The good news is, you no longer have to trek to a health food store on the outskirts of town to find plant-based options: There are many varieties of meat substitutes and plant-based proteins at the supermarket these days.
Two of the most known are tofu and tempeh, which people generally confuse since both are made from soybeans. Here's the difference between these two products, plus how to figure out which one is best for you.
What is Tofu, anyway?
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Tofu looks like a white brick packed in water, Tofu is actually coagulated soy milk curds smushed into blocks. Same way as cheese is made, the soy milk is heated, then separates the solids from the liquid, and then a coagulant is used to bind the curds together.
Depending on the type of soy used, what is added (flavors), and which coagulant is used, the texture might be firm (great for grilling) or softer, more like custard. The most common coagulant used is Calcium Sulfate.
This means that most tofu is basically fortified with calcium and is an excellent source of protein, it's a complete protein, high in lysine, an essential amino acid that can run low in vegan and vegetarian diets.
According to the U.S. DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE, 100 grams of Tofu has:
- 94 calories
- 9.4 g protein
- 5 g fat
- 2 g carbohydrate
- 2.4 g fiber
Tofu also has no sugar and 176 g of calcium, which is 17% of what you need in a day (and you'll probably eat more than 3.5 ounces anyway).
What is Tempeh?
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Tempeh is a sliceable, cookable block, made from soybeans, as opposed to soy milk.
You can see the beans within the block kind of a tortilla lookalike.
The nutritional difference is that the soybeans are fermented before being pressed. This puts Tempeh in the category of probiotic foods, alongside certain yogurts and other fermented foods like kimchi.
Any fermented food is great for gut health, and similarly to Tofu, Tempeh is a complete protein, and high in lysine.
According to the U.S. DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE, 100 grams of Tempeh has:
- 195 calories
- 20 g protein
- 11 g fat
- 8 g carbohydrate
While the USDA doesn't list a fiber count, Tofurky Organic Soy Tempeh lists 4 g of fiber in a 100 grams serving, as well as no sugar or sodium.
So Tofu or Tempeh?
Well, the answer is either, or both are great to eat two to three times a week, whichever we pick, we look for organic, non-GMO soy products, as conventional soy farming practices involve a lot of pesticides, so of which have been linked to cancer.
Here's a side-by-side comparison:
- It less expensive than tempeh
- It absorbs the flavor of sauces more easily than tempeh so can be marinated for a short time.
- Silken textured tofu is also great tossed into a smoothie.
- It is higher in protein than tofu.
- Its texture is closer to meat.
- It is good for your gut health, thanks to its probiotics.