This post contains affiliate links from which I may receive a small commission, at no extra cost to you. In no way does this affect my opinion or the information I provide on the product. Please read my disclaimer for more info.
Nutritional yeast has great nutritional content and offers many health benefits. Sure enough, recipes containing this mysterious ingredient are popping up left and right.
Nutritional yeast benefits:
Nutritional yeast is a food product with great nutritional content. It contains many minerals and vitamins (specifically B vitamins) which are essential for good health and a strong immune system. Nutitional yeast is also a great source of antioxidants and has plenty of healthy fiber. In addition, it contains the 9 essential amino acids, so it’s an amazing source of (complete!) protein. It can be sprinkled on salads and mixed into many dishes for a simple nutrient boost.
What is nutritional yeast?
Nutritional yeast is a condiment made up of yeast, a microorganism from the fungi family. The yeast is grown specifically for its nutritional value, then undergoes a process that makes it inactive. This “kills” it and means that it can’t make dough rise or develop inside you.
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.
Let’s look more specifically into the health benefits of nutritional yeast, which can vary slightly between brands.
6 great health benefits of nutritional yeast.
1. A complete protein
Nutritional yeast contains the 9 essential amino acids that the human body can’t produce on its own. 100 grams contain about 50 grams of protein— that’s around 2 grams of protein per tablespoon!
It’s a great way for vegans and even vegetarians to get the plant-based protein they need. In addition, it can help omnivores reduce their meat intake in favor of grains and vegetables while still getting high-quality protein.
Getting enough 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… Read this post for information on where to get protein and how much protein you need.
2. Contains antioxidants
Nutritional yeast contains antioxidants. They are molecules that help eliminate free radicals from your body. Free radicals are natural byproducts of your metabolism.
However, too many of them can cause oxidative stress in your body. Antioxidants neutralize them to help protect your cells and body function and prevent diseases.
3. Contains minerals
Nutritional yeast contains important minerals such as iron, zinc, potassium, magnesium, and selenium. Some of those minerals are trace minerals, which the body doesn’t need much of but can’t make on its own. They are all essential for good health and a strong immune system.
However, the minerals and their quantity vary among different brands and whether they’ve been fortified or not. Make sure to check the label if there are specific minerals or other nutrients you are looking for.
4. A B-vitamin gold mine
Nutritional yeast is also very rich in different B vitamins. These vitamins are crucial for healthy organs, skin, hair, nerves, genetic material, and blood cells. They help our enzymes function and release energy from the food we eat.
Furthermore, 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. Some brands offer fortified nutritional yeast, which also contains other elements such as vitamin B12.
It is a good idea to look for fortified nutritional yeast (here’s a great option!) if you are vegan, vegetarian, or have low B12 levels. Indeed, this vitamin isn’t found in non-supplemented plant-based foods and is crucial for brain function, our nervous system and red blood cell formation.
However, it’s important for vegans to take B12 supplements, even if they eat B12 fortified nutritional yeast.
5. Full of fiber
Nutritional yeast contains fiber, which promotes healthy digestion and normalizes bowel movements. It also relieves constipation and helps maintain a healthy weight.
In addition, studies show that individuals who eat high amounts of fiber have a lower risk of developing diabetes, hypertension, coronary diseases, gastrointestinal diseases.
Fiber-enriched diets also reduce cholesterol long-term, and improve glycemic control and sensitivity. That’s because soluble fiber slows down the digestion and absorption rate, which prevents spikes in blood-sugar levels and insulin.
Moreover, nutritional yeast is gluten-free, meaning that it’s safe to eat for people with Celiac disease or with a gluten sensitivity. However, make sure to check that the yeast wasn’t grown on a medium that contains grains, even if it’s pretty rare.
6. Good for hair, skin, and nails
Nutritional yeast is packed with amino acids, vitamins, and minerals. They promote the healthy growth and aspect of hair, skin, and nails. Firstly, B vitamins stimulate hair and nail growth.
They also help create red blood cells, which carry oxygen and nutrients to the hair follicles and nails.
Moreover, they help improve the condition of the skin and treat certain skin problems such as acne or dermatitis.
How can you use nutritional yeast?
The condiment’s cheesy, nutty, and savory taste can be used for many different purposes.
It can be sprinkled on salads or over popcorn and add a salty taste. This is such an easy way to get in the nutritional yeast benefits without any extra work!
You can also stir it into soups or sauces and use it as a savory thickener.
In pasta, rice, mashed potatoes, or casseroles, it adds a creamy, cheesy flavor.
I’ve also heard some people mix it in with hummus, sprinkle it over their avocado with some pepper, add it as a topping on their veggies, or even sprinkle it on garlic bread!
In addition, it can replace cheese in many vegan dishes such as macaroni and cheese, pizza, tofu omelet, cheese dips… Get some RIGHT NOW!
Finally, if you aren’t a fan of the taste but want the nutritional benefits, you can add a tablespoon to a smoothie or to a cake, cookie, or muffin batter. You can find great recipes online, such as in this blog. However, keep in mind that some nutrients may be lost after cooking.
Does nutritional yeast have any risks?
Nutritional yeast has great health benefits- but is it 100% safe?
A lot of people mistake nutritional yeast for brewer’s yeast and think that it can develop inside them and cause infections. As mentioned before, that isn’t possible because nutritional yeast has undergone a heating process in order to deactivate it, meaning it can’t reproduce.
However, people who are allergic or sensitive to yeast should avoid nutritional yeast, along with individuals with inflammatory bowel disease such as Crohn’s disease.
Some brands add the synthetic form of folate, folic acid, to the yeast. In excess (400 micrograms per day), this can lead to unmetabolized folic acid in the bloodstream.
The health implications are unclear but it could be potentially harmful and increase cancer outcomes. Furthermore, people report having migraine attacks after consuming the product, which may also be caused by tyramine.
While waiting for further studies, it’s best to choose brands that add little or no folic acid to the nutritional yeast.
Apart from this, it’s safe to eat nutritional yeast in moderation, generally a couple of tablespoons per day. If it’s your first time trying it, start out with small quantities to see how your body reacts.