Nutritional yeast is not only delicious; it is also beneficial. Instead of needing to take huge pills or eating foods that don’t taste good to supplement your healthy lifestyle, the health benefits of nutritional yeast are easy to access.
To help you learn more about this fantastic product, the trusted experts at Healthy Directions offer up a primer on all things nutritional yeast. You might be surprised at how powerful and versatile this often forgotten supplement can be.
What Is Nutritional Yeast?
Nutritional yeast, or “nooch” as many aficionados call it, is an inactivated form of yeast. Specifically, this yeast is known scientifically as Saccharomyces cerevisiae, and it is commonly used in baking and brewing.
It is not only full of many of the nutrients that are often missing from most people’s diets, but it is also a vegan product. In addition, nutritional yeast is also gluten-, soy-, and sugar-free, which is often a significant consideration for people.
Nutritional yeast is yellow in color and has a savory, umami flavor that many people describe as having a “cheesy” or “nutty” taste similar to parmesan cheese. You can sprinkle it on your favorite pasta recipe, soups, popcorn, kale chips, or mashed potatoes, or incorporate it into the ingredients of a dish like a plant-based cheese sauce or macaroni and cheese.
Nutritional yeast can also help to thicken dressings and sauces, similar to cornstarch but with a unique flavor and dietary boost.
As delicious as nutritional yeast is, its real power is its nutritional benefits, and it contains plenty of B vitamins, meaning it may be beneficial for those with a vitamin B12 deficiency.
Two tablespoons of nutritional yeast flakes or powder usually contains about 40 calories. There are 0 grams of fat, between 5 - 8 grams of protein, and 2 - 5 grams of fiber in that serving. However, nutritional yeast is not carb-free, and it does contain sodium.
In addition, the benefits of nutritional yeast involve a significant amount of vitamins and minerals. It also contains all nine essential amino acids, making it a “complete protein.”
Here is a quick list of nutrients in nutritional yeast:
- ~10 mg thiamine (vitamin B1)
- ~10 mg riboflavin (vitamin B2)
- Niacin, or vitamin B3
- ~1 mg pantothenic acid (vitamin B5)
- ~10 mg vitamin B6
- ~240 mcg folate (vitamin B9)
- ~8 mg vitamin B12
- ~3 mg zinc
- ~24 mg magnesium
- ~Trace amounts of copper, iron, and manganese
Be aware that the nutritional content of nutritional yeast has been “fortified,” so keep an eye on the label to verify that you are actually getting what you think you are. Each of the above vitamins and minerals plays an important but unique role in the body’s overall health and functionality.
Nutritional Yeast Contains Fiber
As we briefly touched on, a single serving of nutritional yeast can contain between 2 and 5 grams of fiber.
For many people, this is 20% of their Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA). Considering that most Americans do not reach their RDA daily, having a product that can provide that large amount is impressive.
Nutritional yeast is also a source of beta-glucan, a type of soluble dietary fiber that has also been linked to immune system function. Your immune system is critical to helping you stay healthy and fight off or limit the impact infections can have on the body. Supporting it with antioxidants, beta-glucan, and other supplements is one of the best things you can do for yourself.
Protein Is Crucial
Having a reliable protein source, whether animal-based or plant-based, is critical for keeping your body functioning optimally through nutrition. Without protein, the body cannot build, heal, and maintain itself, leading to slower metabolism, poor concentration, and weakness.
Another of the impressive benefits of nutritional yeast is its high protein content. Not many foods, and an even smaller amount of supplements, can claim to pack 5 to 8 grams of protein into such a small amount.
When you pair nutritional yeast with other protein-heavy foods, you can much easier reach the recommended 0.36 grams per pound per day you need.
Why B12 Is Specifically Important
Nutritional yeast’s ability to provide the body with B12 is one of the most crucial benefits. Vitamin B12 is an essential vitamin, as it aids in the production of red blood cells, so we need to ingest it through supplementation or diet.
This is an easier task for those who eat animal products, as it occurs in large amounts in meat, poultry, fish, eggs, and dairy. For those who follow a plant-based diet, it requires a more focused effort.
The Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) for B12 in the adult diet is 2.4mcg (micrograms). People who are unable to achieve that RDA will likely notice weakness and memory loss. If the deficiency persists for an extended time, it can lead to even more severe complications like neurological issues.
Are There Any Downsides to Nutritional Yeast?
While there are many benefits of nutritional yeast, there are also a few downsides to be aware of before starting.
The most frequent complaint people have with nutritional yeast is gastrointestinal distress. This often results from increasing your fiber consumption too quickly, as just a two-tablespoon serving contains 20% of your daily recommended intake.
When starting, use nutritional yeast in moderation and drink plenty of water to help support your digestive process. You can also use it with a gut-supportive supplement.
Also, in some situations, nutritional yeast may interfere with certain medications. Always check with your medical provider before starting on any new supplement to verify there will be no interactions with your other drugs (over-the-counter or prescription).
The benefits of nutritional yeast extend far beyond its taste. As a reliable source of essential vitamins and minerals (including B12) as well as dietary fiber, “nooch” can have a significant impact on your diet.
If you follow a plant-based lifestyle, this impact can be even more powerful. Combining nutritional yeast into your diet with other supportive supplements provides a better path to better health.
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