Vegetarian Protein Spotlight: Seitan, Tempeh, and Tofu
For the first time in 2010, in addition to eggs, lean meats, poultry, seafood, legumes, nuts and seeds, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans added soy products to its list of proteins to incorporate into meals. Despite it being a $5.5 billion industry, meat eating Americans may still be apprehensive about replacing a piece of chicken with food associated with being vegetarian. These high protein foods offer similar amounts of protein per serving as meat and can add a different taste and texture than you may be used to.
Made from wheat gluten, seitan is generally used in products to mimic the taste and texture of meats. If you’re a meat eater that ventured into a vegan or vegetarian restaurant to try the Hot Wings or Corned Beef, chances are your mock meat was made of seitan. It is also used often in deli-style sandwiches and casseroles. A serving generally packs anywhere between 18 to 24 grams of protein yet is low in fat and carbohydrates. If you’re feeling adventurous try your hand at making seitan at home.
One of the most popular protein alternatives, tofu is the resulting curds from coagulated soymilk that is formed and cut into blocks. It is available dry and extra firm or fresh and flavored among other varieties. A half cup serving of soft tofu yields 10 grams of protein and 94 calories with a fat content of about six grams. Often a major ingredient in veggie burgers, it is also added to soups, chili, and stews and may also be served with stir fry vegetables over grains like rice or quinoa.
The product of fermented soybeans, tempeh is generally sold in block form that looks similar to large Rice Krispie treats. Tempeh has more protein per gram than tofu at around 30 per one cup serving. Because it is more firm than tofu, it is generally baked or fried. Tempeh has its own distinct taste as additional grains and extra flavoring are added to it. Its calorie count stands at around 320 calories per cup and it has a substantial amount of calcium and iron to go along with almost 18 grams of fat.
What to Look For
The serving size of these protein alternatives vary widely across brands, so be attentive to how many servings there are per package. Remember also that although all three are plant-based, they are processed foods, so be weary of their sodium content. Some brands have up to a fifth of the daily recommended value per serving.
Which of your favorite dishes do you add seitan, tempeh or tofu to?