Every so often, I find a topic that is new to me and one I have not written about over the last seven years. For whatever reason, nutritional yeast and I have not crossed paths, and having discovered this healthy stuff, I thought I would share.
Yeast has been around for a very long time. Some of the first written evidence of yeast being used in food dates back to ancient Egypt. Depending on your knowledge of yeast, you may think of negative health issues such as candida or you may be thinking brewers yeast that has been used in baking for a long time. Nutritional yeast is typically grown using sugar cane or molasses and specifically heated to an inactive state for human consumption, giving it a nutty, Parmesan cheese-like flavor.
Nutritional yeast, like all yeast, is a single celled microorganism that feeds off sugars. As nutritional yeast grows, it manufactures amino acids and vitamins through the biochemical reactions as it consumes sugar. It is also important to know that nutritional yeast, like brewers yeast, is a strain of yeast known as Saccharomyces cerevisiae and is unique to other strains of yeast, both good and bad.
OK, now you have a basic understanding of nutritional yeast, so what does that have to do with health and nutrition? Because of the strain and inactive aspects of nutritional yeast, we end up with a nutrient-dense edible product rich in vitamins, minerals and amino acids, making it high in protein. Nutritional yeast contains a diverse set of nutrients including fiber, selenium, Beta-1,3 glucans, glutathione, more than 12 minerals and a large spectrum of vitamins. These aspects make it a great immunity boost for your body.
Since nutritional yeast is so nutrient-dense with amino acids, it is a great source of B vitamins, including vitamin B12. This can be an important aspect for vegetarians and vegans who prefer to get their daily allowance of amino acids from non-animal products. Nutritional yeast provides nine essential amino acids which are typically found in animal-based protein, making it a good alternative to meat-based protein.
Using nutritional yeast as an edible source of nutrition, it is important to understand it is not a plant- or animal-based food, but rather a fungus like mushrooms. Nutritional yeast is usually grown on sugar from beets or sugar cane molasses, which means it is gluten-free unless cross-contaminated during processing or grown on grains. It is always a good idea to confirm that the manufacturing process for the brand of nutritional yeast you buy is truly gluten-free.
As for why to add nutritional yeast to your diet, it comes down to two very good reasons.
1. First, nutritional yeast is an energy-boosting food that studies have linked to boosting post-exercise recovery and immunity. Because it is a nutrient dense source of amnio acids, it helps with muscle recovery and building. Since it is all-natural and easily mixes well in water, it can be used in conjunction with electrolytes in hydration bottles during exercise or athletic events. Since nutritional yeast is high in thiamine and amino acids, it can help support your cardiovascular and endocrine systems during increased activity.
2. The second reason is that nutritional yeast is considered a medical food. In many countries around the world, nutritional yeast is one of the most highly prescribed herbal remedies for many conditions such as treatments for skin conditions, digestive problems and treating vitamin B deficiency. Nutritional yeast has proven to also have antiviral and antibacterial properties.
Because nutritional yeast has phosphorus as part of its make-up, you do not want to over-consume it. Over-consuming foods that are high in phosphorus can impact your calcium levels. Adding between 1 to 2 teaspoons over the course of a day to a salad, popcorn or vegetables is a good range to work with as far as how much you should eat.
Nutritional yeast does get a bad rap with its phosphorus levels and the fact that yes, it has glutathione so some equate this to MSG, which it is not the same compound chemically. There are also some who believe if you are struggling with Candida over-growth, nutritional yeast can add to the problem which is also not proven, nor is it an active yeast which makes it extremely unlikely.
The flavor and consistency of nutritional yeast is similar to dry flakey Parmesan cheese. Flavors and textures can vary from smoky to sharp among manufacturers. Braggs, the same people that make Apple Cider Vinegar and Bob’s Red Mill, both make a good nutritional yeast. Your best bet to find nutritional yeast is in health food or organic markets. Locally, I found it in the bulk food section of our local organic market, so it is always wise with bulk foods to ask questions about its quality, has it been fortified with additional vitamins and how it was produced.
Adding nutritional yeast to your diet has a number of benefits including as a tasty seasoning to some basic foods that gives you a healthy boost.
A recognized health and wellness presenter, fitness trainer and now primal health coach in the Inland Northwest. Now in his eighth year of bringing health and wellness through his writing, teaching and coaching, Judd delivers his well-rounded message of mindfulness, nutrition and fitness to readers and clients alike.