Benefits Of Nutritional Yeast

Written by Varsha Patnaik , MSc (Biotechnology), Certified Diet & Nutrition Coach

When you hear the word yeast, the first thing that comes to your mind is this tiny white-ish brown powder-like substance that you use to bake. It makes your cakes nice and fluffy, helps your bread rise, and gives it that nice soft texture. But, can you use it as a dietary supplement? Nutritional yeast is the answer to this question!  What is nutritional yeast? Read more to find out.

What Is Nutritional Yeast?

Nutritional yeast, unlike regular yeast, is a deactivated form of yeast that is edible and is known to have a cheese-like flavor. It belongs to the Saccharomyces cerevisiae family, has a yellow-vermillion-like color and a flaky or powdered texture. Although it belongs to the same family as regular yeast, adding nutritional yeast to your bread and cakes won’t help them rise as it is deactivated yeast.

Most people often get confused between baker’s yeast, nutritional yeast, and brewer’s yeast. The next section should help clear these doubts.

  • Nutritional Yeast

This variety of yeast is specifically grown for being consumed as a food product. The yeast cells that are responsible for fermentation are killed during the manufacturing process.

  • Baker’s Yeast

This is an active form of yeast that is easily available in most general stores. The baker’s yeast is used to bake all sorts of cakes and delicacies. The yeast cells die during the cooking process and help in the fermentation of the batter that it is being used in.

  • Brewer’s Yeast

Similar to baker’s yeast, this yeast is also an active form of yeast and is used in brewing beers. The brewer’s yeast is a very select strain that comes from the baker’s yeast. This particular strain of yeast is known to have a bitter taste and transfers some of its bitterness to the beer that is being brewed or the alcohol that is being distilled. The brewer’s yeast in addition to using the Saccharomyces cerevisiae variety of yeast also uses a second variety called Saccharomyces carlsbergenis. This is used in brewing many popular beers (1).

Now that you know what nutritional yeast is and how different it is from baker’s yeast and brewer’s yeast, let us look at how you can use it.

How To Use Nutritional Yeast

Nutritional yeast is a food-grade product and is developed specifically for human consumption. Among people who follow a vegetarian or vegan diet, it is widely used as a dietary supplement due to its richness in vitamin B complex. This is essential for promoting the good health of your heart, liver, eyes, hair, and also helps in memory retention. It also helps in improving your digestive system by smoothening the muscles that line it (2).

Nutritional yeast is generally available in powder form or as flakes and can be taken in the following ways:

  • Enjoy it with your popcorn by sprinkling it on top as a healthy and vegan substitute for cheese & butter.
  • Use it in your favorite risotto instead of Parmesan cheese and give it a healthy twist.
  • Add it to your favorite soup as a thickener (if you are into thick and creamy soups) or as a flavor enhancer.
  • Add it when you are roasting your favorite nuts at home to give them a nice flavor.
  • You can also use this as a stuffing for some of your favorite dishes like turkey and stuffed mushrooms. You can also replace breadcrumbs with nutritional yeast.

Now you know what nutritional yeast is all about and how you can get the best of it in your dishes. Looking at the meal ideas, you might be wondering what a spoon full of it would taste like. If so, read on to find out in the next section.

What Does Nutritional Yeast Taste Like?

Nutritional yeast in both powdered and flaky form has a cheese-like flavor that makes it an excellent substitute for cheese when it comes to seasoning. To those of you with a more refined palate, it may taste nutty with earthy notes. Now let us understand the health benefits of this tasty ingredient.

Health Benefits Of Nutritional Yeast

Nutritional yeast is a great source of vitamin B and B complex. These vitamins are vital in maintaining many bodily functions and are known to improve the health of your hair, skin, nails, and overall memory function (2). It is also a rich source of dietary fiber and proteins (3).

Nutritional Values Per 100g (3)

NameValueUnits
Energy378kcal
Protein55.6g
Total Fat0g
Dietary Fiber33.33g
Carbohydrates22.2g
Total Sugar0g
Calcium56mg
Iron11.11mg
Potassium2100mg
Sodium278mg
Thiamin78mg
Riboflavin82.356mg
Niacin437.778mg
Vitamin B-684.667µg
Vitamin B-12375.33µg
Cholesterol0mg
  • May Help Prevent Vitamin B-12 Deficiency In Vegans

Nutritional yeast is a rich source of vitamin B12, consuming it may help in preventing vitamin B12 deficiency. For people who are following a strict vegan diet, there are chances of vitamin B12 deficiency. This is because vitamin B12 is mostly found in meats. A study analyzed the dietary habits of 49 women who were on a vegan diet for 23-24 months. Out of the 49 women, only 6 women who had included nutritional yeast in their diet had a higher level of vitamin B12 concentration in their system in comparison to the others (4).

  • Energy Booster

Nutritional yeast is a rich source of vitamin B12 that helps in the production and release of energy in the body (5). However, not all manufacturers fortify nutritional yeast with vitamin B12. So, it is essential to read the label and ingredient list before purchasing it.

  • May Improve Immunity And Digestive Health

Nutritional yeast is also known to improve your digestive system and digestive health due to its probiotic properties. It also has immunomodulatory effects, improves the bioavailability of minerals, and reduces bacteria in the gut lining.  (6).

  • May Help In Reducing Cholesterol

Nutritional yeast is known to contain a nutrient called beta-glucan that may help in reducing LDL cholesterol in your body. Studies have shown that consuming food that is rich in beta-glucan may help lower LDL cholesterol and reduce the chance of cardiovascular diseases (7).

However, there is no conclusive evidence to suggest that nutritional yeast is the best source of beta-glucan and that consuming it may reduce cardiovascular issues.

Having learned the health benefits of nutritional yeast, let us look at some easy-to-make recipes that use nutritional yeast.

Popular Nutritional Yeast Recipes

Are you a fan of pasta and have recently turned vegan? Well, here is a quick and easy vegan pasta recipe that uses nutritional yeast.

Nutritional Yeast Creamy Garlic Pasta

This pasta recipe is sure to leave you licking the bowl!

Ingredients

  • 1 cup pasta of your choice
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon flour (optional)
  • ⅔ cup soy milk
  • ¼ cup nutritional yeast
  • ½ teaspoon mustard
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • salt to taste
  • oregano and chili flakes for seasoning

Preparation

  1. Cook the pasta according to instructions on the pack.
  2. In a pan or pot, heat olive oil on low flame and add flour to make a paste.
  3. Slowly add the soy milk and keep stirring until it becomes thickened.
  4. Continue to stir and add the nutritional yeast, garlic, mustard, and salt. Cook for 2-3 minutes.
  5. Add the boiled pasta and mix well. Add seasoning and top it with salt if required.
  6. Serve in a bowl and enjoy warm!

If pasta isn’t your thing and you’re in the mood for a quick and inexpensive snack, this next recipe should do the trick.

Nutritional Yeast Popcorn

Add a healthy vegan twist to your favorite snack.

Ingredients

  • 150 grams of popcorn kernels of your choice
  • 2 tablespoons of coconut or vegetable oil
  • 3-4 tablespoons of nutritional yeast
  • salt according to taste

Preparation

  1. In a large saucepan or stockpot heat up the oil over medium flame. Make sure that the whole base is coated.
  2. Add 1-2 kernels to check if the oil is hot. If the kernels pop it means the oil is hot.
  3. Once the oil is hot, add the popcorn kernels and spread them evenly.
  4. Keep an eye on the kernels and keep shaking them every 10-15 seconds.
  5. Once the popping slows, remove the popcorn and add it to a large container with a lid.
  6. Now add nutritional yeast and salt. Close the lid and give it a good shake.
  7. Transfer the popcorn to a bowl and enjoy!

You can whip up a culinary delight with nutritional yeast or use it in simple everyday cooking. However, is nutritional yeast completely safe for you to eat? Let’s look at some of the drawbacks of nutritional yeast.

Potential Risks Of Nutritional Yeast

Nutritional yeast, while being an excellent addition to your diet, may also have a few side effects and risks. Let us understand what these risks are all about.

  • May Cause Digestive Discomfort

Nutritional yeast is rich in dietary fiber and hence, it is good for your digestive system. However, when you consume too much fiber, it may cause you some discomfort, cramps, diarrhea, and even IBS (8).

  • May Trigger Headaches And Migraines

Nutritional yeast contains a compound called tyramine. In some people, tyramine ingestion may cause headaches and migraines. That’s because it targets the central nervous system to release several hormones that increase blood pressure. This sudden increase in blood pressure may lead to headaches and migraines (9).

  • Could Cause Facial Flushing

Niacin, also known as vitamin B3, is a compound that is present in nutritional yeast. This is responsible for regulating many processes in your body such as metabolism and releasing essential enzymes. However, excess ingestion of Niacin can cause facial flushing (10). Facial flushing is when you feel the skin on your face becoming warm and visibly red in color. In some cases, you may notice blotches on your face. You may also feel itching and a burning sensation on your skin as a result of facial flushing. Generally, facial flushing is nothing to worry about and settles in 1-2 hours.

Niacin is available only in small amounts in nutritional yeast and consuming a few spoonfuls won’t cause facial flushing. It occurs only when you ingest too large a dose.

In conclusion, nutritional yeast is a deactivated form of yeast that has been specifically cultivated for consumption. It is often confused with baker’s yeast as baker’s yeast and nutritional yeast are used interchangeably. Nutritional yeast, unlike other yeasts, cannot be used in doughs and batters for fermentation. However, it can be used as a dietary supplement in vegan and vegetarian diets. It can also be used as a flavoring agent, and there are many fun ways of incorporating it into your diet.

Expert’s Answers For Readers’ Questions

Why is nutritional yeast not good for you?

Nutritional yeast in general is good for you. In some cases, it may cause digestive discomfort, headaches, and facial flushing (8), (9), (10).

What is nutritional yeast good for?

It is good for a lot of things such as being a substitute for salt and cheese in flavoring popcorn or vitamin B12 deficiency in vegans (4).

What is nutritional yeast made from?

It is made from a species of yeast called Saccharomyces cerevisiae.

What is the difference between nutritional yeast and regular yeast?

Regular yeast is active and alive and helps in the fermentation of dough and batters whereas nutritional yeast is inactive and does not help in fermentation.

How do you eat nutritional yeast?

You can eat nutritional yeast as is, or add it to your soups, and popcorn as a flavoring agent.

Sources

Articles on StyleCraze are backed by verified information from peer-reviewed and academic research papers, reputed organizations, research institutions, and medical associations to ensure accuracy and relevance. Read our editorial policy to learn more.

  1. Production of Food Grade Yeast
    https://www.researchgate.net/publication/254613445_Production_of_Food_Grade_Yeasts
  2. Dietary Supplements Based on The Yeast Biomass
    https://www.researchgate.net/publication/292400975_Dietary_supplements_based_on_the_yeast_biomass
  3. Nutritional Yeast Seasoning
    https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/623470/nutrients
  4. Metabolic Vitamin B12 Status on a Mostly Raw Vegan Diet With Follow-Up Using Tablets Nutritional Yeast or Probiotic Supplements
    https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/11146329/
  5. Vitamin B12 Among Vegetarians: Status Assessment and Supplementation
    https://www.mdpi.com/2072-6643/8/12/767/htm
  6. Vitamin B12 in Health and Disease
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/labs/pmc/articles/PMC3257642/
  7. Beneficial Effects of Probiotic and Food Borne Yeasts on Human Health
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/labs/pmc/articles/PMC3257658/
  8. The Effect of Dietary Yeast on The Activity of Stable Chronic Crohn\’s Disease
    https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/1502481/
  9. Fibre Effects on Intestinal Functions (Diarrhoea Constipation and Irritable Bowel Syndrome)
    https://www.researchgate.net/publication/244816704_Fibre_effects_on_intestinal_functions_diarrhoea_constipation_and_irritable_bowel_syndrome
  10. Tyramine Sensitivity In Dietary Migraine: A Critical Review
    https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17152742/
  11. Seeing Red: Flushing Out Instigators of Niacin-Associated Skin Toxicity
    https://www.jci.org/articles/view/44098
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