Tofu vs Tempeh Nutrient Comparisons - Which is Healthier?

Which of the two most popular soy foods is the healthier choice for various dishes?

► Tofu is simply made by using a coagulant to curdle fresh hot soy milk and collecting the 'solids' by filtering and squeezing.

► Tempeh is made from soybeans that have been fermented and then compressed. Tempeh has a denser texture and is more processed that tofu.

A priori, tofu as a more natural product may be healthier than tempeh, but the fermentation process may add extra nutrients in a similar way to the process of converting milk into yogurt via fermentation.

This article compares the nutrients on tofu and tempeh to help you decide which one is healthier.

► Tofu is softer and 'creamier' and tends to absorb the flavors from dishes more readily.

► Tempeh is firmer, drier and more 'chewy'.

So the uses for these popular vegan meat substitutes varies considerably.

Tofu is very versatile and can be used in a variety of dishes from simple sit-fries, for stews are curries
Tofu is very versatile and can be used in a variety of dishes from simple sit-fries, for stews are curries | Source
Tempeh is firmer than tofu. It is not as versatile, but is probably healthier as it is a fermemated product
Tempeh is firmer than tofu. It is not as versatile, but is probably healthier as it is a fermemated product | Source
Tempeh is delicious in stir fries and soups
Tempeh is delicious in stir fries and soups | Source

Nutrient Comparisons for Tofu and Tempeh

The table below compares the nutrients in tofu and tempeh as well as highlighting the major differences as percentages

► Tofu has lower calories with 145 calories per 100g compared with 193 calories in tempeh

► Tempeh has more Protein with 18.5g per 100 g compared with 15.8g in tofu. The soy protein in tempeh is rendered more digestible through the fermentation process. Many people find tempeh easier to digest.
Tempeh has more than twice the vegetable fiber of tofu

► Tempeh has slightly more fat than tofu with 10.8 g per 100g serve compared with 8.7g in tofu

► Tempeh has twice the level of carbohydrate as tofu with 9.4 g per 100g.

► Vitamins C and A are higher in tofu, or absent from some varieties of tempeh



► The nutrients that are higher in Tempeh, listed with the highest differences first, are:

  • Potassium
  • Phosphorus
  • Magnesium
  • Fatty acids, total monounsaturated
  • Iron
  • Niacin
  • Riboflavin
  • Vitamin B-6


► The nutrients that are higher in Tofu, listed with the highest differences first, are:

  • Calcium
  • Thiamin
  • Sodium
  • Zinc
  • Fatty acids, total polyunsaturated
  • Folate

So it is very much a mixed bag. The higher levels of calcium and sodium in tofu arises from the coagulant ingredients used in the processing. Tempeh is richer in many minerals such as Iron, Potassium, Phosphorus and Magnesium.

Other Considerations

Soy is high in phytic acid, a substance tends to bind to minerals in the gut and to stop them being absorbed into the blood stream. This can dramatically lower the effective absorption of minerals such as magnesium by up to 90%.

The processes used to prepare tofu leaves the phytic acid levels unchanged, whereas the fermentation used to make tempeh reduces it by 50-75%.

This means that your body will only absorb 10% of this mineral in tofu but 90% of it in tempeh.

Phytic acid has a strong binding affinity to important minerals, such as calcium, iron, magnesium and zinc,

Phytic acid is found within the hulls of many seeds, nuts and grains. The lower level of phytic acid is a major benefit of tempeh.

Tempah has lower levels of phytic acid that is not affected by heating and boiling used to prepare tofu.
Tempah has lower levels of phytic acid that is not affected by heating and boiling used to prepare tofu. | Source

Conclusion

Tempeh is better nutritionally than tofu, especially considering the effect of phytic acid on mineral absorption. However tofu is more versatile, more widely available and is still a very healthy product.

Nutrient in 100 g serving
Value per 100 g
Tempeh
Percentage higher in Tempeh
Percentage lower in Tempeh
Energy (kcal)
145
193
33
 
Protein (g)
15.78
18.54
17
 
Total lipid (fat) (g)
8.72
10.8
24
 
Carbs (g)
4.27
9.39
120
 
Fiber (g)
2.3
4.8
200
 
Minerals
 
 
 
 
Calcium, Ca (mg)
683
111
 
-84
Iron, Fe (mg)
2.66
2.7
2
 
Magnesium, Mg (mg)
58
81
40
 
Phosphorus, P (mg)
190
266
40
 
Potassium, K (mg)
237
412
74
 
Sodium, Na (mg)
14
9
 
-36
Zinc, Zn (mg)
1.57
1.14
 
-27
Vitamins
 
 
 
 
Vitamin C (mg)
0.2
0
 
 
Thiamin (mg)
0.158
0.078
 
-51
Riboflavin (mg)
0.102
0.358
251
 
Niacin (mg)
0.381
2.64
593
 
Vitamin B-6 (mg)
0.092
0.215
134
 
Folate, (mcg)
29
24
 
-17
Vitamin B-12 (mcg)
0
0.08
 
 
Vitamin A (IU)
166
 
 
 
Fatty Acids
 
 
 
 
Fatty acids, total saturated (g)
1.261
2.22
76
 
Fatty acids, total monounsaturated (g)
1.925
3
56
 
Fatty acids, total polyunsaturated (g)
4.921
3.827
 
-22
Cholesterol (mg)
0
0
 
 

© 2013 Dr. John Anderson

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Comments 2 comments

Act 3 profile image

Act 3 3 years ago from Athens, GA

Thanks. Very useful info for us vegetarian and vegan folks. We use both in our house, tofu more often.


peachpurple profile image

peachpurple 3 years ago from Home Sweet Home

we have tempeh and tofu most of the time. Tempeh tsate nice by stir frying too except a little sour. Otherwise, both of these soya products are really delicious

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