Discover The Health Benefits Of Yeast In Food


“Yeast” may not instantly translate to good health, but yeast extracts, powders, and even supplements could be the healthy food you’ve been ignoring. Whether it’s brewer’s yeast, baker’s yeast, or nutritional yeast, they offer benefits as wide-ranging as protection against cancer to remedies for that tummy bug. You’ll never look at it the same way again!

Decoding Yeast: Nutrients And Effects Of Good Yeast

Yeast is, to put it simply, fungus. And yes, some kinds of yeast also cause health problems like pesky yeast infections. Like a variety called Candida. But there’s also the good kind of yeast that goes into making bread and wine. That’s the kind you’ll read about here.


When it comes to food, drink, and health supplements, there are a few major types of yeast. Brewer’s yeast, nutritional yeast, and baker’s yeast are some forms you’ve likely encountered. All these variants are derived from Saccharomyces cerevisiae, a yeast species popularly used in bread baking and beer making. Sometimes, a yeast extract might also be made from a closely related species called Saccharomyces boulardii.The supplement or nutritional form of these yeasts (barring baker’s yeast) is inactivated and can’t make your bread rise or your beer brew because the yeast is “inactive.” It still does, however, offer a host of health benefits worth its weight in gold.

Brewer’s Yeast

What does it contain?The single-celled fungus in its brewer’s yeast form contains a lot of protein, B vitamins, and also minerals like selenium and chromium.1
Where can you find it? Brewer’s yeast occurs in bread, wine, and beer. It is also available as flakes, powder, liquid or tablet form.2


Nutritional Yeast

What does it contain? This yeast is rich in B vitamins, protein, and minerals like selenium, iron, potassium, and zinc.3
Where can you find it?This type is sold as a health food and can be added to pasta sauces or mixed in with seasoning to sprinkle over chips or popcorn.4

Baker’s Yeast

What does it contain?On the nutrient front, it has carbohydrates, protein, fiber, phosphorus, potassium, iron, magnesium, zinc, and B vitamins like folate and niacin.5
Where can you find it? Baker’s yeast is the leavening agent used in baking bread or other bakery products, which is also where it gets its name.6


Now that you’ve got a glimpse of the nutrition that’s packed into yeast, here’s a look at some of the positive effects it can have on your health. Unless specifically linked to one form of yeast, the benefits apply to the multiple forms.

1. Benefits Immune System

Traditionally, when it comes to probiotic foods, yogurt and lactic acid-based bacteria have been most talked about. However, yeast too offers similar protection against pathogens and toxins. The fiber beta-glucan found in the cell walls of yeast has beneficial effects on your immune system. It may even outperform lactic acid bacteria like that in yogurt and yogurt-based drinks because yeast is easier to make and more robust too. Plus the enzyme profile of yeast is more diverse, which means yeast can actually offer more diverse benefits to your immune system health.7 It is also a good option for those with lactose intolerance or sensitivity who may not be able to have standard lactic acid-based probiotics.


2. Protects Against Cancer

Researchers are even exploring possible applications of baker’s yeast in protecting us from cancer. They observed that when yeast is “eaten” or taken in by cancer cells by a process known as phagocytosis, it results in the death of the tumor cell. This effect was observed in both tongue and colon cancer cells and may hold promise for alternative therapeutic options for gastrointestinal cancers.8

In one study, researchers found that heat-killed non-pathogenic yeast (baker’s yeast and brewer’s yeast) induced apoptosis of breast cancer cells in vitro. This programmed cell death demonstrated that yeast may hold potential for containing the spread of cancer.9


3. Tackles Diarrhea And Crohn’s Disease

Probiotic Saccharomyces boulardii yeast extracts can help treat acute diarrhea and prevent or at least lower the risk of, traveler’s diarrhea. For those in remission from Crohn’s disease, taking Saccharomyces boulardii alongside their maintenance medication can help lower chances of a relapse.10 Brewer’s yeast made from Saccharomyces boulardii is said to have enzymes that counter the effect of toxins linked to antibiotic intake, helping you prevent a bout of unwarranted diarrhea. 11 Baker’s yeast, however, did not seem to have the same effects.12

4. Helps Ward Off Colds And Flu

Yeast can be taken as an immune booster to fight the common cold and flu. Researchers have found that giving a modified brewer’s yeast-based product as a daily therapeutic supplement after taking the flu vaccine can help significantly reduce both the incidence as well as the duration of cold and flu symptoms.13


5. Offers Antioxidant Power

Yeast has selenium, a trace mineral with antioxidant properties that can help counter the effects of free radical damage to the body. A deficiency of selenium has been linked to raised risk of heart disease and even cancer. Getting enough is important to protect your body against this damage it experiences from toxins in the environment and food. Yeast offers a natural way to take in the nutrient in smaller amounts and that too without the risk of toxicity associated with excessive intake of supplements.14

6. Fights Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

Brewer’s yeast has been tested as a remedy and preventive treatment for chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS). A clinical study in Russia found that the condition of patients improved after having this yeast. Their cognitive central nervous system function improved while emotional instability reduced. In addition, even the indicators of CFS in the blood showed improvement.15 Animal studies have found that in a daily running activity test, brewer’s yeast extract was able to help improve the performance of test animals with CFS.16


7. Gives A Protein Boost

Protein is the building block of tissues, muscle, bone, and even the hemoglobin in the body. Adults require about 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of their body weight per day, on average. Of course, this number will vary depending on your health and lifestyle. Regardless, protein is a nutrient you cannot afford to miss out on.17

Yeast offers up more protein than you’d think. For instance, baker’s yeast contains 8.40 gm of protein per 100 gm of yeast, which is why it is used as a protein supplement.18It also works as an alternative to supplements like whey powder by providing other health benefits from the rich mineral and fiber content.19 On the other side, the protein in nutritional yeast is considered “complete” because it has all the nine amino acids most vital to the human body, which our bodies can’t produce on their own.20

8. Works As A Source Of B Vitamins For Overall Health

Brewer’s, baker’s, and nutritional yeast contain B vitamins. Your body needs these for normal nervous system function, liver function, digestion, breaking down of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins for energy, and even for healthy hair, skin, and eyes.21

9. Improves Insulin Sensitivity

If you have type 2 diabetes, brewer’s yeast could help improve your blood sugar control and insulin sensitivity. As one study found, taking about 1800 mg of brewer’s yeast, in the form of six 300mg tablets/day, helped improve fasting blood sugar levels and insulin sensitivity in test subjects with type 2 diabetes mellitus.22

Brewer’s yeast basically contains chromium, a mineral that can help improve glucose metabolism in people with type 2 diabetes.23 This nutrient may be responsible for the beneficial effects of Brewer’s yeast on insulin sensitivity.

10. Contains Folic Acid Crucial For Healthy Pregnancies

As you now know, yeast in its various forms contains several B vitamins, including folate. This nutrient is important for the normal and healthy development of a fetus in its early weeks. Not getting enough folate puts you at risk of having a baby with serious birth defects including spina bifida. Which is why it is advised that women across age groups who are of reproductive age should take folate. If you’re trying to have a baby, start monitoring and consuming adequate levels of this vitamin before you even start trying to conceive to minimize risk.24

11. Has A Role In Research Into Parkinson’s Disease

This may not translate directly to a health benefit but is good to know! Scientists have used baker’s yeast to better understand the processes that are associated with neurological disorder Parkinson’s disease. Yeast proteins are remarkably similar to human protein DJ-1 that has a key role in the disease but are simpler to study. Mutations to DJ-1 have been linked to Parkinson’s. Baker’s yeast allowed researchers to better understand the role DJ-1 plays in keeping the brain and neurological function healthy and normal. This in turn may help create more effective therapeutic treatments for Parkinson’s.25

Who Should Avoid Yeast

Children should avoid therapeutic intake of these yeasts as research on the effects and possible adverse reactions on children has not been done. In addition, taking brewer’s yeast is not advised for anyone with gluten sensitivity or celiac disease because it is not gluten-free. Anyone with Crohn’s disease should consult their doctor before taking yeast as well. Those prone to yeast infections are also better off avoiding it. For anyone else, side effects, if any, from yeast intake are usually mild and may manifest as excess gas, for instance.26