Nutritional yeast or “nooch” has been making waves for some time now, with health aficionados, vegans, and the lactose intolerant raving about its flavor and nutrient quotient. If you’ve been wondering what the fuss is all about, we may have some answers.
Nutritional yeast is basically S. cerevisiae yeast which is grown on a sugar-rich medium like sugar beet or sugar cane molasses. After being grown, the yeast is deactivated and pasteurized so that it’s safe to eat and doesn’t cause yeast overgrowth. Nutritional yeast is sold as powder, flakes, or granules and can be bought from the spice section or in bulk at health stores. If you store it in a dry, cool, dark place, it should last for quite a while.1 Here’s a look at the benefits nutritional yeast offers you.
1. Works As A Cheesy Flavor Enhancer With Practically No Fat Or Salt
Nutritional yeast has a strong cheese-like flavor. But it has very minimal amounts of sodium and fat!2 Think of it as Parmesan cheese without any of the potential health risks. You can sprinkle it on mashed potatoes, popcorn, bean stews, pizza, or tofu. Basically, any recipe that calls for grated cheese will work with nutritional yeast. Start by using a little as a condiment to get used to the flavor and then work it into other recipes.
2. Is Suitable For The Lactose Intolerant
If you’re lactose intolerant, a comforting lasagne or mac and cheese may be out of the question because of the stomach cramps and gas that are sure to follow. Nutritional yeast might just the save the day when you have a craving for these cheesy delights.
If you are lactose intolerant, your body doesn’t produce enough of lactase, an enzyme that is used to digest a sugar found in dairy products called lactose. Bacteria then ferment undigested lactose in the intestine, producing various gases that cause the digestive discomfort typical of lactose intolerance.3 But you don’t have to give up on these favorites just yet. As we saw, nutritional yeast has a cheesy flavor but doesn’t contain any lactose. So it can stand in quite effectively for cheese in your favorite recipes.
3. Doubles Up As A Complete Protein Source
Nutritional yeast is a complete protein. This means that it has all the nine essential amino acids that cannot be produced by your body and must necessarily be obtained through food. This is particularly good news for vegetarians and vegans as most plant foods are incomplete sources of protein, soy being a notable exception.
You can add nutritional yeast to soups and stews or sprinkle them on vegetable sticks. But don’t feel left out if you are a non-vegetarian – it can make an interesting variation for you too. Try adding it to egg dishes to amp up the yum factor.4
Do keep in mind that since nutritional yeast is usually used in small quantities, you cannot rely solely on it to fulfill your protein requirements. If you have an average of 2000 calories per day, you should get in about 50 g of protein. And 2 tablespoons of nutritional yeast will give you about 8 g though values can vary depending on the brand. So be sure to supplement with these wholesome proteins.56
4. Is Rich In Energizing And Skin-Nourishing B Vitamins
Nutritional yeast is also rich in B vitamins which play a vital role in keeping you healthy. Vitamins like B1, B2, and B6 in it help your body convert energy into a form that can be burned by your cells. Various B vitamins also support digestive and nervous systems and keep your skin and eyes healthy.
Many vegans turn to nutritional yeast for vitamin B12 since plant foods don’t contain this crucial vitamin.7 While nutritional yeast doesn’t naturally contain any vitamin B12, many manufacturers fortify their products with vitamin B12. You can check the label and buy nutritional yeast fortified with vitamin B12 so you get the benefits of this crucial vitamin as well.8
5. Contains Immunity-Building Beta-1,3 Glucan
Nutritional yeast is known to contain a kind of fiber known as beta-glucan. This is usually found in the cell walls of yeast as well as bacteria and foods like barley and oats. Research indicates that this beneficial component can strengthen your immune system and may also help bring down cholesterol levels.910
6. Gives You An Antioxidant Boost
Nutritional yeast contains potent antioxidants such as selenium and glutathione.1112 These antioxidants can help counter the damaging effects of free radicals. Free radicals are produced naturally by your body during the process of producing energy from food. They can come from pollution, tobacco smoke, radiation etc. too They are implicated in the process of aging as well as diseases such as heart disease, cancer, diabetes, Parkinson’s, and Alzheimer’s.13
7. Offers You The Benefits Of Trace Minerals
Nutritional yeast contains minerals like trace minerals like iron, zinc, and selenium that are important for the proper functioning of your body.1415 Selenium keeps your thyroid gland in good shape and is important for DNA production and reproduction.16 Zinc helps your immune system fight off germs. It’s also required to make DNA and proteins.17 Iron is required to form hemoglobin, connective tissue, and certain hormones.18
Putting Safety Concerns To Rest: Have In Moderation!
Reports about the lead and phosphorous levels in some brands of nutritional yeast may have raised hackles but the levels are generally within permissible limits and shouldn’t cause you any harm.19
Most manufacturers do fortify their product with nutrients ranging from folic acid and B12 to calcium and iron. While these are a good idea if you are deficient, you still need to read the labels carefully for the components. Having too much nutritional yeast regularly may mean you overshoot your daily limits of these nutrients, especially if you are already on supplements. Avoid any potential side effects by sticking to a limit every day: have no more than 2–3 tablespoons a day and give it a break once in a while. Nutritional yeast may sure be a good addition to your diet, but the onus is on moderate intake!
|↑1, ↑2||Nutritional yeast. British Broadcasting Corporation.|
|↑3||Lactose intolerance. National Health Service.|
|↑4||Should I Eat Nutritional Yeast?. Time.|
|↑5, ↑12, ↑15||Full Report (All Nutrients): 45067042, PREMIUM NUTRITIONAL YEAST SEASONING, UPC: 074305066054. United States Department of Agriculture.|
|↑6||Protein. Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition.|
|↑7||Vitamin B12. National Institutes of Health.|
|↑8||Vitamin B. Department of Health & Human Services.|
|↑9||Singing the praises of nutritional yeast. Santa Monica Daily Press.|
|↑10||Stier, Heike, Veronika Ebbeskotte, and Joerg Gruenwald. “Immune-modulatory effects of dietary Yeast Beta-1, 3/1, 6-D-glucan.” Nutrition journal 13, no. 1 (2014): 38.|
|↑11, ↑14||Non-fortified Nutritional Yeast. Sari Foods Company.|
|↑13||Antioxidants: What You Need to Know. American Academy of Family Physicians.|
|↑16||Selenium. National Institutes of Health.|
|↑17||Zinc. National Institutes of Health.|
|↑18||Iron. National Institutes of Health.|
|↑19||Three Brands of Nutritional Yeast Contain Detectable Lead Levels But the Risk is Minimal. Nutrition Facts.|