The Benefits of Tempeh: Indonesia

I love eating Tempeh, and, especially oseng-oseng tempeh. Ever wondered about this delicious addition to the meals you buy in Indonesia at the warungs or from the kaki lima?.

166 grams of tempeh a day keeps doctors away
Hans Ceisar Wirawan, Contributor, Bogor

Hui Liang, a successful tempeh entrepreneur in Bogor, controls the total production process in his factory, from buying and receiving the raw materials to marketing the product that has also been exported to Japan and the United States.

Once in a while, Hui Liang, who has five grandchildren, helps his employees lift goods or repair the machines.

Seeing his youthfulness and vigor, one would not imagine that Hui Liang, 65, has had diabetes mellitus since he was 25. He said he has not taken any medication to control his blood sugar levels as doctors would usually recommend.

“I just consume tempeh every day and that is what has kept me healthy until today,” he said with a big smile on his face.

Hui Liang is not the first one to claim that tempeh, one of Indonesia’s nutrient-packed traditional foods, can cure disease.
Kiku Miruta, a researcher from Japan’s Osaka University found in the mid-1980s that tempeh had antioxidant properties and a high protein value. Soon after announcing his finding, Miruta established the Japanese Tempeh Society, whose goal was to promote tempeh in Japan and to do further research on the benefits of tempeh as a health food.

His campaign led to tempeh becoming a popular food in Japan in 1990s and the country went even further by applying for patent rights over tempeh and claiming it to be a traditional food of Japan.

In 1984, Zilliken, a researcher from Germany, received a patent for isolating various isoflavons from soybeans which function as an antioxidant in tempeh.




The nutritional value of tempeh is extraordinary. Daily consumption of 166 grams of tempeh can meet 62 percent of the body’s daily needs of protein, 35 percent of riboflavin, 34 percent of magnesium, 46 percent copper, and only contains 3.7 grams of saturated fat and less than 329 calories (Dewi, 2005).

Tempeh also contains micro amounts of other nutrients which are needed by the body such as calcium, iron, potassium, zinc and niacin.

Indonesia’s tempeh also contains vitamin B12 due to the fermentation process.

Protein in tempeh is not only the best in quantity but also in quality. According to Sapuan (1996), the protein content in tempeh is very complete containing eight amino acids, namely tryptophan, threonine, isoleucine, leucine, phenylalanine, tyrosine, valine and histidine, in amounts sufficient to cover daily nutritional requirements.

Its high nutritional value makes tempeh a real health food, suitable for diabetes mellitus patients. Soy protein in tempeh is of the same quality as protein in milk and meat. Tempeh can be eaten by diabetic patients who are not allowed to consume animal protein. The high fiber content can also control the sugar level in blood and prevent diarrhea among children. (Sapuan, 1996; Dewi, 2005).

Isoflavon is one of important flavanoid components in tempeh. According to an experiment by Jayagopul in 2002, the addition of soy phytoestrogen in soybean increases fiber that can aid in problems such as insulin resistance, glysemic control and lipoprotein serum in menopausal women suffering from insulin-independent diabetes mellitus.

The presence of isoflavon, helped by vitamin E, functions as an antioxidant that binds free radicals that causes cancer to become a more stabile component. Besides, isoflavon reduces bad cholesterol in the body, namely LDL, IDL, and increases good cholesterol, namely HDL (Potter et al.,1996). The reduction in bad cholesterol is also made possible by other elements in tempeh such as Poly Unsaturated Fatty Acid (PUFA), fiber, niacin, vitamin E, carotenoid and calcium. (Sapuan, 1996).

An experiment in Japan proved that isoflavon in soybean binds
estrogen receptors that can reduce the negative effects of menopause, prevent breast cancer, osteoporosis and heart attack.

Tempeh also helps prevent anemia. Its high iron content, which is 4mg/100 gram, means tempeh can prevent an iron deficiency.

The fermentation process due to the presence of Rhizopus oligosporus mold activates the enzyme fytase that has the ability to change fytate acid with high molecular weight in soybean to fytate acid with a low molecular weight, thus helping to increase absorption of iron into the blood. (Sapuan, 1996)

According to a study conducted by Wang in 1969, tempeh extract can lower 9 types of gram negative bacteria and 1 gram positive bacteria including Clostridium botulinum which can cause death. Based on Wang’s research, an anti-bacterial compound produced by tempeh molds is a useful antibiotic that can prevent infection.

A study done by Affandi and Mien in 1985 also found that tempeh reduces the growth of Salmonella typhii, the cause of typhus and Shigella flexneri, an intestinal pathogen that is a leading cause of diarrhea in children in developing countries.

Free amino acids in tempeh as hydrolyzed protein improves the superiority of tempeh in boosting the immune system. Folate acid and vitamin B12 in tempeh also increase the ability of the liver to produce macrophage and microphage to fight viral infections.
Tempeh deserves to be considered an inexpensive health food.

By consuming tempeh in appropriate amounts, good health is within our reach, without depending on medication or expensive therapy. So who says the path to a healthy life is expensive?

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