By Lauren Larson, MD, RDN
With dairy products being a major source of calcium, vegans or those who don't eat dairy products may need to get a little creative to ensure they're getting the recommended 1,000 mg for adults 19-50 years of age. Leafy green vegetables are one non-dairy source of calcium, but they also contain oxalates, which bind some of the calcium and prevent it from being absorbed. A few other non-dairy sources include tofu, blackstrap molasses, fortified orange juice or milk-alternatives, tahini (sesame paste), and tempeh.
Tempeh is made from fermented soy beans that are packed tightly into a firm “patty”. A recent study compared the absorption of calcium from milk and tempeh, and found that the absorption from tempeh did not differ significantly from milk, making it a good alternative. One 1-cup serving of tempeh provides 184 mg of calcium, which is a little more than what is found in a half cup of 2% milk (157 mg). While a larger serving is required to get the same amount of calcium that is found in milk, tempeh could be a part of a diet that includes other calcium sources, such as those listed above, to get the recommended daily amount.
Tempeh is an extremely versatile animal protein substitute that can be cubed and stir fried, broken into pieces and made into a “meat” sauce, or crumbled into soups or chili. It has more of a nutty flavor than tofu, and is an excellent addition to any diet—vegan, vegetarian, or carnivorous.
This orange tempeh recipe is a tasty alternative to your typical stir fry. The tempeh is marinated in a citrusy, but slightly sweet marinade, coated in arrowroot powder to give it a thick coating before it's pan-fried in avocado oil. Red cabbage and red onion are added along with the remaining marinade to finish the dish. The recipe calls for serving it over cooked short-grain brown rice, but you could also serve it over cauliflower rice.
Recipe by Lauren Larson, MS, RDN
1 cup orange juice
1 tablespoon grated ginger
1 ½ tablespoons mirin
2 teaspoons soy sauce
2 teaspoons maple syrup
½ teaspoon ground coriander
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 package tempeh, cut into 3/4” cubes
1 cup uncooked short-grain brown rice
2 cups water
4 tablespoons arrowroot powder
3 tablespoons avocado oil
½ medium head red cabbage, shredded or thinly sliced
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
½ lime, cut into four segments
¼ cup cilantro, chopped (optional)
Hot sauce for serving (optional)
Haron, Hasnah, et al. "Absorption of calcium from milk and tempeh consumed by postmenopausal Malay women using the dual stable isotope technique." International journal of food sciences and nutrition 61.2 (2010): 125-137.
"USDA Food Composition Databases." National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference. United States Department of Agriculture, n.d. Web. 12 Sept. 2016.
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