Nutritional yeast (honestly, not really an appealing word for it if you ask me) is yeast bacterial strain of Saccharomyces cerevisiae (1) Unlike living yeast that’s used to make bread and beer, this variety is dead and deactivated. To produce it, these S. cerevisiae cells are grown for several days on a sugar-rich medium (similar to molasses). Nutritional yeast has become a popular go-to for vegans trying to incorporate ‘cheesy’ flavors and specific nutrients in their diet. Vegan friendly or not, I can say I am an avid user and like to include in certain recipes that I want to make a little bit more ‘light’ and nutritious!
One thing to note: there are actually 2 types of nutritional yeast: fortified and unfortified. Unfortified doesn’t include any of the added vitamins and minerals where fortified contains synthetic vitamins added during the manufacturing process to boost nutrient content.
What are the Benefits?
Supporters say that a tablespoon gives you around 65 percent of your recommended daily value of vitamin B12. Why is B12 important? Well, if you actually are a vegan, you probably are very deficient in this essential vitamin because humans can only absorb most it from animal products. Vitamin B12 is required for a MANY of your bodily functions, including but not limited to: healthy nervous system, DNA production, energy metabolism and the creation of red blood cells (2, 3). Because vegans are generally forced to supplement with Vitamin B12 due to their lack of consumption of animal products, 1 tablespoon of nutritional yeast can be a good alternative to popping a pill.
In addition, just like this superfood, nutritional yeast also includes ALL of your nine essential amino acids. Pretty rare to find in non-animal products!
Last but not least, it contains some pretty important trace minerals: One tablespoon includes zinc, selenium, and manganese Trace minerals are key for metabolism, growth, and immunity. (4)
What are the Cons?
As you might have noticed above, we mentioned that fortified nutritional yeast (the kind you generally find at the grocery store) is in fact synthetic (i.e. produced in a manufacturing facility). Of course, health nut always prefers real Whole Foods over human made products but this is definitely one of the better ones that can be bought!
In addition, some people may be intolerant to nutritional yeast. Although not common, people with poor digestion or inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) may experience discomfort. If you eat too much of it, you may even experience facial flushing due to its high niacin content.
The bottom line: don’t consume a lot at once and test out your tolerance up front!
How Do I Use It?
Nutritional yeast is generally a substitute for different types of cheese (nacho, parm, mac and cheese sauce etc.) because of it’s cheesy, nutty flavor. It’s powder like consistency also mixes really well with liquids and turns into this creamy thick goodness. If you want to go dairy-less or dairy-free for a while, try making some vegan cheeses with this key ingredient! If the word ‘vegan’ frightens the sh*t out of you, check out the recipes we’re sharing below and you may just be convinced.