What is Nutritional Yeast? Nutritional yeast is a deactivated yeast that is sold as yellow flakes or powder. It has a nutty, cheesy flavor, which makes it a popular ingredient in vegan cooking since it can be used to mimic cheese. Nutritional yeast is grown on a mixture of beet or sugarcane molasses and then harvested, washed and dried with heat to “deactivate” it. This process removes it’s ability to leaven baked goods. Instead, nutritional yeast is prized for it’s unique flavor and nutritional content.
The species of yeast used to make nutritional yeast is Saccharomyces cerevisiae, which is the same species commonly used to make bread, beer and wine. So nutritional yeast offers the nutrients found in “active” yeast but without the leavening ability. It’s simply dried yeast, differing from brewer’s yeast which is harvested from the fermentation process without being deactivated.
Nutritional Content of Nutritional Yeast
What makes nutritional yeast stand out from other foods is it’s exceptional nutrition content. Just two tablespoons provide a big punch of vital nutrients:
With 8 grams of protein per serving, nutritional yeast contains more protein than many other plant sources. The complete protein in nutritional yeast also contains all nine essential amino acids that our bodies cannot produce on their own. This makes it an excellent means for vegans to get high-quality complete protein and prevents amino acid deficiencies.
The abundant protein in nutritional yeast may also promote muscle recovery, bone health, stable blood sugar levels, satiety after meals, wound healing and enzymatic functions.
Vitamins & Minerals
Nutritional yeast is one of the best natural sources of B-complex vitamins. Just two tablespoons provide large amounts of thiamin (B1), riboflavin (B2), niacin (B3), pyridoxine (B6) and cobalamins (B12).
These B-vitamins aid several bodily processes, including metabolizing fats and proteins, production of red blood cells, nervous system function, hormone regulation and cellular replication. Nutritional yeast is also an excellent source of zinc, magnesium, iron, manganese and other essential minerals.
Additionally, it’s one of the few non-animal sources of vitamin B12, containing over 100% DV of vitamin B12 per serving. Vegans or those avoiding animal products often suffer from B12 deficiency, so nutritional yeast provides a useful plant-based means of obtaining this vital nutrient.
Furthermore, some manufacturers fortify their nutritional yeast with vitamin D, another nutrient that’s challenging for vegans to get from food alone. Just make sure to read the label to confirm if vitamin D or any other vitamins and minerals have been added.
A two-tablespoon serving of nutritional yeast also delivers 2 grams of fiber. Fiber promotes healthy digestion, supports heart health, stabilizes blood sugar levels, aids weight loss efforts and feeds the good bacteria in your gut microbiome.
Nutritional yeast contains antioxidants like glutathione and selenium but in lower amounts than most fruits and vegetables. Still, these compounds provide anti-inflammatory benefits, strengthen the immune system and protect cells from harmful free radicals.
So in short, nutritional yeast packs massive amounts of high-quality nutrition in each serving, which is what makes it such a superfood supplement!
Benefits of Using Nutritional Yeast
Given it’s stellar nutrition profile, regularly eating nutritional yeast can promote several aspects of good health. Here is an overview of the top benefits associated with adding nutritional yeast to your diet:
1. Supports Heart Health
The generous B-vitamin content, fiber and antioxidants in nutritional yeast are all beneficial for heart health. Specifically, research shows that thiamin reduces risk of stroke, niacin lowers “bad” LDL cholesterol, vitamin B6 regulates blood pressure and selenium protects against free radicals and prevents plaque buildup in arteries.
So sprinkling some nooch on your meals is an easy way to keep your heart healthy and strong! Those at risk for cardiovascular disease may benefit from 1-2 tablespoons of nutritional yeast per day.
2. Strengthens Immune Function
Nutritional yeast’s combination of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and amino acids may prevent infections by boosting the immune system. Vitamins like zinc, selenium and vitamin B6 support white blood cell production, NK cell activity and healthy inflammatory response.
Studies show that the beta glucan fiber in nutritional yeast may also activate immune cells like neutrophils and macrophages. This can prevent illness by triggering immune reactions against invading pathogens.
To keep nasty colds at bay, aim for at least 2 tablespoons of nutritional yeast each day during cold season. Stirring it into veggie-packed soups makes an especially immune-supporting meal. Sprinkling extra on popcorn or toast anytime you feel under the weather provides a convenient immune boost as well!
3. Promotes Blood Sugar Balance
The fiber in nutritional yeast helps regulate blood sugar spikes after carb-heavy meals by slowing digestion. Plus, it’s high chromium concentration directly supports insulin function and normal blood glucose levels.
These factors make nutritional yeast beneficial for those with diabetes, insulin resistance, hypoglycemia or who simply struggle with blood sugar swings when eating high-glycemic foods. Using nutritional yeast to coat veggies or stir into casseroles can prevent the energy crashes that often follow eating carb-laden meals!
4. Aids Healthy Digestion
Nutritional yeast acts as a prebiotic to feed probiotics and beneficial bacteria colonies in the gut microbiome. The beta glucan fiber nourishes good bacteria like Lactobacilli and Bifidobacteria species. These support healthy digestion by producing enzymes for breaking down food, synthesizing key nutrients and killing off harmful pathogens.
Plus, B-vitamins keep the digestive tract functioning properly and selenium mitigates inflammation. So sprinkling some nutritional yeast on meals supports overall GI function and maintains microbial balance to prevent issues like diarrhea, constipation, cramping or bloating. Those recovering from food poisoning, infections, antibiotics therapy and digestive disorders stand to benefit the most.
5. Promotes Weight Loss
Nutritional yeast makes a smart addition to any weight loss diet because it’s low calorie but high nutrition content increases satiety. Adding just two tablespoons yields 60 calories but 8 grams of filling protein. This is far more satiating that 60 calories of carb-dense crackers, chips or pretzels!
Plus, the fiber adds bulk to food which expands in the stomach to prevent overeating. Nutritional yeast is also packed with B-vitamins that are crucial for metabolizing carbs, fats and protein into usable energy instead of stored body fat. So sprinkle away on salads or veggie dishes to lose or manage weight without feeling starved!
6. Supports Energy Levels
The vitamin B12 in nutritional yeast is directly involved in energy production pathways. Converting nutrients from food into ATP cellular energy depends on ample B12 levels. Lacking B12 causes fatigue, weakness, mood issues, memory problems and low motivation.
Nutritional yeast delivers the bioavailable form of B12 that our bodies need to make red blood cells and DNA while also driving essential functions related to good health and vitality. Whether you’re dragging, drained or struggling with low stamina, try using more nooch to support consistent, balanced energy levels.
7. Helps Control Anxiety
Nutritional yeast has a beneficial impact on hormones, neurotransmitters and nutrients related to anxiety levels. The vitamin B complex boosts key hormones associated with positive mood like serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine. These soothing properties can ease anxiety when consumed regularly.
Specific minerals like potassium, chromium and inositol also have anti-anxiety effects by helping to stabilize blood pressure, blood sugar, nerve impulses and serotonin receptor function. So mood disorders, chronic stress, panic attacks, irritability, anger issues and hyperarousal may improve with daily nutritional yeast supplementation.
8. Promotes Skin Health
Consuming nutritional yeast delivers key vitamins, minerals and antioxidants necessary for smooth, youthful and healthy skin cell development. B vitamins are involved in cell regeneration and renewal which prevents premature aging. Meanwhile, minerals like zinc maintain collagen production and antioxidants mitigate UV damage that manifests as wrinkles, age spots and sagging.
Nutritional yeast also contains trace minerals like selenium needed to create antioxidant enzymes that protect skin cells. It also has anti-inflammatory effects to prevent problems like acne breakouts. Those struggling with rashes, eczema, psoriasis or dull skin tone stand to notice clearer, brighter and softer skin from regular nutritional yeast use!
9. Supports Adrenal Function
Your adrenal glands sit atop your kidneys and manage hormone release related to the body’s stress response. Adrenal fatigue stems from chronic overstimulation of these glands, leading to hormone disruption, brain fog, low stamina, anxiety and disordered sleep patterns.
Nutritional yeast contains high amounts of nutrients needed for healthy adrenal function like the entire vitamin B complex, vitamin C, magnesium, phosphorus and potassium. Consuming it routinely can therefore revive and nourish taxed adrenals back to normal function. Start with 1 tablespoon upon waking and before bed to start healing adrenal fatigue at the source!
10. Aids Post-Workout Muscle Recovery
Adding nutritional yeast to meals in the 24 hour window after intense workouts helps muscles repair, rebuild and recover optimally. The protein provides amino acid building blocks needed for regenerating muscle fibers while B vitamins reduce exercise-induced oxidative damage.
Nutritional yeast also contains critical minerals like manganese, magnesium and selenium for muscle cell development and functioning. The antioxidant glutathione combats post-workout inflammation as well. So mixing nutritional yeast into your post-workout smoothies or meals speeds the recovery process to curb soreness and debilitating fatigue!
Is Nutritional Yeast Safe?
Nutritional yeast is generally safe to consume with very few side effects. However, some things to keep in mind regarding safety and side effects include:
- Nutritional yeast allergies are possible but rare. Those with known yeast allergies/sensitivities should avoid nutritional yeast.
- Too much vitamin B12 (anything over 10 mcg daily) can trigger breakouts, nausea, headaches, anxiety, fatigue and itchiness in those without deficiencies. Stick to no more than 1-2 Tablespoons nutritional yeast per day maximum to avoid toxicity.
- Nutritional yeast adds glutamates through it’s glutamic acid content. Those avoiding dietary glutamates due to sensitivities may want to limit intake.
- Gastrointestinal issues like gas, bloating or diarrhea can occur if consuming too much nutritional yeast, especially in the beginning. Work up slowly from 1 teaspoon to 1 Tablespoon with meals to see tolerance.
- Nutritional yeast fed sensitive strains of beneficial bacteria during production creates biotin, a B vitamin involved in energy pathways. However, consuming high biotin levels can falsely alter thyroid blood test results like TSH. Discontinue nutritional yeast supplements at least 1 week before thyroid testing if applicable.
So aside from these minor considerations, nutritional yeast is safe for most people and provides only health benefits with regular moderate consumption. Those taking thyroid medications, who avoid glutamates or struggle with chronic yeast infections should consult their doctor before adding it to their diet.
How to Pick the Best Nutritional Yeast
With nutritional yeast’s surge in popularity, dozens of brands now offer it. But not all nutritional yeast options are created equal when it comes to factors like nutrition content, taste and quality.
Use this guide to distinguish high-quality nutritional yeast from inferior products:
Check Vitamin Fortification
Nutritional yeast naturally contains a variety of B-vitamins and minerals. But most commercial brands choose to add higher amounts of key nutrients like vitamin B12 during the manufacturing process. After all, this fortification is what makes nutritional yeast such a coveted supplement, especially for vegans and vegetarians.
So be sure to read the nutrition label and ingredients list to confirm which vitamins and minerals have been added. Good quality nutritional yeast should have vitamin B12, vitamin D, zinc and potentially folic acid. Avoid brands without clearly listed added vitamin content, as these offer less nutritive value.
Consider Organic Options
Some nutritional yeast brands are certified organic, meaning they use organic beet molasses to culture the yeast without synthetic pesticides or additives. Organic varieties also don’t add questionable anti-caking or flow agents during processing. Sticking with organic ensures the healthiest, cleanest source of nutritional yeast possible.
Evaluate Taste & Texture
Lower quality nutritional yeast often has bitter, unpleasant flavors compared to premium options. The flakes should have a savory umami taste and pleasant nutty aroma. Anything pungent, unpleasant or making you not want to eat it means inferior quality and rancidity issues.
Reading reviews can help narrow choices, but your best bet is to simply try out a few bestselling brands side-by-side to experience differences personally. Judge flavor, aroma, color and texture freshly sprinkled onto food or straight out of the package. Then stick with your favorites!
Identify Non-GMO Yeast Strains
Some nutritional yeast brands explicitly state they use non-GMO yeast strains during production. This ensures no genetically engineered organisms are used to manufacture the yeast. If wanting to avoid GMOs, read labels and select only certified non-GMO Project verified nutritional yeast sources.
Consider Allergen-Free Options
Those with severe yeast allergies can still sometimes tolerate nutritional yeast since the yeast cells are fully deactivated. But look for allergen-free assurances to be 100% safe, as typical manufacturing processes may allow slight traces of active yeast cells.
Certain brands explicitly guarantee yeast-free status, making them the best pick for those with known yeast sensitivities. Checking for allergen-free certification gives peace of mind regarding safety.
So keep these factors in mind and let taste preferences guide you to the best quality nutritional yeast brands!
Does Nutritional Yeast Go Bad?
With proper storage, nutritional yeast lasts 1-2 years before going bad. But because it’s made from live yeast cultures, it perishable and has the potential to spoil eventually.
Signs of spoiled nutritional yeast include:
- Change in color from yellow to grey, green or black
- Strong bitter flavor instead of savory/cheesy notes
- Mold contamination
- Musty aroma
- Hard texture instead of uniform flakes
- Spotty discoloration when sprinkled
To maximize shelf life:
Store in Airtight Container
Exposure to air degrades vitamins in nutritional yeast over time and causes oxidation (rancidity). Storing nutritional yeast in an airtight container prevents moisture and air from entering and keeps it fresh for over a year. Glass jars, food grade plastic containers or resealable bags all help block air out.
Keep in Dry, Cool Space
Environmental moisture and heat also accelerate nutritional yeast’s decline. Store it in a pantry or cupboard away from steam, sinks and stoves for longest shelf life. Aim for storage around 50-70°F if possible.
Refrigerate After Opening
Refrigeration won’t extend shelf life of unopened nutritional yeast. But keeping opened packages chilled ensures longevity and freshness for another 6+ months. So consider fridge storage if you won’t use up nutritional yeast quickly.
Following proper storage methods, look for any signs of spoilage before consuming nutritional yeast. Don’t hesitate to discard any that smells off, looks discolored or feels hard. But when stored correctly, nutritional yeast can continue providing nutrition benefits for many happy, healthy meals!
How to Use Nutritional Yeast Flakes
One reason nutritional yeast grows more popular by the day is that it’s incredibly versatile to cook and bake with! It’s versatility stems from nutritional yeast’s natural savory, nutty, cheesy flavor.
Here are some of the top ways to eat more of this healthy supplement:
1. Sprinkle on Popcorn
Nutritional yeast makes popcorn irresistibly cheesy and addicting! Simply prepare plain popcorn and drizzle lightly with olive oil. Sprinkle on a few teaspoons (or tablespoons if you love the taste!) of nutritional yeast flakes while popcorn is still warm. The heat releases the full umami, nutty flavors even more. Stir or shake to distribute evenly.
2. Use as Cheese Substitute
Thanks to it’s similar flavor profile, nutritional yeast can mimic cheese when cooking vegan recipes. Try using it anywhere you’d normally reach for parmesan, including pastas, pizza, salads, gratins, soups and more! It offers the same salty, savory, richness without dairy or artificial flavors.
3. Make Nutty, Cheesy Sauce
Take nutty cheesiness up a notch by blending nutritional yeast into creamy dairy-free sauces and gravies. Simply mix nooch into the sauce base along with plant milk, nuts or seeds, garlic, lemon juice or vinegar and sea salt. Heat through until thickened while stirring regularly. Then pour over veggies, grains, nachos, baked potatoes or pasta!
4. Create Better Breading
Panko breadcrumbs aren’t your only option for oven baked “fried” eats or crispy chicken cutlets. Grind raw nooch flakes in a food processor or spice grinder until fine. Then use as coating for chicken, tofu, tempeh or veggies along with beaten eggs or flour before baking or air frying. It achieves the same crispy texture with extra nutrition.
5. Mix into Hummus
Hummus creates an easy, protein-packed vehicle for nooch! Simply blend one can drained chickpeas in food processor with lemon juice, tahini, garlic and olive oil as usual. Then mix in 1-4 tablespoons nutritional yeast for extra depth of flavor and nutrition. The nooch adds irresistible creaminess too.
6. Make Nutritious Nut Cheese
For the ultimate vegan indulgence, use soaked nuts or seeds to create gourmet nut-based cheeses flavored with nooch! Soak the nuts, drain and blend with probiotic capsules, miso paste and enough water to puree smoothly. Transfer to a nut milk bag or cheesecloth and allow to culture 1-3 days. Then mix in several tablespoons nutritional yeast before forming into cheese rounds or a wheel for aging if desired. Customize flavors further by adding herbs, peppers, olives, etc!
7. Whip up Creamy Salad Dressings
Nutritional yeast’s savory flavor and yellow color mimics certain dairy cheeses beautifully when making salad dressings from scratch. Simply whisk together olive oil, apple cider vinegar or lemon juice plus 1-4 tablespoons nutritional yeast flakes. Then season with garlic, herbs and salt & pepper as desired. Drizzle over your favorite crisp greens or veggie salads. It delivers the rich, tangy flavor of buttermilk ranch or blue cheese without dairy!
8. Funk Up Soups & Stews
To add more interesting depth and nutrition to almost any soup, stew or chowder, sprinkle in some nutritional yeast! It works well in vegetable medleys, minestrone blends, lentil soups, split pea purees and more. Just add about a tablespoon per serving, then adjust to preference. Nutritional yeast intensifies flavors of the whole dish thanks to it’s natural glutamates.
9. Make Fortified Almond Milk
Homemade almond milks provide a blank slate to create your own fortified, flavored beverages! Simply cover 1 cup raw almonds with water overnight, then drain and blend smooth with 2 cups fresh water. Strain well through a nut milk bag, then stir a few tablespoons nutritional yeast into the milk before storing chilled. Shake or stir well before drinking to distribute the nooch evenly.
10. Bake with Nutritional Yeast
You don’t have to limit nooch to savory dishes! Adding just 1-2 tablespoons per baked good recipe infuses cakes, muffins, breads etc with extra nutrients, moisture and tender crumb texture thanks to the B vitamins. It works great anywhere you’d usually add cheese like pizza dough, soft pretzels, savory scones or biscuits too. Have fun with the flavor!
As you can see, options for eating more nutritional yeast are endless! Start with just a teaspoon at a time, then increase amounts to suit your preferences. Let your creativity guide you to discover all kinds of tasty ways to add this super healthy supplement into your routine.
Common Questions about Nutritional Yeast
If you’re new to “nooch” and aren’t quite sure what the hype over nutritional yeast is all about, you likely have some questions. Here we cover some of the most frequently asked questions to help you better understand nutritional yeast benefits and uses:
Is nutritional yeast the same as brewer’s yeast?
No, actually nutitional yeast and brewer’s yeast come from different manufacturing processes so they have distinct uses and benefits.
Brewer’s yeast refers to the yeast sediment left from brewing beer. It’s a byproduct of the fermentation process rather than an intentionally created health supplement. Although it does contain B-vitamins and protein like nutritional yeast, the amounts are smaller and the taste is quite bitter.
So brewer’s yeast works well as a supplement or nutrient-booster when cooking. But unlike the dried flakes of nutritional yeast, brewer’s yeast cannot mimic cheesy flavors. Nutritional yeast works better for adding a cheese-like flavor to dishes due it’s natural savory taste.
What does nutritional yeast taste like?
The flavor of nutritional yeast is like a savory combination of cheese and nuts. It has an umami, rich and slightly salty flavor profile the resembles parmesan cheese but with more nutty, buttery notes.
Nutritional yeast also contains natural glutamates that intensify overall flavors of recipes. When sprinkled onto foods, it creates a very aromatic, mouthwatering sensation you’re likely to crave more of with every bite!
Should nutritional yeast be refrigerated after opening?
Yes, nutritional yeast ultimately lasts longer when sealed in an airtight container stored in a cool, dark space like the pantry. But once exposed to air, humidity and fluctuating temperatures from daily use, it begins to degrade faster.
So refrigeration after opening prolongs nutritional yeast’s potency and prevents spoilage once the package or container loses it’s airtight seal. It remains fresh refrigerated for 6 months up to a year before losing flavor or vitamins. Tightly sealed, unopened nutritional yeast can last up to 2 years stored in a dark, room temperature cupboard instead of the fridge.
Can dogs or pets eat nutritional yeast too?
Yes! Just like humans benefit from nutritional yeast, small amounts make a healthy supplement for dogs and cats too. Animal nutrition experts and veterinarians approve of sprinkling a teaspoon onto your pet’s food daily.
Nutritional yeast serves pets well because it:
- Boosts immune health
- Supports healthy digestion
- Deters fleas & insects
- Improves coat luster
- Provides B-vitamins dogs can’t synthesize
The B-vitamins in particular help dogs convert nutrients efficiently, maintain vigor, regulate appetite and avoid anxiety. The antioxidants support cognition in aging pets as well.
Just introduce nutritional yeast slowly and monitor stool consistency when giving it to dogs regularly. Too much too fast may cause loose stools. But once their digestion adjusts, they can enjoy all the same benefits as humans on a smaller scale!
Does nutritional yeast cause candida overgrowth?
Most experts agree nutritional yeast does NOT worsen candida infections or cause yeast overgrowth issues, as it’s completely inactive. Nutritional yeast only provides beneficial nutrition meant to support good health, including immunity against candida overgrowths.
Of course, anyone currently struggling with systemic yeast infections or overabundance of yeast should consult their doctor first before adding nutritional yeasts or other supplements to their diet.
But for most people, nutritional yeast offers only positive benefits thanks to it’s probiotic support, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Consuming it regularly can help PREVENT candida overgrowth instead of exacerbate it.
Can nutritional yeast go bad or make you sick?
Yes, there is always a small risk of nutritional yeast spoilage leading to foodborne illness. Although uncommon, nutritional yeast can grow mold or bacteria over time with improper storage. Consuming spoiled nutritional yeast then introduces potentially harmful microbes into the digestive tract which can cause symptoms like nausea, vomiting or diarrhea.
To avoid getting sick, inspect nutritional yeast before eating and discard ANY that smells bitter/unpleasant, clumps together, changes color or looks excessively dusty. Always store nutritional yeast in an airtight container in a cool, dark place like the fridge or pantry too.
When unspoiled and consumed in normal quantities, nutritional yeast provides only beneficial nutrition for overall wellness support!
Pros and Cons of Using Nutritional Yeast
|Excellent source of B vitamins, especially vitamin B12
|Possible allergic reaction in those sensitive to yeast
|Contains complete, high-quality vegan protein
|Adds glutamate, problematic for those avoiding it
|Provides probiotic support for healthy digestion and immunity
|Can cause temporary GI upset if consumed in excess
|Delicious umami, nutty, cheesy flavor
|Contains vitamin B12 that may skew blood test results
|Naturally gluten-free and vegan
|Less nutrient-dense compared to whole foods
|Easy to add to recipes for nutrition boost
|Higher sodium content may be an issue for some
|Aids healthy skin, adrenals, blood sugar regulation
|Risk of contamination if poor quality control
|Supports energy, metabolism and weight management
|Low calorie but keeps you feeling full
|Helps fight effects of stress and anxiety
|Extends shelf life of baked goods
From it’s stellar nutrition content to it’s cheese-like umami flavor, it’s no wonder nutritional yeast secured status as a hugely popular superfood supplement! Taking just minutes to add to recipes rewards you with mega doses of essential vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and proteins for better energy, immunity, skin, digestion, mental health and beyond.
Sprinkle this nutrition powerhouse lavishly onto popcorn, soups, pastas, salads dressings and more to unlock it’s many health perks! Just a tablespoon or two per day is ample for most people to enjoy the beauty benefits, digestion support, antioxidant protection and other upsides linked to this gluten-free superstar.
So embrace the cheesy, nutty, irresistible goodness of fortified nutritional yeast flakes whenever you eat plant-based! Your body will thank you.