I can’t really call myself a vegetarian, even though there are lots of prefixes to “vegetarian” that add in dairy (lacto-vegetarian) or eggs (ovo-vegetarian) and even fish (pesco-vegetarian). “Flexitarian” is a newer word that might fit me better, and it’s simpler than calling myself an ovo-lacto-pesco vegetarian who eats chicken and beef now and then. The main point to all these modified vegetarian terms, however, is a focus on increasing the plant part of our diets – vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans and lentils, nuts and seeds. Plant foods give us many of the vitamins we need, essential elements, antioxidants, other “phyto-nutrients”, and important fiber (where most Americans fall way short). Plant foods also tend to be low-fat or include healthy unsaturated fat.
Tempeh: protein, fiber, and more!
Soy is an excellent plant to add to your diet in part because it also is a “complete” protein, giving us all of the essential amino acids. As a protein, soy is right up there with eggs. But if you find yourself a little turned off by the squishy texture of tofu I’d like to suggest you try tempeh. Tempeh is made from fermented soybeans which are pressed into a firm cake. Its texture is much different than tofu, and it has a naturally nutty flavor but also readily absorbs the flavor of foods it’s cooked with. A 3.5 ounce serving of soy tempeh will give you almost 20 grams of quality protein, and around 10 grams of carbohydrate, half of which is fiber. Products vary, so check the food label.
Tempeh meal idea
We like to use tempeh in an Asian stir fry, first browning sliced strips of the tempeh cakes in a little toasted sesame oil, then adding lots and lots of the vegetables typical in Asian dishes- bok choy, water chestnuts, hearts of palm, carrots, broccoli, snow peas – endless choices. As you complete your Asian meal be cautious of the carbohydrates in rice or sauces like sweet chili sauce. And, watch the sodium in soy sauce.
Plant foods are loaded with nutrients, and they help fill us up without loading in too many calories. And while lots of plants can give us protein, soy is the one-stop-shop.
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