The truth about nutritional yeast

The truth about nutritional yeast

Health benefits

You may have heard about nutritional yeast. But do you know what it is? Do you know about its health benefits? Do you know how to use it? And what about any potential risks?

Get the whole story from the Food Revolution Network article.

 You’ll find nutritional yeast in many plant-based recipes and kitchens. It may look like flakes you would feed to a pet fish, but it’s not fish food! What is nutritional yeast? What benefits can you get from eating it? And can it be a healthy addition to your meals?

If an Oscar existed for terrible brand marketing, the person
who invented the name “nutritional yeast” would get one.

When newbies first encounter this product, they never think,
“OMG, this sounds fabulous! I’m gonna add this stuff to everything now! Can I
get it in 50-pound sacks?”

Yet you’ll probably find nutritional yeast — often
called “nooch” for short
 — in the fridge or pantry of most plant-based
eaters. I even know people who carry a jar or shaker in their purse or car.

So what is nutritional yeast? How is it made? Why
are some people fanatical about this ingredient?
 And also: Can you
overdose on it? And who should consume it, and who shouldn’t?

Wonder no more. Here’s a deep dive into the topic to bring
you everything you ever wanted to know about nutritional yeast.

What Is Nutritional Yeast?

Plant-based eaters use nutritional yeast as a
and as an ingredient to add a savory,
cheesy, nutty taste
 to a myriad of dishes.

It’s often used to make bland dishes flavorful and delicious
and to add a burst of umami to almost anything. And it adds an appealing,
yellow-orange color
 to recipes.

Nutritional yeast is also a rich source of important
vitamins and minerals, protein, and fiber.

Plus most nutritional yeasts don’t contain any
animal-derived ingredients. This makes nooch a useful alternative
dairy cheese in
certain dishes.

How Is It Made?

Nutritional yeast is the same species of yeast (Saccharomyces
) used to make beer, bread, or kombucha. But
it’s a different end product.

One major difference is that, for the most part, people use
baker’s and brewer’s yeast in their active form. Nutritional yeast is
inactive, so it has no leavening ability
. In other words, it won’t make
dough rise — and it won’t reproduce inside you, even if you eat it raw.

Nutritional yeast is made by growing S. cerevisiae on
a sugar-rich molasses medium. Then, it is deactivated with heat, washed,
pasteurized, dried, and crumbled.

It’s almost always fortified with nutrients, particularly
B vitamins
, before ending up on store shelves. Unfortified versions are
also available.

In the lingo of yeast professionals, nutritional
yeast is a primary-grown yeast. 
That means it’s cultivated
specifically for its nutritional value 
and not as a by-product or a
means to another recipe.

Which pretty much answers the next question.

Does Nutritional Yeast Offer Health Benefits?

Not only does nutritional yeast taste good, but it can also
be good for you!

Nooch has an unassuming appearance you might associate with
fish food. But it’s packed with several nutrients that are in short
supply in the modern Western diet

Mini-disclaimer: Though exact nutrients and their amounts
can vary between brands, most nutritional yeasts have a similar makeup. Take a
peek at the ingredient label to be sure a particular brand contains what you’re
looking for.

B Vitamins

Fortified nutritional yeast is a B vitamin

One tablespoon contains 30
to 180% of the Reference Daily Intake (RDI) for various B vitamins. Some of
these form naturally as yeast grows, and others — especially vitamins B6 and
B12 — are added through fortification.

B vitamins are involved in important bodily processes, such as
metabolism, energy production, DNA synthesis, brain function, hormone
regulation, and making blood cells.

People who eat a plant-based diet might be looking to
nutritional yeast as a source of vitamin B12.Though fortified
versions will contain B12, it’s usually not enough to rely upon for all your
needs, so other sources are still important
. (For more about how to how to
get the B12 you need, read
this article about key supplements we recommend


Nutritional yeast is over 50% protein by weight.

In fact, it contains more protein per calorie than
any meat product out there
! In only a ¼ cup, you’ll find eight grams
of protein, three grams of fiber, very little sodium, and no sugar.

Nutritional yeast is particularly rich in lysine and
 These amino acids have received particularly good press.
Lysine may prevent cold sores. And tryptophan gets
converted into the “good mood and sleep” hormone, serotonin.


Nutritional yeast contains a
wealth of trace minerals

Some of these include zinc, selenium, magnesium, molybdenum,
phosphorus, and potassium. These are all essential for good health. They also support a strong
immune system
 and active metabolism.

Yeast is also a rich source of chromium, which your body
needs to 
regulate blood sugar. For this reason,
it can be beneficial for people with prediabetes, diabetes, or anyone concerned
about balancing their blood sugar levels.


Nutritional yeast contains potent antioxidants,
which help to prevent cell damage that can lead to many chronic diseases.

One potent antioxidant, in particular, is glutathione. It can help protect your cells
and eliminate toxins from your body

Glutathione plays an important role in cellular defense
mechanisms. Nutritional yeast contains around 2.5 mg of glutathione per gram —
which is a very concentrated amount.

Science Says Nutritional Yeast Has Other Benefits, Too

These little yellow flakes are much more than an easy way to
sprinkle vitamins and minerals into your diet.

Antibacterial and Antiviral Properties

Because of its antibacterial and antiviral properties, nutritional
yeast is the 
fourth most prescribed natural
mono-preparation in Germany. 
(It’s beaten only by Ginkgo, St. John’s
Wort, and Horse Chestnut.)

It contains certain carbohydrates — including trehalose and
beta glucans — that can fightinfection and support immune

Trehalose is a disaccharide that helps maintain the
health of brain cells
. (A disaccharide, if you’re looking to geek out on
the chemistry, is a sugar molecule consisting of two monosaccharides with a
water molecule removed. If chemistry isn’t your thing, don’t worry. You don’t
have to say “disaccharide” three times backward to eat good food!)

Beta-glucans, in particular, have been shown to
have antitumor, anti-inflammatory, anti-obesity, anti-allergic, and

A 2007 study published in Lifestyle Science focused
on pigs. It showed the ability of beta-glucan and alpha-mannan to
protect against infection by boosting immunity, fighting bacteria, and
inhibiting harmful toxins

It Can Help Lower Blood Cholesterol Levels

The beta-glucans in nutritional yeast may also help lower
blood cholesterol and triglyceride levels. 
(This is good news for your

This effect has been researched primarily in oats (another
rich source of beta-glucans), but yeast has similar effects.

The impact of yeast on cholesterol has actually been of
scientific interest for a long time. In a small 1999 study, published in
the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 15 obese men with high
blood cholesterol levels consumed 15 grams of yeast-derived beta-glucans every
day for eight weeks. They experienced an 8% reduction in their LDL (bad)
cholesterol levels by the end of the study.

Other more recent studies have found a
similar impact on the cholesterol levels of mice.

It Can Boost Immune Function

Studies show that the immune function of elite athletes is
typically impaired by strenuous exercise. This makes them more likely (in the
short run) to get sick. Nutritional yeast to the rescue! In one study, athletes
ate just ¾ teaspoon of nutritional yeast per
day experienced improved immune function

Another study focused on
marathon runners who consumed a spoonful of nutritional yeast daily.As
a result, it reduced post-race incidence of upper respiratory
It also increased the runners’ overall physical AND mental

(I’m definitely no elite athlete, but I know how worn out I
can be after a hard workout. After doing this research, I’m going to be
sprinkling on more nutritional yeast. And since I love the taste, it’s not like
I’m going to have to force myself.)

Are There Any Health Risks Associated With Eating Nutritional

Nutritional yeast offers a lot of nutrients. But is there
such a thing as getting too much nutrition from one source?

Maybe. But as long as you’re not piling every meal
high with a mountain of yellow flakes, overdosing is more than likely not a

There is a phenomenon that can occur from
eating vitamin B2, or riboflavin, in excess: neon yellowurine.

Nutritional yeast provides 160% of the Daily Value (DV) for vitamin B2
in one tablespoon. B vitamins are water soluble. That means when you eat them
in large amounts, your kidneys will excrete whatever your body doesn’t need.
This results in yellower-than-normal, vitamin B-rich urine. For some people,
the color change can be pretty dramatic.

That’s right, not only do you have to make a mental note of
when you eat beets (no, you’re not bleeding to death — you just ate beets last
night!), you also may want to keep track of any substantial nutritional yeast
consumption. That way you won’t freak out the next day by a stream that
practically glows in the dark.

Why Some People Should Probably Avoid Nutritional Yeast

You probably want to avoid nutritional yeast if you
have a yeast allergy

Similarly, if you have celiac disease or severe
gluten intolerance
, you might want to call the manufacturer and inquire
about their testing processes. Nutritional yeast is occasionally grown using a
medium that contains grains. Therefore, cross-contamination with gluten can
occur. You can also look for a certified gluten-free brand.

Additionally, individuals with Crohn’s disease
should avoid nutritional yeast
. A 1988 study foundthat, after placing Crohn’s patients on a yeast-free
diet, even reintroducing a quarter-teaspoon caused significant recurrence of
symptoms. In 1992, another study found that
Crohn’s patients with elevated yeast antibodies had higher disease activity
when given small yeast capsules.

Lastly, some nutritional yeast varieties come fortified with
folic acid, which is the synthetic form of the vitamin B9. (Folate is the
natural form.) While B9 can be beneficial, folate and folic acid function very
differently in the body. There are some good
 to avoid folic acid, especially if you have a MTHFR genetic
(which causes impaired folic acid metabolism).

Nutritional Yeast Myths

You may also run across a couple of misconceptions about
nutritional yeast if you surf too many evidence-deficient websites.

Nutritional Yeast and Candidiasis

One myth is that consuming too much of it will cause yeast
overgrowth in your body. This doesn’t happen because nutritional yeast is
inactivate, and it doesn’t contain Candida albicans.

Nutritional Yeast and MSG

Because of its natural umami flavor, nutritional yeast is sometimes thought
to contain monosodium glutamate (MSG).

MSG is an excitotoxin that can cause migraine headaches. Too
much MSG consumption can actually lead to brain damage, so it makes sense that
you wouldn’t want to eat it by the pound (or even by the microgram!).

But nutritional yeast does not contain MSG. The
glutamate in yeast that gives it an umami taste is bound to other amino acids and proteins. This means
that your body controls how much it absorbs and excretes.

How to Find and Use Nutritional Yeast

Now that you know all about this unique ingredient, what do
you do with it?

You can find nutritional yeast in a shaker
container, a bag, or from the bulk section
 at natural grocery stores.
Depending on where I shop, I’ve found it stocked with the health foods, in the
baking aisle, and even mixed in with the condiments.

To preserve its vitamins and minerals, store
nutritional yeast in a cool, dry place, like your refrigerator
. When stored
properly, nutritional yeast can last for up to two years.

A typical serving size for nutritional yeast is one to two
tablespoons. Some recipes call for ¼ to ½ cup, or even more.

Nutritional yeast offers a mildly nutty, cheesy
flavor that goes well with many hot and cold dishes

Many people use it in place of Parmesan cheese. I’ve mixed
it into soups, stews, homemade bread doughs, and salad dressings. And
I’ve even sprinkled it onto salad, pizza, and avocado toast.

It also works well in creamy, cashew-based cheese
 and as a light seasoning for air-popped popcorn. Some die-hard
fans even enjoy the savory flavor it adds to smoothies and even in desserts.

6 Great Recipes That Use Nutritional Yeast

Ultimate Vegan “Cheese” Sauce

This easy, white-bean-based sauce gets its cheesiness from
nutritional yeast. Use it as a dip, a pasta sauce, or poured over cooked

Vegan Parmesan “Cheese

Here’s a quick, four-ingredient, dairy-free alternative to
Parmesan cheese. It uses nooch, cashews, and seasoning.

Lemon Basil Pesto

You can use this pesto on sandwiches, mixed into noodle
dishes, or as a dip for crackers and raw vegetables.

Vegan Mac and “Cheese”

This recipes is packed with veggies, and it’s creamy,
“cheesy,” and irresistibly good!

AJ’s Disappearing Lasagna

Nutritional yeast is used to make the cheesy layers in this
lasagna, which is perfect for a hearty and healthy family meal.

Mushroom Fettuccine Alfredo

Nooch makes this savory Alfredo sauce possible. This recipe
makes a great alternative to the butter, cream, and cheese in traditional
alfredo recipes.

How to Choose a High-Quality Nutritional Yeast

When it comes to quality and safety, you should keep a
couple of things in mind when choosing which nutritional yeast brand is for

1) Some nutritional yeasts may use beet molasses, or
other mediums that were genetically engineered, to grow

(About 90% of the sugar beets in the United States are the result of genetic engineering.) Some
nutritional yeast brands state that they are non-GMO. Unless they are certified
organic, it is possible that these may still have, in some cases, grown on a
substrate that had GMO origins.

Many tell us that independent testing finds no presence of
any GMO protein or DNA in the yeast. And some say that it isn’t found in the substrate, either.

I’m inclined to believe them. But it’s also possible that
this is because the substrate is highly refined. And it could conceivably still
have come from source materials, like sugar beets, which were genetically

I haven’t been able to get a direct answer about this from
the manufacturers I’ve contacted, but this could be a point of concern for some
non-GMO purists. If you want to be 100% sure, you may want to go with a
certified organic option, like this nutritional yeast from Starwest Botanicals.

2) Many nutritional yeasts are fortified with synthetic

While this fortification may provide some helpful nutrients,
I am concerned especially about the use of folic acid.

If that doesn’t bother you, Bragg makes a delicious
fortified, non-GMO nutritional yeast. If you want one that’s not
fortified, Sari FoodsFoods Alive, and Dr. Joel Fuhrman all make non-GMO options that are
free of added vitamins.

Nutritional Yeast for the Win

I think of nutritional yeast as the hush-hush
culinary secret of plant-based eaters

Not only does it offer an abundance of vital nutrients, but
it also boosts immunity and can help protect us from diseases. And on top of
all that, when used well, it adds some pretty fantastic flavor!

So keep a bottle in your car, purse, briefcase, or backpack,
and become a nooch-evangelist to your friends. Once they’re hooked, they’ll
understand how all those veggies you eat can be so delicious!

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Rod Stone
Publisher and Supplier of Healthy Living information and products to improve
your life.

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