Oh nutritional yeast, how much do we love you? A lot. While it may not sound appealing to many, nutritional yeast is a combo of surprising taste and some major benefits. Nutritional yeast is full of nutrients that make healthy nerves and blood cells, boost energy, and help manage stress.
Want to finally understand what nutritional yeast is and why it’s a food dynamo?
WHAT IS NUTRITIONAL YEAST?
Nutritional yeast looks like a ground coarse flour. It is a pure yeast strain called Saccharomyces cerevisiae and is in the same family as mushrooms. It’s grown on molasses and then harvested, washed, and heated (pasteurized!) to deactivate it. Fun fact: When it’s inactive, it doesn’t froth or grow like baking yeast, so can’t rise like bread would.
There are two different types of nutritional yeast. Unfortified is nutritional yeast in its most natural form and it doesn’t contain any added vitamins or minerals—just those produced by the yeast cells as they grow. Fortified nutritional yeast, which is more commonly found, contains synthetic vitamins that are added during processing to boost the nutrient content.
It’s yellow-brown in appearance and comes in flake or powder form. You can generally find it in the bulk food section of health food stores.
BENEFITS OF NUTRITIONAL YEAST
Nutritional yeast is a great plant source of vitamin B12, so I recommend vegans incorporate nutritional yeast into their diet to help them meet their needs. But it really is a great food for everyone. Vitamin B12 is an essential micronutrient that is needed for the proper formation of red blood cells. A vitamin B12 deficiency can lead to megaloblastic anemia and other neurological disorders. Just one ounce contains 13.6 micrograms of B12—that’s over 200% more than the recommended dietary allowance.
Nutritional yeast is also a great source of both protein and fiber, with about 14 grams of protein and 7 grams of fiber per ounce. Most plant proteins are “incomplete proteins,” meaning they don’t have all the nine essential amino acids that animal proteins do, but nutritional yeast is one of the few vegan options that are complete.
HOW DO I USE IT?
Nutritional yeast has a nutty, cheesy-like flavor which makes it super versatile. You can add it to foods such as popcorn, stir fries, breads, or pastas. Use it the way you would parmesan cheese, adding it as a topping on your pasta dish, stirred into a sauce, or sprinkled on tomato soup. You could even try mixing it into your scrambled eggs in the morning. Try it a few times; it’ll grow on you, well, like yeast.