Tempeh and tofu are a whole lot different from each other than you may think. Did you know that 85% of Americans beleive that tofu and soymilk are healthy? If you are one of those people, I’ve got a newsflash for you: tofu, soymilk, soy yogurt, soy pudding, soy cheese, soy formula, soy ice cream, soy burgers, or for that matter, any soy-based food acting as a sad excuse of a replacement for some other food, are really NOT good for you!
While you take a moment to let this shocking information sink in, or you quickly navigate away from this page because you’re a vegetarian who doesn’t want to hear any more blasphemous remarks about the only protein you consume, please note that I am talking about UNFERMENTED soy, such as the ones mentioned above and ISOLATED SOY PROTEIN, where the soy protein is isolated from the whole soybean, as in protein bars and powders. Hence the reason Tempeh is a whole different story.
Let’s talk about the bad stuff first. Unfermented soy contains substances that block the body’s absorption of minerals. They also have enzyme inhibitors which hinder protein digestion and high amounts of omega-6 fats which promote inflammation (as opposed to omega-3 fats, which decrease inflammation). Soy also mimics and sometimes blocks the hormone estrogen. Reproductive disorders are therefore a side effect of too much soy. The most common problem with soy consumption, though, is a depressed thyroid gland, which can lead to weight gain, lethargy, fatigue, hair loss and loss of libido.
The other real problem with soy is that more than 80% of soy is genetically modified (GMO). This adds its own set of problems, especially the high allergy rates to soy that we are currently seeing.
FERMENTED soy, on the other hand, like Tempeh or miso, and even soy sauce – just make sure it’s organic and not artificially made using a chemical process – does have health benefits. This is because after the long process of fermentation all those negative substances mentioned above are greatly reduced and their beneficial properties become available to your digestive system. Incidentally, I really like the taste of the tempeh strips shown left.
What about Edemame? Edemame beans are young soybeans and do not contain the amount of toxins found in mature soybeans, so they are fine to eat in moderation. And to answer the other question that you are thinking right now, in the Asian culture they eat small amounts of whole non-GMO soybean products, not the vast amounts of tofu and soy products we do here in North America!
If you insist on consuming soy products such as the ones mentioned in the beginning of this article, do so in moderation and make sure the label states that the item contains only non-GMO soy. And, obviously, do not consume any soy if you have a sensitivity or allergy to it.