I try it in several different recipes, and there’s no denying that it tastes pretty good, especially if cooked right.
However, the fact that it’s basically 100% made of gluten puzzled me a bit. So I asked myself: is it healthy to eat seitan?
I did some research, and here’s what I discovered.
What exactly is seitan?
Seitan, also known as wheat gluten, wheat meat or gluten meat, is a food made from gluten, the main protein of wheat.
It is produced by washing wheat flour dough with water until all the starch dissolves, leaving insoluble gluten as an elastic mass, which is then cooked before being eaten.
In other words seitan is basically 100% gluten.
A serving of seitan (3.5 oz) has around 118 calories, 3 grams of carbs, 24 grams of protein and is almost completely fat and cholesterol free.
You would expect a product made from wheat to be higher in carbohydrates, but seitan is made by removing all of the starch from the wheat (the source of carbs) leaving only gluten, which is mainly protein.
Notwithstanding the high protein value, due to its low content of lysine (one of the essential amino acids), seitan is not generally considered a source of complete protein.
The good about seitan
“Supporters” of seitan, praise it for being nutritionally a powerhouse. In particular, for being an excellent source of plant-based proteins, with almost no fat and no cholesterol.
Another major feature of seitan is its versatility in the kitchen, as it can be quickly and easily prepared in a variety of ways.
The bad about seitan
The main concern about seitan it that it’s just plain and pure gluten.
In this respect some claim that the human body can easily become over-saturated with gluten, leading to gluten intolerance (aka celiac disease).
The fact is that the human body can process gluten, but if over-consumed it can prompt inflammation, and ultimately intolerance.
I’ve searched quite extensively and besides the danger of gluten oversaturation, I couldn’t find any other major health danger about seitan.
However, it should be noted that since gluten is found in many foods available on the market, one should be considerate when adding a food that is 100% gluten to his/her diet.
I was kind of surprised about how little research has been conducted on seitan. Truth is, there’s no published study regarding seitan.
On the other side, there’s a lot of literature on gluten. This should come as no surprise at all, since the number of individuals suffering from celiac disease has increased exponentially in the last of decades.
All in all gluten is not unhealthy but I wouldn’t base my diet on it. I seldom eat it, and will likely continue to do so even in the future (being an omnivore I don’t really need meat substitutes).
However, if you’re vegan or vegetarian, I would recommend not to exceed with seitan consumption, just to avoid the potential development of gluten intolerance.