Nutritional Yeast

A Spoonful a Day Keeps the Doctor Away

by Kerry Greener - Easy VeganⓇ

Nutritional yeast provides the compounds beta-1,3 glucan, trehalose, mannan and glutathione, all of which are associated with enhanced immune function.Nutritional yeast provides the compounds beta-1,3 glucan, trehalose, mannan and glutathione, all of which are associated with enhanced immune function.

Nutritional yeast can be considered a popular vegan power-house of essential amino acids and vitamins.

This vegan-essential ingredient adds a little cheesy flavour to dishes too. And with cheese being the at the top of the list of tastes that new vegans miss the most, a sprinkling or two of this tasty condiment is most welcome.

What is Nutritional Yeast?

Yeast is a single celled microorganism that feeds on sugar, and it needs the same amino acids and vitamins that human-beings need. Yet, because nutritional yeast is grown on sugary foods lacking in a few vital nutrients, the yeast is forced to maker its own amino acids and vitamins through clever biochemical reactions.

Nutritional yeast is a deactivated yeast, often a strain of Saccharomyces cerevisiae, which is sold commercially as a food product. It is sold in the form of yellow flakes, granules or powder and can be found in the bulk aisle of most natural food stores. 

It is popular with vegans and vegetarians and may be used as an ingredient in recipes or as a condiment. Wikipedia

There are two main types of nutritional yeast that often get interchanged:

  1. Brewer’s yeast - grown from hops (a by-product of brewing beer), and has been around since beer making began and can be consumed by humans or used to fortify other products or even given to pets.
  2. Pure nutritional yeast - grown from sugar cane, beat molasses or wood pulp. And it’s grown specifically for the purpose of human food consumption.

Nutritional Yeast is an inactivated form of yeast. The activated version is commonly used to make bread.  Nutritional yeast looks very similar to flakey parmesan cheese which shares a similar flavour.

Live brewer's yeast comes from the same species, Saccharomyces cerevisiae, but after fermentation the spent cells taste very bitter and are not good to use as a condiment.

Nutritional Yeast - Also Known As...

The Australians refer to nutritional yeast as "savoury yeast flakes", in New Zealand it's known as 'brufax and in the U.S. it is referred to as "hippie dust" or "nooch".

Nutritional yeast shouldn't be confused with yeast extract, which has a very strong flavour and comes in the form of a dark brown paste.

Vegans & Fortified Nutritional Yeast 

Nutritional Yeast Nutrition Facts

While a portion of nutritional yeast can't replace 'whole' food. (Plant foods that are unprocessed and unrefined.) Nutritional yeast can provide lots of much needed vitamins, especially the B vitamins.

Each serving contains a low amount calories but a high amount of proteins, amino acids and minerals.

Two tablespoons of fortified nutritional yeast contains approximately:

  • 45 calories
  • 5 grams carbohydrates
  • 8 grams protein
  • 0.5 grams fat
  • 4 grams dietary fibre
  • 9.6 milligrams thiamine (640 percent DV)
  • 9.7 milligrams riboflavin (570 percent DV)
  • 9.6 milligrams vitamin B6 (480 percent DV)
  • 7.8 micrograms vitamin B12 (130 percent DV)
  • 240 micrograms folate (60 percent DV)
  • 3 milligrams zinc (20 percent DV)
  • 1 milligram pantothenic acid (10 percent DV)
  • 24 milligrams magnesium (6 percent DV)
  • 0.1 milligrams copper (6 percent DV)
  • 0.1 milligrams manganese (6 percent DV)
  • 0.4 milligrams iron (4 percent DV)

Nutritional Benefits

While naturally gluten-free and vegan, nutritional yeast gets its name from the essential vitamins and minerals found in the fortified brands. On average, a quarter cup contains only 60 calories but delivers huge doses of B vitamins. It is also packed full of folic acid, protein, iron, and potassium and boasts none of the saturated fat or sugar. It's also very low in sodium with only 25 milligrams per serving, that's just one percent of DV (Daily value).

Fortified nutritional yeast also contains high amounts of thiamin, riboflavin and vitamin B12, an essential nutrient for vegans and vegetarians. 

Nutritional yeast is considered a 'superfood' and deservedly so, it is packed full of nutritional benefits, including:

  • A full spectrum of B vitamins
  • Chromium, an aid to weight-loss
  • 16 different amino acids for muscle-building and repair
  • 14 key minerals
  • 17 vitamins
  • Rich source of phosphorous

The B vitamins provide energy and help to maintain proper brain function. In addition, these B vitamins also have an positive impact on fat burning, sleep and stress!

Another big positive about nutritional yeast is that it contains 71% protein, by weight. That is very impressive for a plant food! Unlike legumes which are high in carbs and nuts and seeds which are high in fats, nutritional yeast is a unique protein-rich food in that it is low in fat and carbohydrates and very easily digested.

Why is B12 So Important for Vegans?

It's often reported that vegans and vegetarians need B12 above and over meat-eaters because B12 is naturally found in meat products and not plant foods.

THIS IS A MYTH and this article from Vegan-Life explains it perfectly... 

B12 is not produced by any large organism. There's a common myth that it is produced by animals. It's not.

B12 is made by anaerobic microorganisms (ie. bacteria that do not require oxygen to live). Anaerobic bacteria are common in the gastrointestinal tract of animals; so when you eat meat you can get B12.

Animals can process plant matter and obtain B12 through digestion. But humans are single stomached, so we cannot ferment plant matter in this way and, for this reason, must seek another source of B12.

Our primate cousins, like the gorilla, obtain B12 from bacteria present in the wild – living on plants, in the water they drink, and from the consumption of soil or their faecal matter.

You could get get enough B12 from the soil on your vegetables if you don't wash them.

Humans historically got B12 from eating vegetables, fruits and drinking fresh water from springs and streams, or by farming and then eating without washing their hands. Since we no longer do these things, “natural” plant based sources of Vitamin B-12 have dropped out of modern life.

The fact is, B12 is abundant in nature. If you go outside in your garden and touch a drop of rain water, or touch the soil then touch your tongue, you'll most likely have just consumed some B12.

However, I recommend getting the right kind of probiotics, algae like spirulina and a good B12 supplement so you never run the risk of being deficient.

How to Use Nutritional Yeast

Dried nutritional yeast is a very versatile seasoning and should be promoted to right next to the salt and pepper in my opinion.

It's so simple to use; sprinkle on top of toast, a waffle or a bagel or use it liberally to flavour popcorn. You can also add it to pasta, soups or anything that normally tastes better with parmesan cheese.

Nutritional yeast is a favourite with vegans as it adds a wonderful creamy texture and a savoury, nutty flavour to cheese dishes and sauces.

Where to Buy Nutritional Yeast

You can usually find nutritional yeast in the bulk foods or supplement section of just about any natural foods or whole foods shop, and most good supermarkets will also stock it in the spices, seasonings or baking aisles.

I usually get my nutritional yeast from Amazon as they offer discounts for regular deliveries. You can also specify how often you'd like your package to arrive. (I also highly recommend an Amazon Prime membership, at only £7.99 per month it makes every delivery in the Prime range absolutely free, so it pays for itself very quickly!) - Kerry Greener (Easy Vegan)

History of Nutritional Yeast

Historians don't know for sure when humans began using yeast but they do know the ancient Egyptians used it in food preparation. Most people think of yeast in the 'active' form that is used to leaven bread, but as mentioned before nutritional yeast is different in that it’s heated and inactive.

4,500-year-old 'Old Kingdom' vessels were used to bake bread and make beer using yeast compounds found in the ceramics.4,500-year-old 'Old Kingdom' vessels were used to bake bread and make beer using yeast compounds found in the ceramics.

Interestingly, Seamus Blackley, best known as one of the minds behind the Xbox, is a hardcore amateur baker and Egyptologist. Recently, he decided to combine his two hobbies by extracting the dormant yeast from ancient Egyptian cooking vessels, and using ancient grains he recreated an Old Kingdom loaf of bread.

No Bad News, Just More Good News

Nutritional yeast is an entirely different strain of yeast to the bad strain of Candida Albicans that can take over and slowly destroy your digestive system, your immunity, and drain you of your energy and health. Nutritional yeast, also known as Saccharomyces cerevisiae, bears no relationship or connection to candida in any way. In addition to being a different strain, it’s heated and therefore not an “active” yeast. 

There are those who argue that nutritional yeast is not well-tolerated by those who have Candida albicans overgrowth, there is no science or research to support this at all. Because the yeast is deactivated, what we have left in the finished product and is only an assortment of vitamins and minerals, plus macro-nutrients such as protein, carbs and a little fat.

Some people worry about the MSG-like compounds in nutritional yeast, saying that it may damage the brain. Again not true. Inactive nutritional yeast is different to yeast additives, often referred to as 'yeast extract'. Natural yeast, without additives, does contain 6 to 11 percent of naturally occurring glutamic acid, (non-essential as our bodies naturally produce it) but our bodies are meant to be able to handle a certain amount of this form of glutamate. It is in a bound form it is naturally broken down into its free form so that it can enter the bloodstream and be released by the liver to be used by the brain.

The issue may lie in the fact that today we are bombarded with processed foods that contain several sources of free (processed) glutamate, which is harmful and is the excitotoxic component of MSG.

So processed glutamic acid is a legitimate concern but nutritional yeast is not in this category. It's the artificial flavoring and yeast extracts found in processed foods that we need to look out for.

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