Is Seitan A Complete Protein? | Seitan Amino Acid Profile

Seitan, pronounced as ‘say-tan’, is a vegan proteinaceous substitute for meat. It is made of hydrated wheat gluten completely. Seitan is also incorporated in omnivore nutrition for its low-carb, low-fat, and high-protein profile. You can hear a number of names attributed to seitan from wheat meat, vital wheat gluten to wheat protein, and even simply gluten. 

To prepare the vital wheat gluten, a batter of the wheat flour is prepared with water and the dough is rinsed thoroughly to remove starch from it. What remains is a pure mass of gluten protein which is an amazing substitute for meat and can be cooked into several delicious vegetarian and vegan dishes. However, it is strictly not for those with intolerance towards gluten.

The seitan amino acid profile is highly impressive and makes it a nutritious food. But that does raise a question: is Seitan a complete protein? If not- how to make seitan a complete protein? This article is all about clearing any obscurity pertaining to the vital wheat gluten amino acid profile. 

What are Essential and Non-Essential Amino Acids? 

Essential and Non-Essential Amino Acids

If you have read on nutrition you must have come across Amino acids. They are organic compounds that include amine and carboxyl functional groups with a side chain that is unique to each amino acid. There are two types of amino acids- essential amino acids and non-essential amino acids, based on our body’s capacity to synthesize these components. 

Essential amino acids are not naturally produced in our bodies, unlike non-essential amino acids which can be synthesized by our bodies. We get the essential amino acids from our diet or supplementation. 

Essential amino acids assist in building and repairing our muscle tissues. You may notice most athletic performers supplementing themselves with essential amino-acids through a post-workout shake that helps them to recover faster. These amino acids also form the precursor molecules that pave the way for the formation of the cranial neurotransmitter. On the other hand, Non-essential amino acids remove toxins, synthesize RBC and WBC, and fosters a healthier brain function.

What is a ‘Complete Source of Protein’? 

Protein is constructed from the blocks of 20 amino acids of which 11 are non-essential and the remaining 9 are essential amino acids. To understand the concept of essential and non-essential amino acids, read the section just above this one. 

The nine essential amino acids, namely histidine, lysine, methionine,  threonine, tryptophan, phenylalanine, isoleucine, leucine, and valine, are not synthesized by our bodies and need to be derived through nutrition. A combination of food or specific items, that include all the nine essential amino acids, is referred to as the source of complete protein. 

Is Seitan A Complete Protein? 

Is Seitan A Complete Protein? | Seitan Amino Acid Profile

Seitan is not a complete protein. But the good part is that- it has 8 amino acids and only lacks lysine. This means seitan can be made into a complete protein by simply adding a source of lysine to the plate. If the math seems too complicated for you, just go ahead and add a vegan BCAA to your diet. That should take care of your concerns.

The amino acid profile of seitan is as follows:

ESSENTIAL AMINO ACID% in a complete protein % in vital wheat gluten 
Isoleucine34.1
Histidine1.51.7
Leucine5.97.2
Methionine+Cysteine1.63.5
Lysine4.51.4
Phenylalanine+Tyrosine37.2
Threonine2.32.8
Valine3.95.4

Besides the 8 essential amino acids, per serving of seitan, measuring one ounce of vital wheat gluten, can provide you with 104 calories and a whopping 21 grams of protein! Although seitan gives you significant amount of protein, but relying on it on a daily basis might get monotonus. Hence it is advisable for the vegans to get plant based protein powder. It is substantially low in carbs and fat. One serving contains only 4 grams of carbs and 0.5 grams of fat. 

It has the following micronutrients:

  • Selenium: 16% of the RDI
  • Iron: 8% of the RDI
  • Phosphorus: 7% of the RDI
  • Calcium: 4% of the RDI
  • Copper: 3% of the RDI

The recipe of seitan also plays a central role in its nutrition profile. In place of simple wheat, if the batter includes one additional ingredient of either chickpea flour or nutritional yeast, the lower concentration of lysine can be managed. A simple addition to the recipe can make seitan a complete protein. 

What is Lysine and Why is it Important?

What is Lysine

Lysine is one of the essential building blocks of protein. It fosters normal cell growth and muscular recovery. Lysine also plays a crucial role in producing collagen. The carnitine present in most of our somatic cells is formed by Lysine. The amino acid also transports fats across our body for utilization in energy production. However, lysine is not used in the body in any other form than L-Lysine. One has to find the L-lysine either naturally from food or supplements (you can consider kion aminos supplement). 

To calculate the amount of lysine you would need on a daily basis, there is a simple formula. One needs 13.6mg of lysine per pound of body weight daily. Therefore, a 150-pound male or female would require about 2,045mg of lysine every day. A number of vegan foods provide a decent supply of lysine to the body. You can club them with seitan and get complete protein from your meal. 

For example, one cup of well-cooked lentils contains 1,247mg of lysine, which is a fairly greater amount. Tofu on the other hand can give 582mg of lysine in just a half-cup-sized serving. A quarter-cup-sized serving of roasted dry almonds contains 411mg of lysine. There are many options to incorporate lysine into your diet.

How To Make Seitan a Complete Protein? 

Seitan is a delicious vegan source of clean protein. It has a sumptuous flavor and the texture is much similar to meat which further adds a delight to your taste buds. Since Seitan is only short of lysine from becoming a complete protein, you can pair seitan with a number of food items or dishes to fulfill the void and get yourself complete protein nutrition. As we have mentioned once before as well, if you are preparing seitan at home, a simple tweaking of the recipe can help you achieve it. Add either yeast (check vegan status) or chickpea flour to the batter and there you go!

You can also add diced seitan to cooked lentils, carrots, mushrooms, and vegetable broth to have a steamy and yummy stew to eat along with potatoes or rice. Prepare a mixed grill fajitas by cooking thin slices of seitan with tofu, onions, and spices or you can stir fry the slices with broccoli, soy sauce (check vegan status), and dry roasted almonds. Add a carb source to the plate and there you have a balanced meal with complete protein!

Some great sources of Lysine for you to add are:

  • Potatoes, leek, peppers
  • Quinoa, Amaranth, Buckwheat
  • Avocado, pears, dried apricots
  • Soy, chickpeas, kidney beans
  • Macadamia, cashews, pumpkin seeds

Relying on Seitan for Protein? – A Word of Caution! 

Remember, besides being nutritious, Seitan is also a highly processed food. Though the lack of sugar or higher fat percentages likely saves you from gaining weight with Seitan, if you generally rely heavily on processed food, it is advisable to include some whole foods in your diet. Moreover, store-bought Seitan may have higher amounts of sodium which you must monitor. 

Also Read: Best Vegan Weight Gainer Supplements

You must completely abstain from eating seitan if :

  1. You have allergies, sensitivities, or intolerances against wheat or gluten protein.
  2. You are diagnosed with Celiac disease 
  3. You have gut problems such as increased intestinal permeability
  4. Gluten causes digestive issues, gas, stomach pain, diarrhea, joint pain, or bloating in your body
  5. You are under certain medication which puts restriction on certain food materials including gluten or sodium (in case you rely on store-bought seitan)

We hope the article was insightful!

My life literally revolves around optimum health and sustainable living by being a devotional vegan. My mission is to create a community of like minded vegans to go forth in creating a better and brighter world for humans, animals and the planet. Just like Gandhi once said: “The greatness of a nation and it’s moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.” – Gandhi

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