While it may not sound appealing to many, nutritional yeast is a combination of being surprisingly tasty and offering some major health benefits. Nutritional yeast is packed with nutrients that support healthy nerves and blood cells, help manage stress and boost energy. They are a great addition to your vegan diet and are an ingredient we love in our vegan meals.
Nutritional yeast (commonly called nooch) is the deactivated form of a pure yeast strain called Saccharomyces cerevisiae. It is in the same family as mushrooms. Nutritional yeast is grown on molasses and then harvested, washed, and heated (pasteurized) to deactivate it.
It is important to emphasize that this type of yeast is deactivated and won’t work as a leavening agent for baked goods and even though they are derived from the same fungus, instant yeast and nutritional yeast are never interchangeable.
Nutritional yeast can be bought in flake or powder form. It has a flavor described as nutty, creamy, or cheesy and is often used as a cheese substitute. It’s also a great source of vitamins, minerals, protein, and fiber.
Health Benefits Of Nutritional Yeast
(there may be slight variations between brands)
Nutritional yeast is a vegan-friendly source of many nutrients including protein, B vitamins, and trace minerals that support optimal health.
Nutritional yeast is low in fat, carbohydrates and calories – with only 17 kcal, 1.9 grams carbohydrate (of which 0 grams is sugar) and 0.2g fat per 5g serving. This small is also packed with vitamins and minerals:
- Fibre: 1.1g
- Protein: 2.6g
- Vitamin B1 (thiamin): 2.3mg
- Vitamin B2 (riboflavin): 0.9mg
- Vitamin B3 (niacin): 17.1mg
- Vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid): 7.0mg
- Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine): 1.7mg
- Vitamin B7 (biotin): 9.8mcg
- Vitamin B9 (folic acid): 220mcg
- Vitamin B12: 2.2.mcg
- Iron: 0.3mg
Nutritional yeast is a source of the trace minerals including selenium, zinc, manganese and molybdenum which are involved in multiple physiological processes, including immunity, metabolism, growth and regulating our genes.
It contains thiamine, which in combination with B vitamins helps regulate functions of the cardiovascular and digestive systems, is a source of chromium which is important for maintaining healthy blood sugar levels and provides magnesium, an important mineral used by the body for heart health, digestive and metabolic health, bone strength and more.
Furthermore, nutritional yeast contains several potent antioxidants, including glutathione and selenomethionine, which help protect cells from oxidative damage caused by free radicals.
Rich In B Vitamins
As you can see from the list above, nutritional yeast is very rich in different B vitamins. These vitamins are crucial for healthy organs, skin, hair, nerves, genetic material, and blood cells. They support enzyme function and release energy from the food you have eaten. B vitamins can prevent migraines, regulate hormones, help with depression and anxiety, and heal wounds faster.
Vitamins B1, B2, B3, B6, and B9 are naturally found in nutritional yeast. Many brands of nutritional yeast are fortified and also contain other elements including vitamin B12.
If you are vegan, vegetarian, or have low B12 levels opt for fortified nutritional yeast. Animal foods are the primary source of B12 and it isn’t found in non-supplemented plant-based foods and is important for brain function, our nervous system and red blood cell formation.
It is still important to consult your health care provider on your personal need for B12 supplementation.
Nutritional yeast contains all of the 9 essential amino acids that the human body can’t produce on its own.
A tablespoon of nutritional yeast contains around 2.5 grams of protein providing a great way for vegans to get the high quality, plant-based protein they need.
Getting sufficient protein is essential for good health. It is a building block for your muscles, helps create and repair tissues, and helps form hormones, enzymes, blood, skin, organs and more.
Source Of Fiber
Nutritional yeast contains fiber, which promotes healthy digestion and normalizes bowel movements. Fiber is also important for relieving constipation and helping to maintain a healthy weight.
Additionally, studies show eating high amounts of fiber lowers your risk of developing diabetes, hypertension, coronary diseases, gastrointestinal diseases.
Fiber-enriched diets have also been shown to reduce cholesterol long-term, and improve glycemic control and sensitivity. This happens because soluble fiber slows down the digestion and absorption rate of carbohydrates, which in turn prevents spikes in blood-sugar levels and insulin.
Nutritional yeast is gluten-free, meaning that it’s safe to eat for people with Celiac disease or with a gluten sensitivity.
Gluten is a protein, which is found in grains and wheat. People who are gluten intolerant cannot process this protein, which can cause digestive issues, fatigue, headaches, inflammation, and swelling. Nutritional yeast is a great addition to both a grain free and gluten free diet. You may not be directly swapping a number of grains in a dish for the flakes of nutritional yeast, nutritional yeast is used more as a flavor enhancer for dishes and a great substitute for cheese.
Note: Be sure to check that the yeast wasn’t grown on a medium that contains grains, even if it’s pretty rare.
Preserves Immune Function
The immune system is a network of cells, tissues, and organs in the body. These work together to protect the body from external pathogens which can cause disease. A weakened immune system increases the likelihood of contracting bacteria and viruses. A strong immune system is a key component in the prevention and healing process. Nutritional yeast contains glutathione, mannan, trehalose, Beta-glucan and beta-1. These are associated with enhancing immunity levels, reducing cholesterol and even cancer prevention.
Research has found adding the two main sources of carbohydrates found in nutritional yeast can reduce the number of bacterial infections. Both alpha-mannan and beta-glucan help to prevent infections by stopping bacteria from lining the intestines, stimulating immune cells and attaching themselves to toxins
Nutritional yeast also contains selenium, which repairs cell damage, and zinc, which aids in tissue repair, wound healing, and maintains our sense of taste and smell.
Good For The Skin
Your skin, hair, and nails will also be getting a vitamin B boost thanks to all good-for-you B vitamins found in nutritional yeast. B5 and B7 are the main B vitamins, Benefitting the skin, hair, and nails. These can reduce signs of aging like redness and skin spots.
Nutritional yeast is also a source of niacin (vitamin B3) which has been proven to improve overall skin health and even treat chronic acne. The protein in nutritional yeast also helps the process.
Using Nutritional Yeast
The reasons to include nutritional yeast in your diet go beyond its health benefits!
This condiments cheesy, nutty, and savory taste can be used for many different purposes and we have included it as an ingredient in our chef prepared, whole-food-based vegan meals. Order from this week’s menu here>>>>>
A few more of our favourite ways how to use nutritional yeast are:
Sprinkle it over salads, or any other food you would usually grate cheese over or to simply add a salty, nutty flavor.
Stir it into soups, sauces, scrambles and stews for a unique umami, cheesy and nutty flavour or into mashes, whole grain pilafs or casseroles for a creamy, cheesy flavor. It can also be used as a savory thickener for soups or sauces
Sub it for cheese in pestos or to create ‘cheesy’ broccoli and cauliflower dishes
Nutritional yeast has a range of health benefits from being a great source of B vitamins to potentially supporting your immune system. It is a truly versatile food, ideal for vegans who want to add a cheesy tang to their dishes.