5 Best Benefits of Nutritional Yeast

by John Staughton (BASc, BFA) last updated -

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The use of nutritional yeast occurs around the world and has become much more popular in recent years with the rise of veganism.

What is Nutritional Yeast?

Nutritional yeast is a deactivated form of yeast (after it is exposed to heat) that can deliver an impressive amount of vitamins and necessary nutrients when added to certain foods. In some forms, nutritional yeast is sold as yellow flakes, although it is also widely available in the form of a powder. Today, nutritional yeast is most often found in vegan replacements for cheese, although it is also used as a condiment for people on that particular diet. The taste of nutritional yeast is slightly nutty, sour, savory, and creamy, which makes it a suitable replacement for cheese in many recipes.

Nutritional yeast is also gluten-free and can be fortified with other vitamins and nutrients, such as vitamin B12, to be even more beneficial for those following a vegetarian or vegan diet. In those particular diets, certain vitamin deficiencies are common, so the use of this yeast functions as an easy and delicious alternative to nutritional supplements.

Nutritional Yeast Nutrition Facts

In terms of the nutritional facts of nutritional yeast, it will vary based on the manufacturer, but generally speaking, this form of yeast contains about 30 calories per tablespoon, as well as 2.5 grams of carbohydrates, 80% of which is made up of fiber. This form of yeast is also a complete protein, meaning that it can provide all 9 of the amino acids that the body is unable to produce on its own. This is in addition to various other B vitamins, and in fortified types of this yeast, you may also get calcium or iron.

Nutritional Yeast Benefits

The primary benefits of nutritional yeast include the following:

  • Improving your immune system
  • Boosting digestive health
  • Ensuring a healthy pregnancy
  • Skin care
  • Digestion

Let us discuss them in detail below.

Digestion

The position of The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics is that fortified and high-fiber foods are necessary in vegetarian and vegan diets. There is a decent amount of dietary fiber found in nutritional yeast, which is important for healthy digestion and normal gut function. Fiber can alleviate constipation and diarrhea, while also reducing inflammation in the gut and even lowering overall cholesterol levels. The fact that nutritional yeast is also gluten-free is critical, given the rise of Celiac disease diagnoses in recent years, as well as gluten insensitivity issues in growing percentages of the population.

Muscle Growth

With 4 grams of protein in every two-tablespoon serving, this yeast variety can help to promote muscle growth, specifically for vegans and vegetarians who may have lower protein levels than others. As a complete protein, this yeast provides the body with all the building blocks it needs to develop new muscle fibers in response to exercise and exertion.

Antioxidants

According to a variety of animal and human studies, selenomethionine and glutathione are powerful antioxidants found in nutritional yeast that can help your body eliminate free radicals and reduce oxidative stress throughout the body, which can lead to chronic disease and inflammation.

Metabolic Activity

The B vitamins we get from our food are essential for overall health and metabolic function. Cellular communication, nervous system function, and the basic metabolic activities of the body require B vitamins, and this yeast ingredient is an excellent non-animal source for thiamine, folic acid, niacin, riboflavin, and vitamin B6.

Immune System

When your body has enough B vitamins, your metabolism and immune system can run properly, keeping you protected against various pathogens and possible infections.

Healthy Pregnancy

Certain B vitamins, such as folic acid, are incredibly important for a healthy pregnancy. By adding this yeast to your diet, you are significantly lowering your chances of delivering a baby with neural tube defects.

Nutrient Deficiency

The main reason why people use this form of yeast is to make up for nutrients they may be missing while following a vegetarian or vegan diet. Lacking enough protein, fiber or vitamins from the diet can have a wide range of unwanted side effects.

Skin Care

Some of the active ingredients in yeast, including the complete range of amino acids the body needs, can help to form proteins and other compounds that contribute to skin health and appearance.

Heart Health

As a cholesterol-free alternative to cheese that is also low in sodium, those who are concerned for their cardiovascular health can rest easy when adding this ingredient to their meals. Studies have found that vegetarian-based diets that utilize nutritional yeast can be better for long-term heart health.

Hair Care & Nail Care

The amino acids and vitamins in this yeast are also necessary for the formation of proteins that go into the production of hair and nails, helping to keep you looking and feeling healthy in your new diet.

How to Use Nutritional Yeast?

As mentioned, one of the most common uses for nutritional yeast is in cheese replacements, since it can create the same creamy and nutty flavor. However, you can also mix nutritional yeast into soup and pasta, where it functions as a spice, or you can bake it into bread or top your salads and popcorn with the powder/flakes. You can also use it as a topping for baked vegetables, in tofu, or in your favorite curry preparation.

Nutritional Yeast Substitute

If you don’t have nutritional yeast on hand, there are a few other viable substitutes, including the following:

  • Soy sauce
  • Brewer’s yeast

Brewer’s Yeast

If you are primarily using this nutritional yeast for its B vitamins, particularly vitamin B12, then brewer’s yeast can be an excellent substitute that will keep your nutrient levels up.

Soy Sauce

If you want to replace this form of yeast in terms of flavor in a dish, soy sauce can be an odd mimic of the salty flavor of this specialized yeast.

Nutritional Yeast Side Effects

There are very few known side effects of this yeast since it is a deactivated form of yeast. On the other hand, brewer’s yeast (active form) is linked to gastrointestinal distress and upset in many cases. The processing of nutritional yeast eliminates most of the risk for side effects, but as with any new dietary supplement, proceed with caution. Start by using a small amount and clocking your body’s behavior. Also, speak with your doctor before adding this to your diet.

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About the Author

John Staughton is a traveling writer, editor, and publisher who earned his English and Integrative Biology degrees from the University of Illinois in Champaign, Urbana (USA). He is the co-founder of a literary journal, Sheriff Nottingham, and calls the most beautiful places in the world his office. On a perpetual journey towards the idea of home, he uses words to educate, inspire, uplift and evolve.

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