Tempura is a traditional Japanese style of cooking that involves deep-frying food that is coated in a light, eggless batter prepared from flour and water. (See Reference 1) Thinly sliced meat, fish, shellfish like prawns and all types of vegetables, including green beans, bell pepper strips, sliced sweet potato, mushrooms or broccoli florets can be prepared as tempura. (See Reference 2 and 3) While vegetable tempura may seem like a relatively healthy choice, the American Heart Association advises that it's best to avoid fried foods because they are higher in calories and fat than vegetables that are roasted, broiled or stir-fried. (See Reference 4)
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High in Fat
A typical restaurant serving of vegetable tempura may contain 1,580 calories, with as much as 60 percent -- about 963 calories -- coming from 107 grams of total fat. If you're a healthy adult on a 2,000-calorie diet, this amount is over 100 percent of the amount of total fat you should consume each day. Approximately 23 grams of the fat in a typical vegetable tempura serving is saturated fat, or more than the 15-gram limit recommended for people who consume 2,000 calories a day.
Potentially Dangerous Sodium Level
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that you should not consume more than 2,300 milligrams of sodium a day. If you are elderly, African-American or suffer from kidney disease, hypertension or diabetes, you should limit your sodium even more, to 1,500 milligrams per day. Consuming one restaurant serving of vegetable tempura might supply you with 1,120 milligrams of sodium, or nearly 49 percent of a healthy adult's daily limit and 74 percent of the limit for an individual on a sodium-restricted diet. If you choose to dip your vegetable tempura into a high-sodium sauce like soy sauce, the sodium content per serving will be even higher.
Rich in Refined Carbohydrates
Vegetable tempura can have as much as 137 grams of carbohydrates in a typical, approximately 20-ounce restaurant serving. The average adult following a 2,000-calorie diet should obtain between 45 to 65 percent of her daily caloric intake from carbohydrates, or about 225 to 325 grams of carbohydrates each day, advises the U.S. Department of Agriculture. A serving of vegetable tempura would fulfill 42 to 61 percent of this requirement. The batter for tempura is traditionally prepared with white or rice flour, neither of which fulfill the USDA's recommendation that you should consume most of your grains as whole grains.
Source of Protein
A serving of vegetable tempura consumed in a restaurant may provide you with 17 grams of protein. For a woman, this amount would supply 37 percent of her 46-gram recommended daily allowance; for a man, it would be 30 percent of his requirement per day. The protein contained in flour and vegetables are both incomplete; neither contains the full amount of amino acids that your body requires. However, when the two are combined together in vegetable tempura, they complement one another and yield complete protein.
REFERENCES & RESOURCES
- WPTV.com: National Tempura Day January 7 - Recipe Tips for the Best Tempura
- Foodhall: Kitchen Dictionary - Tempura
- The Kitchn: How to Make Tempura-Fried Vegetables At Home
- American Heart Association: Heart Healthy Foods
- RA Sushi Bar Restaurant: Nutritional Information
- American Heart Association: Know Your Fats
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Where's the Sodium?
- USDA: Part D. Section 5: Carbohydrates
- The New York Times: Vegetable Tempura
- ChooseMyPlate.gov: Grains - What Foods Are in the Grains Group?
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Protein