Is Seitan (Vital Wheat Gluten) Healthy?
Seitan is a popular vegan substitute for meat.
It is made from wheat gluten and water and is often promoted as a high-protein, low-carb alternative to animal protein.
However, there are some concerns about the possible negative effects of consuming a product made entirely of gluten.
This article will review the pros and cons of eating seitan and help you decide whether it is a good fit for your diet.
What Is Seitan?
Seitan (pronounced "say-tan") is a vegan meat substitute made entirely out of hydrated gluten, the main protein found in wheat.
It is sometimes also called wheat gluten, wheat meat, wheat protein or just gluten.
Seitan is produced by kneading wheat flour with water to develop sticky strands of gluten protein. The dough is then rinsed to wash away all of the starch.
What remains is a sticky mass of pure gluten protein that can be seasoned, cooked and used in vegan or vegetarian dishes as a substitute for meat.
Seitan can be purchased pre-made in the refrigerated or frozen sections of most grocery stores. It can also be made at home by mixing vital wheat gluten (purified dried gluten powder) with water.
Seitan is a vegan meat substitute made by rinsing wheat dough to remove the starch. This leaves a dense mass of pure gluten protein that can be seasoned and cooked.
Seitan Is Nutritious
Seitan consists almost entirely of wheat gluten, but it is still a nutritious food that is high in protein and minerals while low in carbs and fat.
One serving of seitan (made from one ounce of vital wheat gluten) contains the following nutrients (1):
- Calories: 104
- Protein: 21 grams
- Selenium: 16% of the RDI
- Iron: 8% of the RDI
- Phosphorus: 7% of the RDI
- Calcium: 4% of the RDI
- Copper: 3% of the RDI
It is also extremely low in carbs since all of the starch normally found in wheat flour is washed away in the process of making seitan. One serving contains just 4 grams of carbs.
Since wheat grains are nearly fat-free, seitan also contains very little fat. One serving contains only 0.5 grams of fat.
Keep in mind that many store-bought seitan products contain additional ingredients to improve the flavor and texture of the final product, so exact nutritional profiles will vary.
Seitan contains roughly the same amount of protein as animal meat and is a good source of several minerals. It is also low in carbohydrates and fats.
It Is a Source of Protein
Seitan is made entirely out of gluten, the main protein in wheat, so it is a good protein option for vegetarians and vegans.
The exact amount of protein in seitan varies, depending on whether other proteins like soy or legume flours were added during production.
However, while seitan is high in protein, it does not contain enough of the amino acid lysine to meet your body's needs (5).
Since it is low in lysine, an essential amino acid that humans must get from food, seitan is not considered a complete protein.
But many vegans and vegetarians easily solve this problem by eating lysine-rich foods, such as beans, in order to meet their needs (6).
Seitan is high in protein. However, it is an incomplete protein source, as it contains very little lysine, an essential amino acid.
It’s Easy to Cook With
Plain seitan is made from simply wheat gluten and water, so it has a relatively neutral taste and can take on the flavors of sauces and other seasonings very well.
This makes it a versatile cooking ingredient that can blend into almost any meal.
Some of the more popular ways to cook seitan include:
- Marinated, baked and cut into slices like meat
- Used as a ground beef substitute
- Sliced into strips for fajitas or stir-fries
- Slathered in barbecue sauce and served as a main dish
- Breaded and deep-fried like chicken strips
- Simmered in hearty winter stews
- Threaded onto skewers and baked or grilled
- Cooked in broth to soak up extra flavor
- Steamed for a lighter flavor
The texture of seitan is often described as dense and toothsome, so it makes a much more convincing meat substitute than tofu or tempeh.
Pre-packaged seitan can be a quick and hearty vegan protein option, but making seitan at home is also a relatively simple and low-cost alternative.
The neutral flavor and dense texture of seitan make for a convincing meat substitute that is easy to use in a variety of ways.
It’s Good for Vegans With Soy Allergies
However, many popular vegan protein options, such as tofu, tempeh and packaged vegan meat substitutes, are made from soy.
This can make it difficult for vegans with soy sensitivities or allergies to find appropriate meatless products at the grocery store.
Seitan, on the other hand, is made from wheat, which makes it a great choice for people who cannot eat soy.
Even though seitan can be made from just wheat gluten and water, many prepared seitan products contain other ingredients.
It is important to read the ingredient lists on all seitan products since many are seasoned with soy sauce to add extra flavor.
Since seitan is made from wheat, not soy, it can be a good vegan protein option for people with soy allergies or sensitivities.
It Is a Highly Processed Food
Seitan may be nutritious, but it is still a highly processed food.
Seitan does not exist on its own in nature. It can only be made by rinsing away all the starch from kneaded wheat flour dough or by rehydrating powdered vital wheat gluten with water.
Although seitan is technically a processed food, it is not high in calories, sugar or fat. Because of this, it may not contribute to obesity like other ultra-processed foods (8).
People who consume a diet rich in whole foods, including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds and legumes, can likely include seitan in their diets without much worry.
However, those who already consume high amounts of processed foods may want to consider whether seitan would be a good addition to their diets.
Seitan is nutritious, but it is still a highly processed food and should probably be consumed in moderation.
Certain People Should Avoid Seitan
Since seitan is made from wheat flour, it must be avoided by people who cannot eat wheat or gluten.
Since seitan is essentially just wheat gluten and water, consuming it could cause a particularly intense reaction in anyone who cannot tolerate gluten.
It should also be noted that pre-packaged seitan can have high levels of added sodium.
Those who must monitor the amount of sodium in their diets should read labels carefully or make their own seitan at home to reduce their sodium intake.
Seitan must be avoided by anyone who cannot tolerate wheat or gluten. Pre-packaged varieties can be high in sodium, too.
It May Be Bad for Your Gut
Since seitan is made from pure gluten, there is some concern that eating it may be bad for your gut.
In a normal, properly functioning gut, intestinal permeability is tightly regulated so that only small food particles can pass through into the bloodstream (10).
But sometimes, the gut can become "leaky," allowing larger particles through. This is called increased intestinal permeability and is associated with a higher risk of food sensitivities, inflammation and autoimmune diseases (11, 12, 13).
Meeting with a dietitian or other licensed nutrition professional can also be helpful in understanding the possible link between your diet and symptoms (20).
Some research suggests that consuming gluten may increase gut permeability and cause unpleasant symptoms in some people, but more studies are needed.
The Bottom Line
Seitan is a popular vegan protein source made from wheat gluten and water.
It is high in protein and is a good source of minerals like selenium and iron.
Seitan is a great option for vegans who cannot eat soy, since other popular vegan foods, such as tofu and tempeh, are soy-based.
However, anyone who cannot tolerate wheat or gluten, including those with sensitivities, allergies or celiac disease, must strictly avoid seitan to avoid serious side effects.
It is also important to note that seitan is a highly processed food and can be high in sodium when purchased pre-made.
Moreover, there is some concern that gluten may contribute to "leaky gut," increasing the risk of food sensitivities and autoimmune diseases, but more research is needed.
Overall, it seems that seitan may be a good food choice for some people but can cause unpleasant symptoms in others.
Until more about how gluten impacts the gut and immune system is understood, it is wise to listen to your body and let how you feel guide your food choices.
Reposted with permission from our media associate Healthline.
By Karen L. Smith-Janssen
Colette Pichon Battle gave a December 2019 TEDWomen Talk on the stark realities of climate change displacement, and people took notice. The video racked up a million views in about two weeks. The attorney, founder, and executive director of the Gulf Coast Center for Law & Policy (GCCLP) advocates for climate justice in communities of color. Confronted with evidence showing how her own South Louisiana coastal home of Bayou Liberty will be lost to flooding in coming years, the 2019 Obama Fellow dedicates herself to helping others still reeling from the impacts of Katrina face the heavy toll that climate change has taken—and will take—on their lives and homelands. Her work focuses on strengthening multiracial coalitions, advocating for federal, state, and local disaster mitigation measures, and redirecting resources toward Black communities across the Gulf South.
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'These Aren't Wildfires'<p>Sam Ricketts, who led climate policy and strategy for Governor Jay Inslee's 2020 presidential campaign, tweeted on September 11 that "These aren't wildfires. These are #climatefires, driven by fossil fuel pollution."</p><p>"The rate and the strength and the devastation wrought by these disasters are fueled by climate change," Ricketts told DW of fires that have burnt well over 5 million acres across California, Oregon, Washington State, and into neighboring Idaho. </p><p>In a two-day period in early September, Ricketts notes that more of Washington State burned than in almost any entire fire season until now, apart from 2015. </p><p>California, meanwhile, was a tinderbox after its hottest summer on record, with temperatures in Death Valley reaching nearly 130 degrees Fahrenheit, according to the U.S. National Weather Service. It has been reported as the hottest temperature ever measured on Earth.</p>
<div id="29ad9" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="8346fe7350e1371d400097cd48bf45a2"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1306969603180879872" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">Drought-parched wetlands in South America have been burning for weeks. https://t.co/pjAKdFcKPg #Pantanal https://t.co/ImN2C5vwcp</div> — NASA Earth (@NASA Earth)<a href="https://twitter.com/NASAEarth/statuses/1306969603180879872">1600440810.0</a></blockquote></div><p>As evidenced by Australia's apocalyptic Black Summer of 2019-2020, fires are burning bigger and for longer, with new records set year-on-year. Right now, Brazil's vast and highly biodiverse Pantanal wetlands are suffering from catastrophic fires.</p>
#climatefires Started in Australia<p>Governor Inslee this month invoked the phrase climate fires for arguably the first time in the U.S., according to Ricketts.</p><p>But the term was also used as fires burnt out of control in Australia in late 2019. In the face of a 2000km (more than 1,200 miles) fire front, and government officials and media who <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/trump-climate-change-denial-emissions-environment-germany-fake-heartland-seibt/a-52688933" target="_blank">played down the link to climate change</a>, Greens Party Senator Sarah Hanson-Young and a friend decided that reference to bushfires was inadequate. </p><p>"We both just said, we've got to start calling them climate fires, that's what they are," the Australian Senator told DW.</p><p>Hanson-Young says scientists have been warning for decades that these would be the effects of global heating. "We've been told these kinds of extreme weather events and destruction is what climate change would look like, and it's right here on our doorstep," she said from her home state of South Australia — where by early September fire warnings had already been issued.</p><p>"Calling them climate fires was making it absolutely crystal clear. It is essential that there's no ambiguity," she said </p><p>Having deliberately invoked the term, Hanson-Young soon started to push it on social media via a #climatefires hashtag. </p>
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Words That Reflect the Science<p>But while the West Coast governors all fervently link the fires to an unfolding climate crisis, U.S. President Donald Trump continues to avoid any reference to climate. In a briefing about the fires, he responded to overtures by Wade Crowfoot, California's Natural Resources Secretary, to work with the states on the climate crisis by stating: "It'll start getting cooler. You just watch." Crowfoot replied by saying that scientists disagreed. Trump rejoined with "I don't think science knows, actually." </p><p>It was reminiscent of the anti-science approach to the coronavirus pandemic within the Trump administration, <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/donald-trump-admits-playing-down-coronavirus-risks/a-54874350" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">at least publicly</a>. Fossil fuel companies are also benefiting from his disavowal of climate science, with the Trump administration having <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/opinion-trumps-paris-climate-accord-exit-isnt-really-a-problem/a-51124958" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">pulled out of the Paris Agreement</a> and reopened fossil fuel infrastructure like the Keystone XL pipeline. </p><p>But the science community has responded, with Scientific American magazine endorsing Trump's Democratic presidential challenger Joe Biden, the first presidential endorsement in its 175-year history. </p><p>Hanson-Young says the use of explicit language like climate fires has also been important in Australia due to the climate denialism of politicians and the press, especially in publications owned by Rupert Murdoch. As fires burnt out much of Australia's southeast coast, they were commonly blamed on arson — a tactic also recently used in the U.S.</p>
Climate Rhetoric Could Help Decide Election<p>The language of climate has begun to influence the U.S. presidential election campaign, with Democratic nominee Joe Biden labelling President Trump a "climate arsonist."</p><p>Biden is touting a robust climate plan that includes a 2050 zero emissions target and a return to the Paris Agreement. Though lacking the ambition of The New Green Deal, it has been front and center of his policy platform in recent days, at a time when five hurricanes are battering the U.S. Gulf Coast while smoke blanketing the West Coast spreads all the way to the East. </p><p>People are experiencing the climate crisis in a visceral way and almost universally relate to the language of an emergency, says Ricketts. "They know something is wrong."</p>
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