Frequently asked questions

What is seitan?

Seitan is a food preparation made of wheat gluten, the main protein of wheat. It is a fantastic meat analogue and an alternative to soybean-based foods.

Wheat gluten first appeared in the 6th century in China as an ingredient for noodles. It was widely consumed by the Chinese as a substitute for meat, also in Japan and other East and Southeast Asian nations, especially among adherents of Buddhism.

The word seitan though is a Japanese word, where back in 1962 wheat gluten started to be sold as seitan in Japan.

Wait, gluten? Really?

Going gluten-free it’s probably one of the biggest health trends of the last decade. It is also one of the biggest health myths.

Most people tolerate gluten just fine. The trend became so popular, because of combination of powerful factors: marketing, celebrity endorsement and our own logic - if gluten is bad for people with celiac disease, maybe it's bad for me too.

Gluten-free products are proven to be beneficial for those with certain medical conditions, but they’re not any healthier than those that contain gluten and there is no science behind the claim that adopting gluten-free diet benefits the health of those without intolerance.

So, what is gluten?

Gluten is a family of proteins (prolamins) found in many grains, including wheat, barley and rye. Gluten main proteins — glutenin and gliadin — are highly elastic, which is why gluten-containing grains are suited for making bread and other baked goods. Gliadin is responsible for most of the negative health effects.

People with celiac disease have an immune reaction that is triggered by eating gluten. They develop inflammation and damage in their intestinal tracts and other parts of the body when they eat foods containing gluten.

Who should go gluten-free?

Celiac Disease

This is an inflammatory autoimmune disease caused by both genetic and environmental factors.

The ingestion of gluten-containing foods causes damage to enterocytes, which are cells lining your small intestine. This leads to intestinal damage, nutrient malabsorption, and symptoms like weight loss and diarrhea.

The estimation suggests that up to 1% of the population has this condition.

Wheat Allergy

Those who are allergic to wheat have an abnormal immune response to specific proteins in wheat and wheat products.

Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity

People with NCGS test for celiac disease negative (normal) and yet they get symptoms whenever they eat foods that contain gluten. There are still much to learn about this condition.

What about the rest of the population?

People who are not sensitive to gluten will gain no significant benefit from such practice.

Today based on little or no evidence many people avoid gluten because there is a notion that they will lose weight, feel less fatigued, and have less joint pain. These health improvements are likely attributed to the exclusion of unhealthy foods, because when avoiding gluten we usually reduce the consumption of highly processed foods, such as fast food, baked goods, and sugary cereals.

Gluten is one of the ingredients in these foods, but they are also high in calories, sugar, salt, and unhealthy fats.

Therefore, often people replace gluten-containing foods with healthier options, such as vegetables, fruits, healthy fats, and proteins — which can promote health and well-being.

Also it is important to know that processed gluten-free products are not any healthier than gluten-containing ones.

Health benefits of gluten

So while we know that people with autoimmune, digestive, and other disorders must avoid gluten, it’s still unclear whether a gluten-free diet benefits those without intolerance; in fact published research suggests the opposite.

In a 2017 study researchers found no association between long-term gluten consumption and heart disease risk of non-celiac individuals. In fact, the findings also suggested that people without intolerance who avoid gluten may increase their risk of heart disease, due to the potential for reduced consumption of whole grains.

Other studies have linked whole grain consumption with improved health outcomes. For example, groups with the highest intakes of whole grains including wheat (2-3 servings daily) compared with groups eating the lowest amounts (less than 2 servings daily) were found to have significantly lower rates of heart disease and stroke, development of type 2 diabetes, and deaths from all causes.

Gluten may also act as a prebiotic, feeding the «good» bacteria in our bodies. Arabinoxylan oligosaccharide is a prebiotic carbohydrate derived from wheat bran that has been shown to stimulate the activity of bifidobacteria in the colon.

Nutrients in gluten-containing grains:

  • B vitamins
  • Fiber
  • Zinc
  • Iron
  • Potassium
  • Calcium
  • Foliate
  • Thiamin
  • Riboflavin
  • Niacin