Nutritional yeast is a power-packed superfood that offers a ton of different B vitamins, folate, folic acid, selenium, zinc, fiber, protein, and traces of other key nutrients people need. It’s a very low calorie, nutty – slightly cheesy tasting addition to almost any beverage or dish.
This yummy savory food is a must for vegans and other people who want to eliminate or reduce dairy, but who still like the flavor of cheese in their favorite dishes including sauces, dressings, etc. It tastes amazing when incorporated into a beef, chicken or turkey burger!
Don’t confuse nutritional yeast with the brewer’s yeast used for breads and pastries. It’s still a sugar-eating fungus (saccharomyces cerevisiae), but it’s been rendered inactive and so cannot be used in cooking and does not contain candida.
As you continue reading, you’ll learn everything there is to know about this nutrition-packed superfood including how it’s made, what it contains, health benefits, and the best brands available on the market right now.
How Nutritional Yeast is Made
A mixture of cane sugar and beet molasses are laid out in a small or large container covered by a breathable layer such as multi-layered cheesecloth or other cloth material to protect the mixture from insects.
Once the fermentation process has completed and the yeast is formed, it’s harvested, washed, pasteurized (hence why nutritional yeast is inactive and not used for baking), and finally dried before packaging.
Nutritional Yeast Benefits
1. Immunity Booster
Nutritional yeast is jam-packed with immune-boosting goodness. Virtually every nutrient it contains helps to boost and/or maintain immune system functions including B vitamins, zinc, iron, copper, and folic acid.
Aside from the vitamins and minerals this superfood offers, there are some unique immune-boosting properties exclusive to nutritional yeast including beta-1,3 glucan, trehalose, mannan and glutathione. Beta-1,3 glucan is a special fiber that’s been shown to boost immunity and lower cholesterol.
Studies have shown significant changes to immune system health when beta-1,3 glucan is added to the diet including reduced sick days from work. It also decreases the incidence and severity of health issues such as the common cold and flu, along with “traveler’s diarrhea” which affects people traveling to locations with different bugs and creepy-crawlies roaming around in the air, food, and water that the immune system isn’t accustomed to.
The other compounds mentioned above including glutathione, are essential to maintaining immune system health and reducing oxidative stress throughout the body. These facts make nutritional yeast among the most potent immune boosting foods available in natural form.
2. Improves Digestive Health
The fiber beta-1,3 glucan is metabolized in the intestines and helps to maintain balance in the digestive tract while also helping waste matter to bulk, making ‘potty’ time happier for all who consume it. Nutritional yeast has been used for centuries as a cure-all for all digestive matters including indigestion and diarrhea.
Nutritional yeast really shines when it comes to its probiotic content. Since it’s a fermented food, nutritional yeast contains tens of thousands of beneficial bacteria that the body can use to maintain digestive balance – the human body is believed to be equal parts human cells and bacteria.
Best, nutritional yeast contains no dairy whatsoever, unlike most of the common forms of probiotics like yogurt, making it ideal for everyone to consume.
3. Top Source of Thiamine
Just one measured tablespoon of nutritional yeast offers up 180% of the daily value of thiamine for average sized men and women. Thiamine works with other nutrients to regulate cardiovascular, endocrine and digestive functions in the body. It’s literally used by every single cell in the body and is crucial for a healthy metabolism and energy levels.
4. Vegetarian Protein Source
That same small tablespoon serving size of nutritional yeast has 4 grams of pure vegetarian protein, too, making it a great source of protein for people who don’t eat meat and/or consume dairy products. Inadequate protein intake can cause a slew of health issues including a slow metabolism, lack of muscle mass and strength, fatigue, mood swings, pain throughout the body, immune deficiency, and slow healing of wounds.
5. Great for Pregnant and Breast Feeding Women
Folic acid intake is important for everyone. When it comes to pregnancy, it’s proven that adequate intake helps prevent birth defects of the brain and spinal cord (eg., spina bifida) in babies. With most of the daily value for a pregnant mother’s folic acid needs being taken care of in a single tablespoon of nutritional yeast, there’s no question women who’re pregnant or planning to become pregnant soon should be taking it.
6. Promotes Healthy Hair and Skin
B vitamins are essential to our exterior health including hair, skin, and nails. Vitamin. Each in their own way helps to reduce the signs of aging including redness, wrinkles and fine lines. Niacin, found in nutritional yeast, is also helpful for reducing acne.
7. Antiviral and Antibacterial Benefits
Considering nutritional yeast is in fact a “yeast” some people are turned off by taking it, connecting this healthy variety with the dreaded candida yeast that’s known to grow inside our gut and steal vital nutrients from our digestive tract. Candida is the bane of many women around the world, causing yeast infections. Nutritional yeast in fact is considered a good yeast that fights candida yeast and other viral and bacterial invaders in the body, including E.coli, staph, and salmonella.
Nutritional Yeast Nutrient Profile (per tablespoon):
• Thiamine (B1): 180% Daily Value
• Riboflavin (B2): 160% Daily Value
• Niacin (B3): 70% Daily Value
• Pyridoxine (B6): 140% Daily Value
• Folate: 120% Daily Value
• Folic Acid: 40% Daily Value
• Iron: 2% Daily Value
• Zinc: 10% Daily Value
• Magnesium: 3% Daily Value
• Manganese: 3% Daily Value
• Pantothenic Acid: 5% Daily Value
• Protein: 4 grams
• Fiber: 2 grams
• Cobalamin (B12): 40% Daily Value
The values listed for B12 may not be present in all nutritional yeast products. It’s generally added to make the nutritional yeast to complete its B vitamin profile, regardless if claimed to be naturally-occurring on the label. If it’s not listed on the label, the product you’re using hasn’t been fortified.
Potential Side Effects of Nutritional Yeast
There are no known side effects from consuming nutritional yeast beyond some initial digestive discomfort. This side effect can be experienced whenever you start consuming a product that contains heaps of beneficial bacteria. Think of it as a good thing, as the process will only last a few days and soon you’ll have a more balanced gut bacteria profile.
Bragg’s nutritional yeast is one of the most popular on the market. The company has been producing natural health products for years. It’s 100% vegan friendly and USDA certified compatible with an organic diet. The large yellow flakes in the 4.5 ounce shaker bottle have a very nutty, cheesy smell and flavor that works perfect with most dishes.
Cheese lovers who don’t want the health problems caused by dairy products will love Sari Foods’ all natural nutritional yeast. It’s gluten, dairy, MSG, and gluten free. Sari Foods’ doesn’t fortify their nutritional yeast, so there isn’t any vitamin B12 included for vegans out there looking to supplement more into their diet. The company believes in delivering products that contain no synthetic vitamins or other nutrients. Recommended for the true purist!
Kal makes this unsweetened product that’s free from GMOs and also contains no gluten. While it’s unsweetened, this nutritional yeast is fortified with B12 and contains levels of other B vitamins, additional aminos, and minerals way above and beyond the average human’s daily requirements. The taste is unadulterated, nutty and cheesy goodness.
Bob’s Red Mill is gluten free, vegan/vegetarian friendly, paleo suitable, and kosher. Bob’s is packed with B vitamins including 300% of the daily value for B12. This is a brand most people are familiar with, found in all Walmart stores and most health food shops around the globe. Some brands of nutritional yeast contain traces of lead, yet Bob’s Red Mill brand was one of a select few that passed a test conducted by Nutrition Facts dot org.
Medley Hill’s Farm offers perhaps the best deal you’ll find on the market for nutritional yeast. Almost double what other manufacturer’s offer, this 1 pound bag will supplement tons of different meals and beverages before you need to order a new one. One potential drawback is that this product is mass-produced in a facility that also handles nuts, dairy, wheat, and soy, so it’s not suitable for people with allergies to any of the above.
Nutritional yeast really lives up to its name by offering a way to get more beneficial, highly bio-available B vitamins, folate, zinc and several other nutrients our bodies need to thrive.
Any concerns you might read about potential dangers of consuming it are entirely unfounded. Evidence proving otherwise, if you’re interested, can be found in this Mercola article.
Nutritional yeast is inexpensive, works well with many foods and beverages, and is a low calorie way to improve your health considerably.