Seitan, also known as wheat meat, is a vegetarian meat substitute made from wheat gluten, soy sauce or tamari, ginger, garlic and seaweed. This nonmeat alternative is high in protein, low in fat and a good source of iron. The meatlike food, however, can be high in sodium and thus affect blood pressure.
Low in Calories and Filling
Whether you make it yourself or buy it ready-made, seitan is a low-calorie choice with 100 to 120 calories per 3-ounce serving. Seitan is also considered a low-energy-dense food, which means it has few calories compared to its serving size. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says filling your diet with more foods low in energy density, like seitan, is a healthy and easy way to manage weight because it satisfies hunger on fewer calories.
High in Protein, Low in Carbs and Fat
Although seitan is made from wheat, it is low in carbs and high in protein. A 3-ounce portion of seitan contains 2.5 to 4 grams of carbs, 1 to 2 grams of fiber, 0 to 2 grams of fat and 21 grams of protein. The publication "Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010" says that including alternative sources of protein in place of your usual meat and chicken can help improve the nutritional quality of your diet by providing nutrients that promote health. Seitan is low in fat, has no saturated fat and provides a source of fiber, making it a good choice for heart health. So, instead of making your usual beef stew for dinner, try stew with seitan.
Watch the Sodium
Seitan -- especially the ready-made varieties -- can be high in sodium. A 3-ounce portion of seitan has 170 to 320 milligrams of sodium. Too much sodium in the diet increases blood pressure and risk of heart disease. "Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010" recommends limiting sodium intake to less than 2,300 milligrams a day or less than 1,500 milligrams if you already have high blood pressure, are over the age of 51 or of African American descent. You can limit the amount of sodium in your seitan if you make it yourself using low-sodium soy sauce.
Good for the Blood
Protein foods are an important source of iron, which is an essential mineral that helps carry oxygen throughout your body. While seitan is not as good a source of iron as tofu, it can help you meet your daily needs. A 3-ounce portion of seitan meets 6 percent to 8 percent of the daily value for iron. To enhance the absorption of the iron in the seitan, eat it with a food rich in vitamin C such as a seitan stir-fry made with peppers and broccoli.
- Vegetarian Resource Group: Seitan: The Vegetarian Wheat Meat
- West Soy Tofu: Seitan Strips
- MyFitnessPal: Calories in Homemade Seitan
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Low-Energy Dense Foods and Weight Management: Cutting Calories While Controlling Hunger
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Protein
- U.S. Department of Agriculture & U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010
- Office of Dietary Supplements: Iron
- Office of Dietary Supplements: Vitamin C