How seitan proved to be a blessing in disguise for vegans worldwide

Last Updated December 20th, 2021

What is seitan?

Seitan originates from China and but the name was later coined by a Japanese macrobiotic diet advocate in 1961. It is an effective substituent for meat proteins. This was mainly designed especially for those who did not consume meat.

Now the consumption of seitan has spread everywhere. It is protein-rich and is low in carbohydrates. Seitan is pronounced as “say-tan”. Wheat contains gluten (a protein) and hydrated gluten is what we call as seitan. That is why seitan is also called as wheat gluten or wheat protein. When you knead the wheat flour with water, there will be sticky strands of protein. Rinse this dough to remove the starch. The resultant product is seitan.

This sticky gluten protein can be used in preparing various foods (baking, mixing with rice, or any other dish such as kababs, steaks, sandwiches, etc.) and can replace meat effectively. A high protein diet, in general, can bring down the levels of the hunger hormone (ghrelin) so you can make use of seitan as a part of your weight loss diet.

Nutrient Quantity per 100 g of seitan
Water8.2 g
Energy370 kcal
Protein75.16 g
Total lipid (fat)1.85 g
Carbohydrate13.79 g
Total dietary fiber0.6 g
Sugars0 g
Calcium142 mg
Iron5.2 mg
Magnesium25 mg
Phosphorus260 mg
Potassium100 mg
Sodium29 mg
Zinc0.85 mg

*This data is obtained from the United States Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research – nutrient database

Seitan and weight loss

The carbohydrate content is low (a single serving of seitan = 4 g of carbs). It also contains drastically low levels of fat. Some of the commercial seitan products vary in their flavor and texture which is because of added ingredients.

Seitan as a protein source

Proteins are the building blocks of the body. They are present in the skin, blood, nails, bones, muscles, hair, cartilage, etc. Carbohydrates and fats are stored as a reserve so when there is a requirement, it is drawn from this reserve. The body does not store proteins as a reserve. Proteins are synthesized as and when there is a requirement. That is why it is important to include a good amount of protein-based foods on a daily basis.

  • Seitan can be mixed with other flours such as soy, legumes, etc.
  • It contains insufficient levels of the essential amino acid lysine. Lysine is vital for calcium absorption, lowering of anxiety, and also for wound healing.
  • So, if you are consuming seitan then you must also include lysine based foods such as pears, apples, quinoa, beans, soy milk, etc.

Is seitan difficult to cook?

No. Seitan is easy to cook. Various ingredients can be added to impart flavors to it. You can easily merge seitan with any meal you are consuming. You can cook them in the following ways:

  • Cut the dough into slices or strips and stir fry them.
  • Marinate the seitan dough and bake them or grill them or even steam them (if you want a mild flavor).
  • You can even deep fry them.
  • Use seitan as a ground beef substitute or pour in some delicious barbecue sauce and serve it as a main course meal.
  • Cook it in a broth to add more flavor.

What are the health benefits of seitan?

  • Seitan is a rich source of calcium. Calcium is often associated with bone health. Most of the calcium in the human body (about 99%), belongs to the bone. Apart from this, calcium is also involved in muscle contraction. Certain enzymes in the body also function in the presence of calcium.
  • Iron in seitan is vital for the blood. Blood volume and blood cell synthesis work under the influence of iron. Iron deficiency can lead to insufficient oxygen transport to the brain and other vital organs.
  • Seitan contains magnesium. This mineral is essential for assimilating calcium and vitamin D activation in order to facilitate bone formation. Magnesium is also important for the functioning of cellular enzymes involved in the role of insulin and glucose uptake by the cells.
  • Seitan contains phosphorus too. The energy currency of every cell contains this mineral. Also, this mineral is needed for the synthesis of proteins, fats, and It helps in minimizing muscle cramps by reducing the release of calcium. It also maintains a regular heartbeat.
  • Potassium from seitan is antagonistic to sodium. It reduces the number of sodium in the cells and prevents fluid retention caused by high sodium. This helps in bringing the blood pressure down and protects the heart. Potassium is vital for nerve functioning. It also minimizes the calcium burden on the kidney thereby preventing the incidence of kidney stones.
  • Sodium is important to regulate the hydration levels in the cells and the blood. This mineral is present in seitan and is important to maintain electrolyte balance in the body.
  • Seitan contains zinc which stimulates wound healing and also minimizes inflammation and bacterial infection. It also plays a major role in memory. It activates the signaling pathways that are involved in receptor to cell communication.

Seitan is a feasible option for people with soy allergies

About 0.2% of children worldwide are known to have soy allergies. Those who are allergic to soy proteins can use seitan as a meat substitute as well. Some commercial products of seitan also include flavor and added nutrients in the form of beans, lentils, cane sugar, garlic, etc.

Seitan: Processed but healthy

High processed products are generally not accepted well due to their associated health complications. Moreover, these products contain added ingredients along with fat, salt or added sugar in order to increase their shelf life. Manufacturers are not aware of the extent to which they add or if the added amounts are healthy.

Seitan is not the same as other processed foods such as sweet corns in a tin can, and more. It is purely manufactured by washing off the excess amount of starch from the wheat. It does not have any added sugar, salt, or fat or any other additives. You just have to rehydrate seitan with water. Those who consume whole foods (whole vegetables, whole grains, legumes, etc.) can include seitan as a part of their diet.

Seitan: Few drawbacks

Some people are allergic to wheat or gluten. Such people must avoid consuming seitan. Seitan contains gluten protein and this must be avoided in the case of celiac disease. Celiac disease is an autoimmune condition where the immune system immediately targets the small intestine when an individual consumes gluten. The cells of the small intestine get damaged and this demotes nutrient absorption to the rest of the body.

Some processed seitan products also contain high amounts of sodium. This increases the blood pressure. Make sure you check the label properly before purchasing any seitan product. In some cases, gluten consumption can result in a leaky gut where the permeability of the gut walls become magnified. There are reports that gluten magnifies the intestinal permeability even in normal healthy individuals. Gluten protein can result in the following unpleasant side effects:

  • Bloating
  • Diarrhea
  • Gas
  • Constipation
  • Foul-smelling stools
  • Fatigue
  • Headaches
  • Abdominal pain
  • Joint pain
  • Skin problems such as psoriasis (an autoimmune skin condition that results in the development of itchy scaly patches of skin), severe urticaria (development of highly itchy red swellings on the skin), etc.

If you are experiencing any such side effects, it is better to refrain from consuming it again. Consult a dietician or a nutritionist to deduce the symptoms with respect to the foods you eat.

The bottom line

Seitan is processed wheat flour that is protein and mineral rich. It has zero fat so you don’t have to worry about increasing weight. Seitan is a good alternative for those with soy allergies and is one of the best meat substitutes. Apart from this, it is rich in vital minerals such as potassium, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, and iron.

Certain commercial products also contain added nutrients, while others contain added sugars, fats or salts. Seitan is not recommended for those with a gluten allergy or those with autoimmune disorders as it can give rise to uncomfortable side effects such as skin rashes, bloating, or even magnify the autoimmune response. Kidney beans, chickpeas, chia seeds, quinoa, etc., are some of the soy free gluten free protein substitutes you can opt for.



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