What Is Seitan Good For?

Score on Seitan


Seitan Nutrition Facts

Whether it’s for cultural or health reasons, veganism and vegetarianism have been on the rise in the past 10 years, with statistics showing a 50 percent growth in their population.1

However, the nutritional limitations of these diets can pose challenges, leading vegans and vegetarians to using a handful of products to ensure optimal nutrient intake. Some of the most popular meat substitutes utilized in the vegan community include tempeh, vegan soy and seitan.2

This article will focus on seitan or wheat gluten, which is popular for its ability to mimic the texture of meat, making it one of the most sought-after meat alternatives.

However, because of the recent widespread diagnosis of celiac disease and gluten sensitivity, it’s suffered some backlash.3 Keep reading to learn more about seitan.

 

What Is Seitan?

Seitan, or wheat gluten, is a meat alternative well known for its stringy and chewy texture.4 The first documentation of seitan reaches as far back as 1,000 years, with Buddhist monks in China and Japan using it as a protein source.5 Seasoned wheat gluten has also been prepared in other countries, such as Korea, Russia and the Middle East, countries where wheat was also cultivated.6

Today, numerous brands of seitan are available, making it that much easier for people to prepare their dishes with this meat alternative. However, before you add this protein source to your diet, note that seitan consumption might be a problem for people who suffer from celiac disease and gluten sensitivity. The alternative name itself is a dead giveaway as seitan is a mixture of wheat gluten and water.

Seitan May Not Be Recommended if You Have Gluten Intolerance

Gluten refers to the combination of two proteins: glutenins and gliadins, which produce an elastic bond. While gluten is commonly found in wheat, rye and barley, it is also added to other food products to promote water absorption, cohesiveness and viscosity.7

However, although gluten might help promote the binding and structure in bread and other foods, it may also pose challenges concerning nutrient absorption and nutrient breakdown, compromising numerous body mechanisms in the process.8 Aside from this, gluten may also worsen leaky gut, opening you up to a wide array of health problems. This is due to gluten’s effect on the gut’s permeability, making it possible for toxins and other harmful compounds to cross into the bloodstream.

Leaky gut is oftentimes regarded as one of the possible causes of many health conditions, including autoimmune disorders, chronic fatigue syndrome and mental illnesses.9 This is mostly due to the poor regulation of zonulin, a compound responsible for guarding the opening mechanism in the gut’s cells.

If you’re gluten-sensitive, gluten-intolerant or you suffer from celiac disease, it would be best that you avoid using seitan to mitigate the risk of triggering the symptoms of your condition. Some of the most common symptoms of gluten sensitivity include diarrhea, constipation, bloating, abdominal pain and fatigue.10

If your food intake is not bound by these sensitivities or lifestyle choices, consider getting your nutrients from real animal-based products to make sure that you’re getting all the nutrients required for optimal health. While meat alternatives pack on some of the vitamins and minerals you may get from meat products, they still have a long way to go to be considered equal in the realm of nutrient content.

Can Seitan Provide Benefits for You?

Because of the purely plant-based diet that veganism entails, it may prove to be challenging to acquire some of the essential nutrients needed for everyday body functions, including protein.

While there are numerous protein sources in the plant kingdom, Amanda Hostler, a dietitian out at the University of Texas Health Science Center, notes that vegans need to consume higher amounts of protein-rich foods as plant-based protein has a lower rate of digestibility.11

Seitan contains high amounts of protein, providing approximately 19 grams per serving.12 Other nutrients you could get from seitan include:

  • Iron is an important component of hemoglobin, which is responsible for transporting oxygen throughout the body. It is also important in maintaining cellular health.13
  • Calcium is an essential mineral important for skeletal health, as it helps maintain bone density and lowers the risk for osteoporosis in later life. Calcium is also important for the regulation of numerous organs, including the heart, nerves and muscles.14

Again, note that while seitan may be good sources of these nutrients, it may also expose you to numerous health risks, especially if you are sensitive to gluten. Unfortunately, these risks may far outweigh these benefits.

Seitan Substitutes You Can Use

Seitan is often available in health food stores and grocery stores (usually in the refrigerated section). The good news is that if you don’t have the time to make your own or to scour the nearest stores for seitan, there are alternatives you can use, including:

  • Tempeh, or fermented soybeans, is a meat substitute distinct for its nutty flavor. Because of its firm texture, it is a good substitute for numerous meat recipes. It is rich in protein, fatty acids and B vitamins.15
  • Jackfruit may be used as a meat substitute because of its meat-like taste and texture. Numerous vegan restaurants use the unripe fruit for tacos, enchiladas and other meat recipes.16 It contains high amounts of potassium, magnesium, calcium and other nutrients essential for overall body function.17

Reintroducing Wheat and Grains Into Your Diet

While numerous studies have linked gluten consumption to numerous health problems, this doesn’t mean that wheat, grains and other gluten-containing foods are inherently bad for you. It all depends on the food quality and the condition of your digestive system.

Wheat and grains have been part of the human diet for thousands of years, which implies that at one point, they posed little to no health risks. But because of the low quality of conventionally grown food nowadays, most people now have poor gut microbiomes and compromised absorption capacities.

In fact, your poor digestive abilities might be solely caused by the processed foods in your diet, making you essentially unable to digest grains. If you’re concerned about the nutrient limitations that a gluten-free diet may pose, know that repairing the gut is all it takes to restore your ability to process whole wheat.

Some of the ways that you can do this is by avoiding processed foods and incorporating numerous food products to support digestive health, including cardamom, coriander and ginger. Once you start rebooting your digestive system, you may regain the ability to efficiently digest whole wheat foods.

Because of its meat-like texture, seitan has become a popular choice for vegans and vegetarians alike as a protein source. Seitan can be used for a variety of recipes without compromising the flavor of your meal. Unlike other meat alternatives, seitan is not soy-based, which may eliminate your risk of lectin exposure.

Its mild flavor makes it a good choice, as it does not overpower the dish. In addition, seitan is able to absorb the flavors added to the dish, making it an extremely versatile ingredient. Some of the most common dishes that use seitan include vegan curry, seitan “chicken” and mock duck.18,19

How to Make Seitan

While you can get seitan from your local supermarket or health food store, it’s important to note that these batches may be packed with preservatives and other components traditionally used in conventional food manufacturing. Because of the gluten content of seitan, these products may also prove to be problematic, exposing you to greater risks. As an alternative, you can try this gluten-free seitan recipe from Cooking With Plants:20

Ingredients:

480 grams cooked beans

100 grams quinoa

3 tablespoons tomato paste

2 teaspoons smoked paprika

1 teaspoon homemade vegetable stock powder

2 tablespoons tamari

1 tablespoon dried onion flakes

1 tablespoon dried sage leaves

80 grams rice flour

40 grams chickpea flour

Black pepper, to taste

 

Procedure:

  1. Place the beans and quinoa in a food processor. Blend until smooth but still with a chunky texture.
  2. Place the mixture in a mixing bowl and add all the remaining ingredients. Mix in the ingredients with your hands until it holds together.
  3. Heat the oven to 360 degrees Fahrenheit.
  4. Place your mixture on nonstick parchment paper. Fold closed. Bake in an oven for 45 minutes.
(Adapted from Cooking With Plants)

But while this recipe is free from gluten, cooking with beans is way more complicated than you may know. This is due to the high lectin content, a compound that is part of the plant’s defense mechanism. Most lectins are pro-inflammatory, immunotoxic, neurotoxic and cytotoxic.

The good news is that you can drastically lower the lectin content in beans by soaking them for at least 12 hours. To make it easier for you, here’s a guide:

  • Soak the beans in clean water for at least 12 hours before cooking. Change the water frequently.
  • Add baking soda to the water to boost neutralization of the lectins.
  • Rinse the beans and discard the water.
  • Cook the beans for at least 15 minutes on high heat. Cooking them on low heat may increase the toxicity levels more.

Seitan Recipes You Can Try Out at Home

After making your own seitan, the next step is to learn some delicious and healthy recipes you can try out. Make some of these delicious and easy-to-make dishes if you’re unsure how you’re going to cook with seitan:21,22,23

Homemade Seitan Steak Recipe

Seitan Steak Healthy Recipe

Ingredients:

Homemade seitan

1/4 cup water

2 tablespoons coconut oil

2 tablespoons organic soy sauce

1 tablespoon raw honey

 

Procedure:

  1. Prepare the seitan by cutting out 1/2-inch thick steaks.
  2. Mix the marinade ingredients in an airtight glass container. Coat the seitan steaks in the marinade.
  3. Let the steaks marinade for 30 minutes before cooking or several days if kept refrigerated.
  4. After marinating, heat the frying pan or the grill. Fry or grill the seitan steaks for a couple of minutes on each side, enough time for grill marks to form on the surface.
  5. Brush the steaks with the leftover marinade while cooking to keep them juicy.
  6. Before serving, brush the steaks with the marinade again. Enjoy.
(Adapted from It Doesn’t Taste Like Chicken)

Vegan Pho With Seitan Recipe

Vegan Pho With Seitan Healthy Recipe

Ingredients:

1 tablespoon coriander seeds

1 tablespoon whole cloves

6 star anise

1 cinnamon stick

1 tablespoon fennel seeds

1 tablespoon whole cardamom

4 knobs fresh ginger, sliced

1 quart (4 cups) vegetable broth

1 teaspoon organic soy sauce

8 ounces Vietnamese rice noodles

1 cup shredded seitan

1/2 cup chopped cilantro

1/2 cup chopped Thai basil

2 cups mung bean sprouts

1/4 sliced scallions

Procedure:

  1. In a skillet, quickly heat the spices, ginger and onion, until the seeds start to pop. This usually takes five minutes. The onion and ginger should look slightly caramelized. Put them in a cheesecloth packet and tie it up.
  2. In a 4-quart slow cooker, place the cheesecloth packet. Add the broth, soy sauce, noodles and seitan. Cover. Cook on low for about four hours.
  3. Remove the cheesecloth packet after cooking. Serve each bowl topped with cilantro, basil, sprouts and scallions.
(Recipe from The Spruce Eats)

Crock Pot Vegetarian Stew With Seitan

Vegetarian Stew With Seitan Healthy Recipe

Ingredients:

1 pound seitan, chopped

1 onion, diced

5 cups vegetable broth

2 tablespoons organic soy sauce

3 cloves garlic, minced

2 tomatoes, diced

3 potatoes, chopped

2 stalks celery, diced

1 teaspoon Himalayan salt

3/4 teaspoon pepper

4 tablespoons of arrowroot, mixed with 4 tablespoons of water

 

Procedure:

  1. Sauté the seitan in a little bit of coconut oil for extra flavor.
  2. Place all the ingredients in a crock pot or a slow cooker. Cook on low for six to eight hours. Serve.
(Adapted from The Spruce Eats)

Note: Potatoes contain high amounts of starch, which may cause your carbohydrate load to spike. Consider limiting your intake of potatoes to decrease your risk of weight gain and Type 2 diabetes.

Potatoes also contain lectins, which are compounds that may cause a handful of health repercussions when consumed constantly. The good news is you can avoid these side effects by preparing potatoes a certain way. To help you with that, here’s a guide on how to minimize the lectin content in potatoes: “How to Bake Potatoes.

Nutrition Facts of Seitan

If you’re planning on using seitan as an alternative, it’s important that you’re aware of the nutrients it contains. This will make it easier for you to keep track of the nutrients you would need to get from other sources.24

Seitan Nutrition Facts

Serving Size: 3.5 ounces (100 grams)
    Value
Energy (kcal)   143
Protein   19.05 g
Total lipid (fat)   2.38 g
Carbohydrate   11.90 g
Fiber, total dietary   1.2 g
Calcium   48 mg
Iron   2.14 mg

*Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.

Seitan May Be a Good Meat Alternative, but Consume It in Moderation

Seitan doesn’t fall behind any other mainstream alternative options when it comes to nutritional content. Its protein levels make it a deserving choice for vegans and vegetarians alike. However, note that basing your diet on seitan alone will not ensure that you’re getting the nutrients your body needs. Make sure that you plan out your diet well enough for you to get the ideal amounts of essential minerals and vitamins your body needs to function optimally.

In addition, if you do not suffer from celiac disease or gluten sensitivity, consider getting your protein from animal-based products to ensure that you get the complete nutrients that you were designed to acquire from your diet.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About Seitan

Q: Is seitan healthy?

A: Seitan contains considerable amounts of the nutrients typically found in animal products, making it a deserving alternative for meat. It may provide you with enough levels of protein, calcium and iron. However, it cannot provide you with the complete range of nutrients you might expect from animal products, which means that optimizing your diet is absolutely necessary for you to maintain good health.25

Q: Is seitan good for you?

A: Seitan is a good choice for vegans and vegetarians to get their share of protein. The only problem is that seitan contains high amounts of gluten, which may be problematic for consumers with gluten intolerance/sensitivity and celiac disease. If you suffer from these conditions or you suspect that you do, it’s best that you go for other meat alternatives to avoid aggravating the symptoms.

Q: Where can you buy seitan?

A: Seitan is available in numerous grocery stores and health food stores, usually situated in the refrigerated section. However, you have the option of making your own, allowing you to have complete control of the ingredients you would be using.

Q: What is seitan made of?

A: Seitan is made with wheat, usually produced as a mixture of vital wheat gluten and water.26