October 4, 2020

how to use nutritional yeast

If you’ve ever looked into popular vegan cheese alternatives, you’ll most likely have heard of nutritional yeast. Flaky in texture and a dull yellow in colour, nutritional yeast looks a little bit like tiny parmesan shavings – and it supposedly tastes quite similar.

There’s no reason why you should only ever give nutritional yeast a try if you’re considering giving up cheese. Actually, although it has a slight cheesy whiff to it, nutritional yeast really doesn’t taste that similar to cheese. 

So rather than considering it as a cheese replacement, it’s worth adding it to your diet as a standalone ingredient. Because nutritional yeast does so much more than vaguely mimic the flavour of cheese: it’s also incredibly good for you.

So, what exactly is nutritional yeast? The name might sound a bit weirdly scientific, but nutritional yeast is a simple ingredient that’s used to give food staples like pasta, salads, oven bakes, and popcorn a cheesy tang. It’s so popular with vegans as it’s fortified with vitamin B12, and has a nutty taste that enhances the overall savouriness of a dish.

You can usually buy nutritional yeast in resealable bags, and it’s fine for storing at room temperature in a cupboard or pantry. When stored correctly, in a sealed container in a dark place, it can last for more than a year.

Nutritional yeast is made in a fairly simple step-by-step process. First, a pure parent yeast culture of a plant called saccharomyces cerevisiae is grown in a sterile environment. Eventually, the yeast is transferred to a container where it will be cultivated.

During the cultivation process, the yeast’s temperate and pH are controlled carefully in order to create optimal growing conditions. The yeast is given a combination of nutrients and air. Next, the fermented yeast liquid goes through a process that concentrates the yeast cells, creating a white yeast cream.

Finally, the cream is pasteurized, making the yeast inactive. This is the point when fortification usually occurs, such as the addition of vitamin B12, before the yeast is dried and sized into flakes, powder, or granules.

Nutritional yeast isn’t the same as standard or brewer’s yeast, which is created as a by-product in beer-making and used in making bread. Brewer’s yeast has a lower nutritional value and is activated for leavening bread and other bakery products. Nutritional yeast is usually deactivated during processing, meaning it won’t have the same effect in bread baking.

With the word “nutritional” in its name, it would be a disappointment if nutritional yeast was actually bad for your health. Luckily, it’s packed full of B vitamins, including folic acid, plus protein, iron, and potassium, all without excess sodium or saturated fat or sugar, which makes it an incredible source of nourishment.

You can add nutritional yeast to soup

How to use nutritional yeast

There’s no preparation required for cooking with nutritional yeast. It comes as it is, usually in a resealable bag or container. Exactly how you choose to use it in your savoury dishes is up to you.

As we’ve mentioned already, one of the most popular uses of nutritional yeast is as a vegan cheese substitute. You can either sprinkle a generous helping of nutritional yeast in place of cheese on your pizzas, pasta, and salads, or you can get more inventive and use it to create a vegan cheese sauce or an actual cheese-like block of vegan cheese.

A popular but complicated vegan recipe for cheddar cheese involves combining raw cashews with nutritional yeast, coconut oil, and other ingredients like lemon juice, soy sauce, tomato paste, and seasonings. If you manage to follow the recipe correctly, you’ll be able to benefit from a very realistic non-dairy wedge of cheddar cheese to use whenever the cheese cravings come on particularly strongly.

The simpler uses of nutritional yeast include stirring it into soups and using it as a natural thickener for a range of sauces. You can also sprinkle it onto popcorn or homemade vegetable crisps to add flavour. Nutritional yeast can be eaten warm or cold, and it doesn’t have a “raw” or “cooked” state, so cooking it won’t alter its flavour or texture.

Benefits of nutritional yeast

1. Improves hair, skin, and nail health

Nutritonal yeast has vitamin b that is good for hair, skin, and nails

Nutritional yeast contains a number of B vitamins, including fortified B12, all of which can benefit healthy hair, skin, and nails. Biotin in particular has been shown in studies to support healthy hair, skin, and nails, by creating the amino acids that produce a form of keratin, a protein that actually makes up our hair and nails.


An adequate supply of B vitamins also helps to slow signs of skin ageing, such as redness and skin spots. Niacin, also found in nutritional yeast, is often used to treat chronic acne and improve overall skin health. Recent research suggests it may even be beneficial at preventing some forms of skin cancer.

2. Promotes healthy pregnancy

Doctors often recommend that pregnant women supplement with B vitamins, including thiamine, riboflavin, vitamin B6, and folate – all of which nutritional yeast contains. Not only are these vitamins essential for cell metabolism, mood regulation, nerve function, and more, they’re also key to ensuring a healthy pregnancy.


Nutritional yeast contains vitamins that are to ensuring a healthy pregnancy

The folate in nutritional yeast is especially important for pregnant women. It’s been found to help reduce the risk of birth defects and promote healthy foetal growth and development. Studies have shown that women who have low levels of folate during pregnancy may experience issues with preterm delivery, low birth weight, neural tube defects, and hindered growth of their baby.

3. Encourages DNA synthesis

The majority of nutritional yeast is fortified with a healthy quantity of vitamin B12, an important water-soluble vitamin that we need for DNA synthesis, red blood cell production, and maintaining the health of our nervous system. If you’re a vegan or a vegetarian, you’re at a higher risk of B12 deficiency, as the vitamin is found largely in animal products and other fortified foods, like non-dairy milk and cereals. Getting your daily dose of nutritional yeast as a vegan will ensure your B12 levels never fall too low.


The nutritional yeast B12 content can vary from product to product, so you may need to supplement with B12 if you don’t eat meat or dairy and you don’t get enough from fortified products alone. The amount of B12 you need depends on age, but as an adult, it’s recommended that you get at least 2.4 mcg a day.

what is nutritional yeast

4. Good source of protein

Nutritional yeast is a complete protein and contains at least nine of the 18 amino acids that your body can’t produce. This makes it one of the best vegan sources of protein available. 


We need enough protein to be able to stay energized and healthy. Protein deficiency can lead to difficulty in building muscle mass, slow metabolism, mood swings, muscle pain and low energy, blood sugar changes, and impaired immunity.


When nutritional yeast is consumed alongside other high-protein foods, it can boost protein intake and ensure that you get enough protein to meet your daily requirements. The average man needs 56 grams of protein per day, while the average woman needs 46 grams.

Protein deficiency can lead to difficulty in building muscle mass
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5. Improves digestion

probiotics in nutritional yeast are thought to effectively treat diarrhea

A number of recent studies have found evidence that nutritional yeast is incredibly beneficial to the digestive system. The probiotics in nutritional yeast are thought to effectively treat diarrhea – although keep in mind that nutritional yeast is a very high source of fibre, so introducing too much of it into your diet could lead to abdominal discomfort.


Another digestive benefit of nutritional yeast relates to anyone who suffers the symptoms of lactose intolerance, as nutritional yeast is completely lactose-free. One study found that the saccharomyces cerevisiae in nutritional yeast produces no lactase activity, while still producing a cheesy flavour.

6. Antiviral and antibacterial

Nutritional yeast has proved to be one of the best remedies for chronic candida symptoms, a specific type of yeast infection, thanks to its antiviral and antibacterial properties. It has also shown profound effects on E. coli, salmonella, and staphylococcus.

Nutritional yeast is effective in treating colds and flu

Nutritional yeast has even proved to be effective in treating common colds and flu. A recent study found the beta glucan fibre content in nutritional yeast helps to maintain our body’s defense against pathogens. 


The number of recurring infections with common colds was reduced by 25% in study participants who ate about a spoonful of nutritional yeast a day, and they had fewer cold-related sleeping difficulties when they did get sick.

7. Maintains healthy immune function

Nutritional yeast contains a range of compounds, known as beta-1,3 glucan, trehalose, mannan and glutathione. They are all are associated with improved immune function. Some studies have found that these compounds could help reduce the risk of infection by blocking harmful bacteria from attaching to the lining of your intestines.


Because nutritional yeast provides a significant dose of minerals, such as iron, it is especially beneficial for athletes who train more than four hours per week, as it can help prevent iron deficiency. Nutritional yeast also contains selenium, which produces proteins that repair cell damage, and zinc, which aids in tissue repair, wound healing and helps us to maintain our sense of taste and smell.
Nutritional yeast contains selenium that aids in healing wounds

Nutritional yeast side effects

Although there’s no denying the benefits of nutritional yeast, like most superfoods, it also comes with some side effects worth being aware of.

Nutritional yeast is low in calories but packed with fibre, which means if you consume too much of it at once, you might experience some digestive discomfort. In fact, 2 tablespoons of nutritional yeast flakes provide about 5 grams of dietary fibre, which is just over 20% of your daily intake. Make sure you go easy on your portioning and increase your fibre consumption gradually.

Some sources of nutritional yeast contain an ingredient called tyramine. Although harmless to your general health, tyramine might trigger migraines in some people. Tyramine is found in most yeast-based products, as well as aged and fermented foods, and some overripe fruits. It’s thought that tyramine triggers hormones in the nervous system that increase blood pressure and cause headaches.

Although it’s rare, some people are yeast intolerant, especially people who have irritable bowel disease and Chron’s. Eating nutritional yeast might cause painful digestive systems as a result of immune response to the ingredient. Some studies suggest that nutritional yeast might even worsen the symptoms of IBD.

Conclusion

There is so much more to nutritional yeast than meets the eye. Don’t be put off by its less-than-appealing name – nutritional yeast has a savoury, cheesy flavour that makes it a healthy, enjoyable addition to snacking foods and dishes.

If you’ve never tried nutritional yeast before, you’ll be able to find it in most supermarkets and health stores. Try adding small amounts to your foods, sticking to lower doses if you’re concerned about increasing your fibre intake too quickly. You can buy nutritional yeast here

Remember that the exact nutritional content of nutritional yeast varies from product to product. You can buy nutritional yeast in both fortified and unfortified versions, but it’s always worth sticking to fortified, which are higher in protein, fibre and B vitamins.

Ultimately, no matter what form you buy your nutritional yeast in – either flake, powder or granule – it’s easy to enjoy as part of a healthy diet and can be used in a variety of simple and more complex recipes.

About the author

Rachel Perono

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