Have you ever heard of nutritional yeast? It’s been around for a while, but it’s become increasingly popular in recent years for its uses in vegan cooking and more and more for its robust nutrition profile. There are a lot of claims on the internet about what this yellow, cheese-flavored dust can do for your health. Let’s look at these and determine how and why you should consider including nutritional yeast in your diet.
What is Nutritional Yeast?
Nutritional yeast is a type of yeast that is grown on molasses and then deactivated through a heating process. It is the same yeast as brewers’ and bakers’ yeast, only it has been deactivated, and therefore you can’t use it to make beer or bread. It is commonly used as a seasoning or condiment due to its cheesy and nutty flavor. However, nutritional yeast is more than just a delicious addition to your meals. It is also packed with nutrients and health benefits, making it a great addition to any diet.
Health Benefits of Nutritional Yeast
There are a lot of claims out there about nutritional yeast. Some of these claims are true, while others are taken a bit out of context. Nutritional yeast is a great source of plant-based protein, B vitamins, and trace minerals. Fortified nutritional yeast, where the manufacturer adds synthetic vitamins and minerals, provides much more. The nutritional breakdown of this yeast is the following for a two-teaspoon serving (1):
- Calories: 20
- Protein: 3 grams
- Fat: 0 grams
- Carbs: 2 grams
- Sugar: 0 grams
- Fiber: 4% of the Daily Value (DV)
- Riboflavin (vitamin B2): 246% of the DV
- Niacin (vitamin B3): 109% of the DV
- Vitamin B6: 212% of the DV
- Folate (vitamin B9): 59% of the DV
- Vitamin B12: 313% of the DV
- Iron: 2% of the DV
- Potassium: 2% of the DV
Now, let’s dig further into the other health claims about nutritional yeast.
Read: Myth Vs. Fact: The Benefits of Apple Cider Vinegar
Antiviral and Antibacterial Properties
Nutritional yeast contains beta-glucan and alpha-mannan, two types of polysaccharides that have been shown to have antiviral and antibacterial properties. In animal studies, they have been shown to potentially protect the body from infections. This means that consuming nutritional yeast may help boost your immune system and protect against infections. That being said, there have not been human studies on the specific impact of nutritional yeast. More studies are required. (2, 3)
Nutritional yeast is a rich fiber source, essential for maintaining good digestive health. Fiber helps to keep your digestive system running smoothly and can also help to reduce the risk of certain digestive disorders, such as constipation and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Using nutritional yeast in place of cheese or other ingredients may help you reach your daily fiber goals. (4, 5)
Promotes Healthy Hair, Skin, and Nails
Nutritional yeast is also rich in B vitamins essential for healthy hair, skin, and nails. B vitamins help to promote healthy cell growth and repair, which can help to keep your skin looking youthful and radiant. There is some evidence to suggest that it will help prevent hair loss and acne. However, that evidence is limited. (6)
Rich in Vitamin B12
Nutritional yeast is one of the few plant-based sources of vitamin B12, a nutrient that is essential for red blood cell formation and nervous system function. This makes nutritional yeast a great addition to a vegan or vegetarian diet, as these diets are often lacking in vitamin B12. (7, 8)
Nutrients in Nutritional Yeast
In addition to the health benefits listed above, nutritional yeast is also packed with other essential nutrients, including:
- Protein: Nutritional yeast is a complete protein containing all nine essential amino acids that your body needs to function properly. However, it should be noted that it most likely will not contribute much to overall protein intake since the average volume consumed isn’t high enough.
- Zinc: Zinc is an essential mineral that is important for immune system function, wound healing, cell growth and division, and skin health.
- Iron: Iron is essential for the production of red blood cells, which carry oxygen throughout your body.
- Magnesium: Deficiency in magnesium is not unheard of. Magnesium is also important for bone health, heart health, and nerve function.
How To Use Nutritional Yeast
Nutritional yeast can be used in a variety of ways to add flavor and nutrition to your meals. Here are a few ideas:
- Sprinkle it on popcorn for a cheesy, savory snack.
- Use it as a seasoning for roasted vegetables, pasta dishes, and soups.
- Mix it into scrambled eggs or tofu for a cheesy, protein-packed breakfast.
- Use it as a substitute for cheese in vegan or dairy-free recipes.
The Bottom Line
Nutritional yeast is a versatile and nutritious ingredient that can be easily incorporated into your diet. Whether you are looking to boost your immune system, improve your digestion, or promote healthy hair, skin, and nails, nutritional yeast is a great choice. So why not give it a try and see how it can benefit your health and well-being?
Keep Reading: Nutrigenomics: Can you eat can reprogram your genes?
- ” NUTRITIONAL YEAST SEASONING” FDC/USDA. December 1, 2021
- “β-Glucan Induces Protective Trained Immunity against Mycobacterium tuberculosis Infection: A Key Role for IL-1.” PubMed. Simone J C F M Moorlag, et al. May 2020.
- “Stimulatory Effect of β-glucans on Immune Cells.” NCBI. Hyung Sook Kim, et al. August 2011.
- “Bowel function Anatomy.” UMICH
- “Fiber.” Medline Plus
- “What are the benefits of nutritional yeast?” Medical News Today. Danielle Dresden. February 9, 2023.
- “Yeast Protein as an Easily Accessible Food Source.” MDPI. Monika Elżbieta Jach, et al. January 11, 2022.
- “Food Sources of 5 Important Nutrients for Vegetarians.” Eat Right. Sarah Klemm, RDN, CD, LDN. October 15, 2021.