Food Focus: Nutritional Yeast


Yeast is something we have been consuming for years in many different food and beverages from bread to beer. But now all of a sudden there’s this hot new food item called “nutritional yeast” that’s got us wondering what it is and how to use it. I mean, it’s got “nutritional” in the name, so it must be healthy, right? Sure! Although its name, “nutritional yeast”, lacks some marketing appeal, it can actually add health benefits to your food beyond just texture and flavor. So hop on this nutritional bandwagon and sprinkle some “nooch”, as the avid users would say, in your favorite dishes.

Nutritional Yeast – What is it?

Much like it’s more well-known cousins, active dry yeast and brewer’s yeast, nutritional yeast also comes from the same yeast species: Saccharomyces cerevisiae. This yeast, which is grown on a variety of foods including sugar beets, molasses, whey, or grains, is allowed to ferment before being processed. Nutritional yeast differs in that its processing involves heating and drying the yeast, thus deactivating it for consumption – brewer’s and active dry yeast remain alive when used. Nooch is then flaked and packaged, producing a final product with a nutty, cheesy flavor.

What does it look like?

The outcome of processing this yeast is a golden yellow flake. It is light and airy in appearance, almost like a grated parmesan cheese.

Why use it?

Flavor: Nutritional yeast is a great way to enhance the flavor of your recipes or simply to sprinkle on top of your favorite snack. Its natural nuttiness and cheesiness brings out the savory flavor in dishes while remaining friendly for those with food intolerances or certain dietary choices.

Vitamin B: Because of its exceptionally high vitamin B content, nutritional yeast attracts food enthusiasts, vegan or not. In some cases, one serving of nutritional yeast may provide you with most, if not all, of your daily value of B vitamins. You may even find nutritional yeast with fortified B12 (of particular importance for non-meat eaters) just read the label! Why care so much about B vitamins? Well, chances are we don’t get enough of them. And according to Norm Lemoine, chemist and President of Radiant Life, “These vitamins support the metabolism of carbohydrates, fats and proteins to provide energy for the body. They are also important for maintaining a healthy nervous system, aiding with vision, and enhancing the integrity of the skin and hair.”

Protein: Yet another reason to love nooch is it acts as a good source of “complete” protein, meaning it contains all nine of the essential amino acids that our bodies don’t naturally synthesize. This is a major benefit for vegetarians and vegans who rely on plant based foods for protein, which commonly are incomplete sources of protein rather than complete. Just two tablespoons of nutritional yeast offers about 4g of protein according to the USDA nutrient database, but certain brands may have even more!

How to use nutritional yeast

In addition to being high in B vitamins and protein, nutritional yeast is extremely versatile in use as its friendly to almost all those with food allergies, intolerances, and specific dietary choices – just be sure to pay close attention to the type of food the yeast was grown on (whey, grains, etc). To use incorporating nutritional yeast into your diet, start by adding 1-2 tablespoons of nutritional yeast to soups, stews, or sauces. This will not only enhance flavor, but boost nutritional content. You can also sprinkle nutritional yeast over pizza, pasta, or popcorn in the same way you would parmesan. Using nooch doesn’t have to be complicated – so let your creative culinary juices flow! To store, seal tightly in a dark container and keep in a cool place.

Recipes using nutritional yeast
Cheesy Vegan Roasted Cauliflower
Creamy Vegan Mac n Cheese
Easy Asparagus Risotto
Cheeto Chickpeas
Vegan Queso
Creamy Cauliflower Wild Rice Soup
Nooch Popcorn

References:
1. Nutritional Yeast Rises to the Occasion by Melanie Peters – UC San Diego Health
2. Sorting Out Yeast: Nutritional and Brewer’s by Dr. Mercola – Mercola.com
3. Nutritional Yeast by Norm Lemoine – Weston A Price Foundation
4. Everything You Need to Know About Nutritional Yeast, Nature’s Cheeto Dust by Christine Chaey – Bon Appetit
5. Nutritional Yeast: The One Pantry Staple Your Cooking is Missing by Kathy Hester – Whole Foods Market

6. Nutritional Yeast – USDA Food Composition Database

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