What is Seitan and Is It Good for You?

Seitan is a plant-based protein that is made out of whole wheat flour. It has low carbs, high protein and low sodium. It is a great meat substitute, and very good for vegetarian meals.

A plate of seitan cooked as steak, with a side of vegetables

A vegetarian diet has limitations. As you know, consumption of meat from animals isn’t allowed in this type of diet. In some cases, this even includes animal-derived products like honey and dairy. There are some plant-based food items, however, that mimicks meat. Seitan is among them.

In this article, we’ll look at seitan as an alternative to meat and how it affects the body .

What is Seitan?

Seitan is a plant-based protein that is made out of whole wheat flour. It goes through a rinsing process where all the starch and bran is removed until -only the protein is left. It’s low-carb, high-protein, low-sodium. It’s a great meat substitute and can be cooked in various ways.

The word seitan came from the Japanese with the meaning “sei” as “is” in English and “tan” as protein. This is also known in other countries as mien chin in Chinese, milgogi in Korean, and mi can in Vietnamese.

People practice vegetariansim and veganism often use seitan for their meals.

A Brief History

Seitan originally comes from Asia. It is possible that it was developed by monks and farmers who practice Buddhism. There were writings about Seitan, back in the earlier years of China, where it was used in cuisines, particularly as an ingredient in noodles, a dish specificaally called bo duo.

In the 19th century, seitan was further developed by the Japanese because of the macrobiotic diet. This eating plan is designed to be simple, with Buddhist elements, and an emphasis to eating organic foods. It then has entered the Western markets, particularly the United States of America in the 1960s.

How Is It Made?

It all starts with the wheat which has low water content. This allows easy transport, process, and storage of wheat products. As wheat have different levels of protein, using hard wheat has a higher gluten content, which is good in making seitan.

Starting with the flour, this will go through a mixing process where it is being rinsed to make a dough. The rinsing process is done to remove the starch and the bran until it reaches a nice stretch of consistency, like pizza dough. It begins with a neutral taste but adding mixtures and seasoning it can take on a great texture and flavorful taste.

Flavoring seitan is a combination of many ingredients like water, soy sauce, and other flavors. Traditionally, the use of soy sauce and kombu is the base for creating flavors. It is a dark brown color that tastes salty which give a fine taste to seitan.

Nutrition and Benefits

Seitan is a gluten food that is known to have high protein but is low in carbohydrates and fats. It also has minerals associated with it like selenium, iron, phosphorus, calcium, and copper.

Although wheat is known to have a high percentage of carbs, seitan reduces the amount of it as it goes through the process of rinsing. The process allows the starch to be washed away thus reducing the number of carbohydrates in the food.

Here are some of the health benefits that seitan can provide:

  • High Protein: Seitan having high-protein content provides a good source in developing the muscles for growth. This allows the digestive system to make more amino acids that can do muscle building.
  • Low Fats content: Since seitan is a plant-based protein with low fat, it doesn’t contain any saturated fat.

Risks 

Seitan is actually a good source of protein and alternative to meat. But not everyone may enjoy eating seitan as it may cause health problems.

  • Celiac Disease: This is an ailment that is caused, triggered, or wrosened by eating gluten. It happens as a reaction from the immune system, prompting damage to the small intestine. This may cause stomach problems like diarrhea, bloating, and many more, which often lead to complications.
  • Wheat Allergy: This is when the immune system of the body is having an irregular reaction caused of wheat. Consequences of this may turn into Baker’s asthma, Celiac disease, eczema, allergic rhinitis to name a few.

Seitan, Tofu, and Tempeh

Seitan is used as a meat alternative that uses wheat gluten in its production. It provides high protein content that can match the protein content of meat. Some claim it has  higher qualities than tofu.

Meanwhile, tofu is a low calorie and high protein food that is sourced from curdling soy milk. It is sometimes used as an alternative to meat. But due to some health risks of soy, a known allergen as well, it may pose a threat to health.

Tempeh is also a soy-based product. It is produced through the fermentation process of soybeans. It is also high in protein, has low fat, and contains essential vitamins and minerals.

Seitan, Tofu, and Tempeh are all the good food with high levels of protein. But some claim seitan is better to use in some dishes because of its more meaty texture.

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