Nutritional Yeast: What is it and Why is it Important?
There have been a lot of new food products and so-called “superfoods” over the years. If you’ve come across nutritional yeast on your grocery store shelves, you may be wondering what it is, whether it’s good for you, and how to use it.
This article has got you covered on all of that and more.
What is Nutritional Yeast?
When you hear the word “yeast,” you probably think of a product used in bread making. While nutritional yeast is made from the same species of yeast used in bread and beer making, known as Saccharomyces cerevisiae, the end product is quite different.
Nutritional yeast is inactivated, which means that it will not contribute to a rise in dough. The other thing that makes it different from traditional yeast is that it is grown on a glucose medium such as molasses or sugar cane. The yeast is then deactivated by heat, harvested, washed, dried, and crumbled before being packaged for distribution.
The result is a golden yellow flake-like product, but it can also be sold as a powder or in granules. It has a unique cheesy flavor that is desirable by many.
Benefits of Nutritional Yeast
There are many benefits of nutritional yeast. Here are some of the top:
1. Highly nutritious. Nutritional yeast is packed with good nutrients you want more of while having less of the nutrients you don’t want.
Just 2 tablespoons of nutritional yeast contain the following nutrients:
- 68 calories
- 6 grams of carbohydrates
- 4 grams of fiber
- 0 grams of fat
- 0 grams of sugar
- 10 grams protein
- 14 mg of thiamine (B1)-1170% DV*
- 79mg of niacin (B3)- 493%DV
- 14.8mg of riboflavin (B2)-1140% DV
- 15.2mg of vitamin B6-896% DV
- 67.6mcg of vitamin B12, -2815% DV
- 2mg of iron-11% DV
- 378mg of potassium-8% DV
- 50mg sodium-2% DV
*DV: Daily Value
2. Very versatile. Nutritional yeast is naturally low in sodium and calories while also being fat-free, sugar-free, gluten-free, and vegan. This helps make it fit into nearly any diet or eating style.
3. Excellent source of plant-based protein. Using nutritional yeast is a great way for people following a plant-based diet to meet their protein needs. Just 2 Tbsp contains 10 grams and is a complete protein since it has all nine essential amino acids.
4. High in vitamins and minerals. As seen above, nutritional yeast is an excellent source of many B vitamins and minerals like iron. Because it is fortified, it is a fantastic option for people who don’t eat animal products to get enough vitamin B12, which is only found in animal foods. Iron can also be challenging to get enough of without eating animal products. Iron deficiency can lead to health conditions like anemia, which restricts the amount of oxygen carried throughout the body. So, eating nutritional yeast can also help meet iron needs.
5. Good source of fiber. Two tablespoons of nutritional yeast provide about 4 grams of fiber. Most Americans don’t get enough fiber, so nutritional yeast can help meet the recommended daily intake of 30-38 grams for men and 21-15 grams for women.
What to look for when buying nutritional yeast
While it is still gaining popularity, nutritional yeast can now be found in most grocery stores. It is most often found in the spice or condiment section or in bulk bins of health food stores. It may come in a shaker, bag, or plastic container.
When buying nutritional yeast, look for brands that have been fortified with vitamins and minerals since not all varieties are. In addition, always read the nutrition facts label and check the ingredients list to ensure there are no unnecessary or unhealthy added ingredients.
How to Use Nutritional yeast
Nutritional yeast is a versatile ingredient that can be used in various foods. Here are some ideas to get you started:
- Make a vegan cheese sauce by blending it with soaked cashews, a dash of salt, pepper, garlic, and lemon juice. This can be poured over pasta or used as a dip or spread
- Sprinkle it on popcorn, like this healthier stovetop popcorn
Sprinkle it on chips, or make your own veggie chips like these crispy and garlicky kale chips
Season roasted vegetables with it
Use it to add flavor to cooked eggs
- Create vegan parmesan cheese by blending it with raw cashews, garlic powder, and a little salt until it creates a powdery texture, then sprinkle it on pasta or whatever you like
Nutritional yeast is a unique food that has gained popularity in recent years. Since it has a natural cheesy flavor, it is a great cheese substitute for people who avoid dairy products. It is rich in vitamins and minerals and is a source of plant-based protein and dietary fiber. Nutritional yeast can be used in many ways in the kitchen.
If you haven’t given it a try yet, it is worth doing so soon!