Ever since I began my transition to a plant based lifestyle, I’ve seen a lot of meat replacements. Innovation has enabled food to evolve to the point which people can still enjoy meat without actually eating it. In theory this seems like a perfect alternative to eating meat. Most restaurants that offer pseudo-meats feature dishes with Seitan. But what the hell is it, and why am I just hearing about it.
The mere thought of having vegan meat replacements makes me feel uneasy. How exactly are they able to create fake meat that mimics the look, smell, and taste of meats like chicken, pork, or beef. No matter where you stand on eating animal flesh, if you eat meat you at least you know what you’re eating. Unfortunately, meat alternatives do not offer the same transparency. Personally, I like to be able to easily identify what I eat. This post will explore 6 reasons why you should avoid Seitan.
1). What is Seitan?
Real food can be traced back to over 100 years. If it’s something you’ve never heard of it’s likely an natural man-made food that was created in a food lab or factory. Rule of thumb. If you have to google an ingredient to determine what it is, it is most likely man-made.
It was originally created in Asia to serve as a textured meat replacement. Unlike most meat replacements it is not made of soy. Seitan is actually made of processed wheat gluten. It is perfectly fine to eat as long as you don’t have Celiac disease or a gluten intolerance. Gluten in of itself is a family of proteins that is found in wheat, rye, spelt, and barley. It is primarily responsible for giving dough it’s elasticity and can be commercially produced or simply home made. Bottom line it contains protein but it is highly processed to mimic meat.
Gluten’s characteristics makes it one of the best mock meats. If you’re going to eat fake meat it might as well have the look, feel, and taste of the real thing. Unlike soy-based replacements like tempeh, and tofu, it is easily molded to assume the size, shape and texture of meat. When we eat food, our brains uses all four of our senses to taste. In the case of tofu, and tempeh, they resemble an almost perfectly shaped piece of plastic. No matter how it’s used, it can never mimic the shape and texture of meat. This can take away from the overall meat experience. So Seitain offers an ideal alternative. But at what cost?
2) Seitan Meat
I have absolutely no problem if people choose to eat fake meat. It is a personal decision. I do however, have a problem with creative marketing. Seitan is marketed as fake meat. Consequently, It is not marketed by what it really is; wheat gluten, wheat meat, textured wheat protein, vital gluten, and vital wheat gluten. You may see these ingredients listed on processed products. But there’s no way for you to link it to Seitan.
Unfortunately, the food industry does not practice ingredient transparency. Of course, a quick google search will expose the truth. But who has time to look up every ingredient. Truth is names have power, and linking gluten to Seitan gives it a negative connotation. Think about it, this is why deer meat is called venison, and duck pate is referred to as Foie gras. Simply put, fancy names sound better and do not raise any immediate health concerns. As consumers, we should be made aware of any food alias. Unfortunately, there are no regulations that mandate the food industry to be transparent. I don’t know about you, but the more I learn about food regulations the less I trust that man-made foods are good for your health.
3). Is Seitan Healthy?
Glad you asked. In recent years gluten has been associated as being unhealthy. Numerous processed, and “healthy” foods are marketed as gluten-free. This subconsciously associates gluten as unhealthy. This could not be further from the truth. Gluten is only toxic to people who have Celiac disease or gluten sensitivity. Meaning, that people with the autoimmune disease have an inability to digest gluten. This causes damage to the small intestines and can lead to serious chronic health conditions including intestinal cancer. In the case of gluten sensitivity, eating gluten can cause non-specific symptoms such as fatigue, headaches, numbness/tingling and foggy brain. Mild gastrointestinal symptoms including abdominal pain, and
4) Seitan Nutrition
Seitan is a protein. However, it is incomplete. In other words, man cannot live on Seitan alone as it does not contain all of the necessary amino acids to make it a complete protein. Amino Acids are the building blocks of protein. A complete protein has 20 amino acids, 11 of which the body produces, 9 of which get from the food we eat. In the case of Seitan, it only has 8. Although, it only misses the mark by one it is still incomplete.
5). A Highly Processed Food
Seitan can easily be made at home. But most people enjoy commercially prepared Seitan from grocery stores, and restaurants. The problem is that it is highly processed. Meaning unhealthy food additives are added to isolate and separate the wheat gluten. Bottom line, processed foods contain little to no nutritional value and should be avoided. Should you chose to indulge, eat it in moderation.
5) An Allergic Reaction To Food
Seitan aka “wheat gluten,” is a highly allergic protein. Wheat gluten is is naturally present in small amounts in wheat based products such as breads. When you isolate it to create a “food” that is made solely of gluten you increase the exposure to the protein. Over time this can potentially lead to gluten sensitively. There are no studies to directly link gluten sensitivity to long-term use of Seitan. It is wise to avoid it, as it is not essential our diet. After all, it is an incomplete protein that must rely on food-combining to get the necessary proteins.
I’ve always been a little apprehensive about eating foods that mimic “unhealthy food.” let me preface this by saying when it comes to meat there is nothing better that the real thing. I have also found that most meat alternatives taste nothing like the real thing. But these imposters can sometimes satisfy meat cravings when transitioning to a plant based diet. The food industry has a tendency to produce and market pseudo foods that appeal to consumers unhealthy desires. Whenever you make the conscious decision to transition to a healthier lifestyle you will be tempted to revert back to old unhealthy habits. But It’s simply mind over matter, as change starts with your mind.
Whatever you focus your energy on will manifest. If your goal to transition to a healthier lifestyle, you can achieve it by simply believing you can. It’s more than the physical act of modifying your diet. it requires dedication, commitment, and perseverance. It’s perfectly fine to eat meat alternatives but you should not assume that fake meat is healthier than animal flesh. Far too often we blindly trust the food industry and believe any and all claims that an ingredient is healthy simply because of what’s printed on the label. Unfortunately, US food regulations are very lenient. Therefore, the food industry has free reign to make health claims that do not require validation from unbiased organizations.