Did you know that nutritional yeast was initially developed to help vegans get the vitamin B12 they need? Nutritional yeast benefits extend well beyond the original purpose, and carnivores and vegans now turn to it as a good source of protein, minerals, dietary fiber, and vitamins.
But can you eat nutritional yeast raw? Yes! High-quality nutritional yeast has a flavor similar to parmesan cheese and it can easily be added into your diet by sprinkling on salads, pizza, pasta, and other foods. In addition, nutritional yeast can be transformed into some unbelievable recipes, including dairy-free mac ’n cheese!
If you have been told to avoid yeast and yeast products, then exercise caution. Individuals with a severe yeast allergy may have problems, even with the inactive compounds in nutritional yeast. If you are concerned about the nutritional yeast and candida link, look for a nutritional yeast brand that is guaranteed free of Candida albicans.
What Is Nutritional Yeast?
Yeast is a member of the fungi family, just like mushrooms. Yeast strains are cultivated for many purposes, including for use in baking and as nutritional yeast. One of the purest strains currently used for nutritional yeast is Saccharomyces cerevisiae that is grown in a combination of cane molasses and beets.
The specific yeast strain ferments in the plant mixture. The yeast is then harvested, cleaned, and dried. Many top manufacturers hold their process close-to-the-vest, as each step affects the flavor, texture, and nutrient value of nutritional yeast.
When shopping for nutritional yeast, pay attention to the brands. Brewer’s yeast and Torula yeast aren’t the same as nutritional yeast.
Brewer’s yeast is not cultivated explicitly for use as a food. Instead, it is actually a byproduct of the beer brewery industry. Torula yeast is cultivated explicitly as an edible product, but most manufacturers grow the bacteria on waste products, sometimes even from the wood-pulp industry. While these two yeasts do offer similar nutritional placards, their flavor is entirely different and often described as bitter.
You might find cheaper sources of nutritional yeast online, but be wary of any deals that are priced too good to be true. Purchasing nutritional yeast from a reputable manufacturer is important. Look for brands of nutritional yeast that claim or guarantee:
- Candida albicans free
- Non-fortified nutritional yeast
- Fortified with natural nutrients, not synthetic nutrients
- No MSG added
- Roller drum dried
Once you have purchased nutritional yeast, be sure to store it in an airtight container in a cool, dry area of your kitchen. It should retain its freshness and high nutrient content for two years when stored properly. If you have a hot kitchen or if the container is exposed to direct light, you may lose some nutrient value.
And a word of caution—don’t try to use nutritional yeast as a leavening ingredient or for brewing! Nutritional yeast is inactive and not a live yeast due to the way that it is dried and processed.
Nutritional Yeast Nutrient Facts
As mentioned above, nutritional yeast was initially formulated to help vegans get enough vitamin B12. Today, nutritional yeast is still one of the best plant-based sources of vitamin B12—but its power doesn’t stop there. Read the labels of nutritional yeast carefully, as each formulation contains a slightly different balance of nutrients.
- Calories: 45.0 2% DV
- Total carbohydrates: 5.0 grams 2% DV
- Dietary fiber: 4.0 grams 16% DV
- Total fat: 0.5 grams 1% DV
- Protein: 8.0 grams 16% DV
- Thiamin: 9.6 milligrams 640% DV
- Riboflavin: 9.7 milligrams 570% DV
- Vitamin B6: 9.6 milligrams 480% DV
- Niacin: 56.0 milligrams 280% DV
- Vitamin B12: 7.9 micrograms 130% DV
- Folate: 240 micrograms 60% DV
- Zinc: 3.0 milligrams 20% DV
- Pantothenic acid: 1.0 milligrams 10% DV
- Magnesium: 24 milligrams 6% DV
- Manganese: 0.1 milligrams 6% DV
- Copper: 0.1 milligrams 6% DV
- Iron: 0.7 milligrams 4% DV
Nutritional Yeast Benefits
As you can see from the nutrient facts above, nutritional yeast is one of the best sources of B vitamins that vegetarians, vegans, and carnivores can consume. If you are wondering if nutritional yeast is gluten-free, the answer is yes, it is naturally gluten-free. However, if you have Celiac’s disease read the label carefully as cross-contamination is possible.
Let’s look at how nutritional yeast benefits health.
1. Preserved Immune Function
According to Michael Greger, M.D., the fiber found in brewer’s yeast and nutritional yeast may prevent immunity decline in marathon runners. Dr. Greger notes that endurance athletes and athletes that overtrain become more susceptible to respiratory infections and that a sprinkle of nutritional yeast may help you feel less fatigued, tense, angry, and confused.
2. Cancer Protection and Potential Cancer Fighter
Nutritional yeast contains beta-glucans known for their ability to shrink tumors and fight certain types of cancer, including advanced breast cancer according to a study published in the peer-reviewed journal International Immunopharmacology. In this small study, oral beta-glucan was administered and researchers noted a positive change in immune function in breast cancer patients. Other studies have shown similar results with researchers suggesting beta-glucan can kill specific breast cancer tumor cells.
3. Reduce Mercury Load from Foods
According to a recent study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, the strain of bacteria cultivated for nutritional yeast, Saccharomyces cerevisiae, may reduce the absorption of mercury from water and foods consumed. The researchers explain that the yeast makes it physically more difficult for the intestines to absorb inorganic mercury found in certain food groups.
Nutritional Yeast and Weight
If you are trying to lose weight and wondering if nutritional yeast helps with weight loss—the answer is—maybe. If you use nutritional yeast to replace cheese, you may save some calories.
On the other hand, if you are wondering if you can gain weight from nutritional yeast, the answer is probably not, as nutritional yeast is a low-calorie food.
Nutritional Yeast Recipes
Are you ready to add nutritional yeast to your diet? Here are three healthy (and unique) ways to eat more nutritional yeast.
Macaroni and cheese is a classic American comfort food most vegans gave up all hope of ever enjoying again. But with nutritional yeast and some ingenuity, One Green Planet has created a vegan mac ’n yeast that is creamy and tastes like…cheese.
The secret is using your favorite neutral non-dairy milk along with a healthy portion of nutritional yeast, lemon juice, salt, tomato paste, and garlic powder. If you like your mac ’n cheese with a bit of a kick, consider adding half-sharp paprika, cayenne pepper, or even a diced jalapeño to the party.
Cheetos are a childhood favorite that many adults still secretly crave—crave no longer with this healthy snack from The Kitchn. In this inspired recipe, canned chickpeas are roasted until crispy and then tossed with a cheeto-like cheese flavor that will have you licking your fingers with gusto.
The cheesy, powdery coating on the chickpeas is simply nutritional yeast, salt, and granulated garlic. Feel free to adjust the seasonings with a touch of heat or toss in some chopped fresh herbs the next time you want a healthy finger-licking-good snack.
Sour cream is another one of those dairy ingredients that is difficult to replace. Commercial vegan sour creams often miss the mark on taste and texture. But this recipe from Gluten Free Vegan Pantry is different—it is luscious, simple, and delicious. The real secret here is using soaked raw cashews, lemon juice, and nutritional yeast to create the perfect balance of texture and taste.