Why is Tempeh Incredibly Healthy?

One of my close friends, my mentor Cornelius Blomberg (Cees) passed away peacefully a few years ago. He once said that he must have been dead 70 years ago as a teenager in a Japanese prison camp in Semarang, Central Java during World War II. While in Japanese internment, he saw many Dutch friends, family and soldiers starving, falling ill, and dying. Several prisoners remained healthy and survived because they dared to eat tempeh, almost every day.

For those of you who have studied at the exact science faculties (biology, agriculture, science and mathematics, electrical engineering) at the Satya Wacana Christian University, Salatiga Indonesia, you may have heard some of his guest lectures on issues of global pollution and environmental chemistry in the nineties. He was professor of organic chemistry at the University of Botswana and Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. Cees RIP at 90 years old.

Tempeh is a traditional food made from fermented soybeans. Tempeh was once underestimated even though it is popular and becomes a healthy food in foreign countries. It is a popular vegetarian meat replacement. Unlike other soybean-based foods, such as soy sauce, soybean paste, tofu from China or natto and miso from Japan or meju from Korea, tempeh or soybean cake is originally from Indonesia, especially from Java.

When I was kid, I almost misunderstood when I heard Bung Karno, the first president of Indonesia in his speech said: “…don’t be a soft nation like tempeh…”. Soft tempeh will not last long because the fermentation process continues, it becomes easy to rot (with black spores, semangit in Javanese), and the nutrition is decreased.

The preferred tempeh is the one that its fermentation process is stopped at the right time. When the soybean seeds have been boiled, the texture is still clearly glued and covered by the white mat fungus Rhizopus oligosporus, for a moment it has not yet produced dark colored spores. Harvested when the aroma is appetizing and accompanied by consistent nutrition facts.

For someone who eats tempeh for the first time, they will prefer tempeh that is dry, has a clear shape and texture. So, there is no impression that the food is the result of a fermentation or decomposition process which is the initial stage of the decay process.

For people who like healthy fermented foods, all fermented products that are controlled, clean, and are not contaminated, either those that produce alcohol or organic acids or both, and single cell protein like tempeh, in sufficient quantities will definitely benefit the body.

This is because fermented products such as tempeh are modern human innovations that were not previously experienced by early humans, so that their nutritional content is different from foods that can be eaten directly and are good for supplementing health in this pandemic.

The benefits of tempeh started as a source of highly nutritious protein originating from single cells (microbes), as a probiotic to help the digestive system, antioxidants, strengthen bones, lower cholesterol, and to supply the hormone estrogen which have been widely reported scientifically.

Some time ago, I was worried when I heard that the price of soybeans in Indonesia was almost the same, or even higher than the price of soybeans abroad and many were imported from the United States. Hopefully there will be no tempeh recession because tempeh has been helping many people to be healthy.

Tempeh, along with other fermented soy products, are generally considered safe for most people. However, some individuals may want to consider limiting their intake of tempeh. Those with a soy allergy should avoid tempeh altogether, because tempeh may trigger an allergic response.

Information about the photos: our raw or fresh tempeh and stir fry tempeh with green beans, and the nutrition facts of tempeh according to the FoodData Central USDA.

-Bintoro Gunadi


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