Tofu vs. Tempeh

Tofu vs. Tempeh
4.4 (88%) 30 votes

Which is healthier: edamame, tofu, or tempeh?


Now, this study didn’t include soybeans, but there was a study this year that answered the question, which is healthier, tofu or edamame—the soybean itself. What do you think? Tofu? Edamame? It is indeed the edamame.

But, what about tempeh versus edamame? Who votes tempeh? Edamame? Tempeh is actually healthier. Tempeh, like edamame, is a whole soy food—you can see the little individual beans in there; but the fermentation process adds extra nutrition. It’s more antimutagenic than unfermented beans.

To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video. This is just an approximation of the audio contributed by Dianne Moore.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Now, this study didn’t include soybeans, but there was a study this year that answered the question, which is healthier, tofu or edamame—the soybean itself. What do you think? Tofu? Edamame? It is indeed the edamame.

But, what about tempeh versus edamame? Who votes tempeh? Edamame? Tempeh is actually healthier. Tempeh, like edamame, is a whole soy food—you can see the little individual beans in there; but the fermentation process adds extra nutrition. It’s more antimutagenic than unfermented beans.

To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video. This is just an approximation of the audio contributed by Dianne Moore.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

50 responses to “Tofu vs. Tempeh

Comment Etiquette

On, you'll find a vibrant community of nutrition enthusiasts, health professionals, and many knowledgeable users seeking to discover the healthiest diet to eat for themselves and their families. As always, our goal is to foster conversations that are insightful, engaging, and most of all, helpful – from the nutrition beginners to the experts in our community.

To do this we need your help, so here are some basic guidelines to get you started.

The Short List

To help maintain and foster a welcoming atmosphere in our comments, please refrain from rude comments, name-calling, and responding to posts that break the rules (see our full Community Guidelines for more details). We will remove any posts in violation of our rules when we see it, which will, unfortunately, include any nicer comments that may have been made in response.

Be respectful and help out our staff and volunteer health supporters by actively not replying to comments that are breaking the rules. Instead, please flag or report them by submitting a ticket to our help desk. is made up of an incredible staff and many dedicated volunteers that work hard to ensure that the comments section runs smoothly and we spend a great deal of time reading comments from our community members.

Have a correction or suggestion for video or blog? Please contact us to let us know. Submitting a correction this way will result in a quicker fix than commenting on a thread with a suggestion or correction.

View the Full Community Guidelines

      1. Hey Gertie, thanks for writing! The soybeans nutritional content (amount of protein) is NOT being changed by fermentation – protein contains the element nitrogen, which is NOT found in carbohydrates. Soy beans are a source of both tempeh AND tofu.

  1. Dear Mr. Schmidt: Thank you for submitting this interesting question. According to research, products from sprouted varieties of soybeans have shown an increase in protein of 7% in soymilk and 13% in tofu across varieties; a reduction in fat of 24% in soymilk and 12% in tofu; in trypsin inhibitor of 73% in soymilk and 81% in tofu; in phytic acid of 59% in soymilk and 56% in tofu across varieties. You can read the abstract of the study following this link:

  2. Can you make a more detailed video about soy products? From my own research and this site, I’ve concluded that soy is good for you, but that processed soy is not. Stuff like soy protein isolate is actually harmful because it helps tumors grow (I think Toxins pointed this out in another comment section). But soymilk is okay? From the video above, it also seems like fermented soy like tempeh and edamame are good sources as well. Thanks!

    1. Thanks for your request- we have some more recent videos about soy if you do a quick search. A good rule of thumb is to stick to whole foods, whether they be soy or otherwise, and always consume organic soy products. Soy protein isolate does not have the same benefits as whole soy products. Soy milk is a whole food, as are tofu, tempeh and edamame.

  3. I came across some statements from someone identifying as a nutritionist saying only fermented soy, like miso, tempeh and natto, is healthy, and unfermented soy such as soymilk causes allergies, can affect thyroid function, and is “strongly linked to a host of auto-immune diseases such as Hashimoto’s thyroiditis as well as hypothyroidism.” The person goes on to say, “Eating unfermented soy in a strictly vegetarian diet actually increases the risk of mineral deficiency including calcium, magnesium, copper, and zinc and the consequent vitmain D deficiency. This is due to the antinutrients present in soy. For example, fresh soy contains phylates, an antinutrients which blocks the body’s absorption of minerals from the gastrointestinal tract. It also contains enzymes inhibitors that reduce protein digestion. Some evidence even suggests that processed soy protein contains carcinogens such as nitrates. … Humans need phosphorus and magnesium to build bones, not calcium! Our body makes the bone building minerals within.” Do these statements have merit, based on peer-reviewed research?

    1. It’s great that you’re skeptical about the anti-soy lobby. Soy is a healthful bean, that can help prevent and manage a variety
      of diseases. Always go for whole, organic soy foods.

      Regarding thyroid function, please see our response to a similar question here:

      While phytates inhibit the absorption of certain nutrients to a degree, (phytates are present in quite a few plant based foods, including beans, whole grains, nuts and seeds) they also serve as potent cancer-preventative phytonutrients. See our video:

      1. Could Dr Gregor do a video or summary blog post about this issue? I am frequently called out by my family members about my use of soy milk and tofu, basically that unless it is fermented I’m harming myself and my children. It is hard to share 8 different videos as suggested above to family members who are already quite sure they are right. I have done some looking on Pubmed, but the sheer number of studies on soy make it hard to find a single good meta-study that looks at this issue. I did find the recent (2014) one that is commonly cited which hypothesises that unfermented soy is a contributing factor if not a cause of Alzheimers, but I did not read it. Currently, the argument feels like a game of ‘wack-a-mole’ where one objection is brought up, then another over here, and then another over there. A single organised explanation to share with others would be tremendously helpful. Thank you

      2. Whole soy has been consumed in Asia, likely for thousands of years. When I was in China, for 3 months in 2012, they didn’t call the solid mass tofu, as it was referred to as bean curd. When you shop in a market as so many do there, there are huge cakes of the stuff that the servers whack off a big chunk for buyers. I’ve been making my own whole soymilk for nearly 5 years now. Steam the beans 45 minutes after an overnight soak with a 1/4 t of baking soda to help ward off the gas bloating critters. Blend at high speed after rinsing. Use 1 T honey, + 1/2 t almond extract + 1 T vanilla extract. Lasts about 5 days in the fridge. When it begins to turn, use the remainder in a pannie mix. Eh voila!

        1. John Gabriel,

          But what proportions? How many soy beans? (Edamame, shelled? Where does one get them?) How much water (you do add water, don’t you? Or so you? This recipe Is for soy milk, but do you also make tofu?). Would date syrop do as well as honey for us vegans out here who don’t use honey? I’d like to try this recipe, so please add info!

  4. Not all fermented soy foods are equally healthy for us to eat. Natto is the only soy food healthier for us to eat than edamame. Tempeh is LESS healthy for us to eat than edamame. Here’s why:

    In sharp contrast to the fungus used to ferment tempeh, Rhizopus oligosporus, which inhibits most of the beneficial bifidobacteria and lactobacilli, Bacillus subtilis natto protects and feeds both the bifidobacteria and lactobacilli:

    Bacillus subtilis natto strongly inhibits not only pathogenic viruses (including Rotavirus), pathogenic fungi (including Candida albicans and various Rhizopus species), and pathogenic Gram-negative bacteria (including Escherichia coli, Salmonella typhimurium, Shigella flexneri, Campylobacter jejuni, Campylobacter coli, and various pathogenic Enterobacteriaceae, including various Yersinia, various Klebsiella, various Proteus, various Serratia, and various Citrobacter) but also pathogenic Gram-positive bacteria (including Staphylococcus aureus, Streptococcus pneumoniae, Clostridium perfringens, and Clostridium difficile):

    Eating natto will remove the calcium in our arteries and put that calcium back into our bones, where it will prevent future bone fractures. No other food and no prescription medicine can reverse arterial calcification. About half of all people who suffer from heart disease have calcified arteries when examined by chest X-ray. Scientific studies indicate that people who swallow statin drugs will worsen the severity of their arterial calcification:
    [Swallowing statin drugs will also tend to deplete the human body’s reserves of coenzyme Q10].

    The nattokinase (subtilisin) that is manufactured by Bacillus subtilis natto not only kills the bad bacteria but it also melts away existing blood clots and prevents future blood clots in humans better than any other natural substance contained in any food:

    Unlike all other soy foods, which tend to cause weight loss, tempeh will tend to cause weight gain by inhibiting most of the good bacteria. Fatfree plain yogurt, soy yogurt, and natto will tend to cause the most weight loss because the good bacteria that these 3 foods promote will manufacture numerous beneficial chemicals, including propionate, acetate, and butyrate:

    The beneficial chemicals manufactured by Bacillus subtilis natto [but not bifidobacteria or lactobacilli] include vitamin C, vitamin PQQ, vitamin K2/MK-7, vitamin K2/MK-8, nattokinase (subtilisin), hyaluronic acid, and coenzyme Q10. People who eat natto will dramatically lower their risk of death from heart disease, cancer, osteoporosis, dementia, blood clots, stroke, kidney failure, high blood pressure, obesity, and a dozen other killer diseases.
    The majority of the bad bacteria are Gram-negative. Inflammation-causing bacterial endotoxins come mostly from the Gram-negative bacteria in our foods and also partly from the Gram-negative bacteria in our intestines. Eating tempeh (instead of natto) would fail to kill any of the Gram-negative bacteria and, in fact, might cause them to multiply faster because most of the beneficial Gram-positive bacteria would be inhibited:

    1. Ronald, what do you think about Miso? Would it have these same beneficial properties that natto does, or could Miso have some of the potentially harmful qualities as those you mentioned that tempeh has in regards to gram-negative and gram-positive bacteria? Thank you for any ideas on this.

  5. Which soy milk products are fermented? Kirkland is what I drink. what about other soy fermented vs non fermented products?

    1. Soy milk is generally not fermented, but soy milk is still a healthful, whole food. Always make sure to buy it organic and sugar free. Westsoy unsweetened is a tasty, healthful brand, as is Whole foods 365 organic.

        1. John: You have a very good point. That really gets the core of any processing: that it changes the nature of the food, concentrating macro-nutrients like fats for the worse, eliminating vital macro-nutrients like fiber as you noted, along with frequent elimination of micro-nutrients like vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. This is one of the reasons that Dr. recommends “whole food”. It can be taken further by recommending “unprocessed whole food.” Even a blender is a form of processing.

          Dr. Ben

  6. I have a book “Fermented Vegetables” that teaches how to “lacto-ferment” vegetables. I am interested in this to increase beneficial bacteria and for health reasons. Before I get started I searched your site and listened to your video on Kombucha and Kimchi which both said these are bad for us. Do you have more info on fermented foods and more details as to if and why they may pose a health risk or benefit?

    1. I would love to see this subject revisited on this site as well. I went ahead and looked at the research sited in the kimchee video and the items in the fermented foods list – in the research – included animal products. So I’m not sure that this video has sufficiently teased out the issues and questions around fermented vegetables. I’ve heard that the issue with fermented foods is the high amount of salt which is not good for our blood pressures or our gut. Supposedly Asian cultures, which eat a lot of fermented products, have high gut cancers supposedly from the high salt. And I use the word “supposedly” because I really don’t know.
      Before the kimchee video came out I used to make my own. My understanding is that the salt is used to protect the vegetable from acquiring undesirably bacteria and thus creating a poisonous ferment. But I’ve experimented with using less than half the salt called for, letting the vegg cure with the salt overnight, and then rinse all of the salt off before fermenting to make the final product a less salt-heavy food.
      I also, for “fun”, added my own probiotic caps (taken apart of course and spread) to my mixture.
      My grandmother made fresh sauerkraut and my Father made pickles which we loved to eat growing up.

  7. Hi, Dr. Greger, Thank you for such an informative site. Question: Is there something in tempeh that may affect the body’s ability to use zinc or other minerals? Would tempeh interfere with the thyroid’s uptake of iodine? Thank you.

  8. I just read an article that said to avoid tofu and soy milk mainly because it is high in omega 6’s. Should I go stop eating these products and opt for Tempe instead in order to get a better ratio of omega 3 to 6’s? Thanks!

  9. Dear experts, how much miso paste is equivalent to ticking of one “beans’ box” in the daily dozen? I reckon half a cup would be a bit much considering all the salt /sodium contained?
    Thank you!

  10. Dear experts, how much miso paste is required to tick off one “beans’ box” in the daily dozen? I reckon half a cup would be a bit much considering all the salt /sodium contained?
    Thank you!

  11. Probably bake since that would be the lowest temperature. Steam has no maximum temperature so it can get very hot and degrade nutrients. Pan fry is hard to say but when the veggie broth gets dried out then it can get much hotter since its tempeh on hot pan only.

    Dr. Ben

  12. It seems to me that Butler Foods’ Soy Curls may be okay for people trying to eat only whole foods because they contain the whole soybeans according to their website. Is that correct?

  13. This is a good question and one I’d encourage you and your mother to ask either her doctor or a knowledgeable dietitian that the doctor works with. Why” Because thyroid function certainly could be compromised since your mother has only half of her original thyroid. Based on the following study she needs to clarify how much tofu she is eating and if it might have a greater affect on your mother’s thyroid function and she MAY need to ensure iodine intake. Generally soy is beneficial so don’t just tell your mother to give up her tofu. Explore any potential need to to adjust. You may wish to bring this study in to review with the doctor/dietitian:
    Effects of soy protein and soybean isoflavones on thyroid function in healthy adults and hypothyroid patients: a review of the relevant literature.
    “… some evidence suggests that soy foods, by inhibiting absorption, may increase the dose of thyroid hormone required by hypothyroid patients. However, hypothyroid adults need not avoid soy foods. In addition, there remains a theoretical concern based on in vitro and animal data that in individuals with compromised thyroid function and/or whose iodine intake is marginal soy foods may increase risk of developing clinical hypothyroidism. Therefore, it is important for soy food consumers to make sure their intake of iodine is adequate.” Hope this is helpful and good for you in guiding your mother with her questions.

  14. Hi, Anne Goldman! Soy milk is not listed as one of the foods included in the bean category of the Daily Dozen. I suspect that is because soy milk is mostly water. When I have made soy milk at home, it takes about 1/4 cup of dried soybeans to make over a quart and a half of soy milk. In addition, most of the fiber is filtered out. Whole legumes make better choices here, along with tofu, tempeh, and miso. I would place soy milk in the beverage category. I hope that helps!

    1. So helpful! Thank you. I have trouble getting 3 servings in, since that much fiber, along with so many veggies and cruciferous veggies, is hard on the stomach. Trying Beano with a modicum of success. Tofu is better tolerated but can’t eat that 3 times a day!

  15. Can one of the moderators provide recipe suggestions for actually preparing tempeh for breakfast, lunch, etc., without using a lot of added sodium from soy sauce? I’m having a hard time finding any recipes that do not use soy sauce and so far my efforts to prepare it without that have not come out that great. Thank you.

  16. Hi, Tatiana Campos! You can find everything on this site related to soy here: I assume you are talking about the so-called “goitrogenic” effects of soy. The reality is that soy is one of many foods that can decrease absorption of iodine. This is only an issue if intake of iodine is inadequate. The answer is not to avoid soy, but to make sure you are getting enough iodine. More on that here: There is a lot of misinformation about soy on the World Wide Web. It is wise not to believe everything you hear and see. I hope that helps!

  17. This seems to have been superseded by the study mentioned in the video of July 5th, 2017 Volume 36. In that study, it was concluded that only unfermented soy was anti-mutagenic, so tofu and edamame, not tempeh and miso.
    That is the problem with cherry-picking among studies: you can find support for almost any proposition. It would be welcome (but probably less entertaining) if would select studies more systematically with clear search terms and exclusion criteria.
    Also, the question remains about clinical relevance. How much difference in healthy life expectancy is there between a very good WFPB diet and the best WFPB diet? So for the moment, I eat all of them regularly. Tempeh more often because it tastes better.

  18. Hi, Porpoise! I assume you are referring to this video;
    When new information becomes available, we post it here. Generally, a newer video should be considered to be more up-to-date than an older one. Dr. Greger does select studies systematically with clear search terms and exclusion criteria. With regard to your question regarding the difference in healthy life expectancy between a very good WFPB diet and the best WFPB diet, we don’t know, until we put it to the test! I hope that helps!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This