, about 2.5 times as much as the same amount of tofu. 

Tempeh also provides iron, calcium, riboflavin, niacin, magnesium, phosphorus, and manganese — vitamins and minerals the human body needs for everything from bone health to digestion. Calcium is particularly important for those following a dairy-free diet, as a cup of tempeh contains about two-thirds the amount of calcium that a cup of milk does.

Because of the way it's fermented, tempeh is also good for the microorganisms in your gut. These microorganisms are essential to digest food, so keeping them in balance is key to overall health. Tempeh contains both probiotics (live microbes that are healthy for your system) and prebiotics (substances that promote the growth of beneficial microbes).

How to add tempeh to your diet

Tempeh is a versatile protein that can be steamed, baked, or sauteed. Its natural taste is light, so many recipes call for a flavorful marinade to enhance it. 

With the right seasonings, it can take the place of chicken, beef, and even bacon in beloved dishes like BLTs. And of course, you can always try it in a stir-fry.

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