Your Guide to Nutritional Yeast

A Guide to Nutritional Yeast

You may think “nutritional yeast” sounds like something out of a sci-fi movie, but it’s a vegan food that’s loved by vegetarians and meat-eaters alike. Nutritional yeast, also known as Nooch, has made its way into many recipes because it adds a cheesy, savory flavor to dishes. 

Nutritional yeast is a fantastic source of vitamins and minerals, and it contains all nine essential amino acids, making it a complete protein like those found in animal products. Nutritional yeast’s numerous health benefits are especially vital if you follow a vegan eating plan. Since it contains nutrients that are challenging to get from other vegan-friendly foods, it’s a popular staple for plant-based eaters. 

What is Nutritional Yeast Exactly?

Yeast is a fungus, and it’s everywhere. It’s part of the healthy bacteria in your gut, and it helps you absorb vitamins and minerals, and it boosts your immune system.

Yeast is in beer, bread, Kombucha, fermented foods, kefir, yogurt, and a whole host of other healthy foods. Nutritional yeast is the yeast species S. cerevisiae, and it’s cultivated for its nutty characteristics and umami flavor.

nutritional yeast nutrition facts

Growers propagate nutritional yeast for a few days in a nutrient-dense growing medium. The yeast is then deactivated with heat, so it’s no longer living, washed, dried, and crumbled to create various products. You can find nutritional yeast sold as flakes, granules, or powder, which you can add to any food. 

You can buy nutritional yeast in two forms; fortified and unfortified. Fortified nutritional yeast is the most common and is found in most grocery stores’ “health food” section. Fortification means extra vitamins are added during production to increase the nutrient content of the yeast. Unfortified nutritional yeast contains the naturally occurring vitamins and minerals the yeast creates as it grows. 

Nutrients Found in Nutritional Yeast

The nutrient content of nutritional yeast varies according to the manufacturer. Still, a typical serving (about two tablespoons or 30ml) contains around 60 calories, nine grams of protein, five grams of carbohydrate, and four grams of fiber.  

Nutritional yeast’s protein is a complete protein, meaning it contains all nine essential amino acids that your body must obtain from food. Nutritional yeast is also rich in many vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Fortified nutritional yeast contains iron, B vitamins, zinc, selenium, manganese, and other trace minerals that support your health. Both fortified and unfortified nutritional yeast contains the antioxidants glutathione and selenomethionine; these prevent oxidative stress to protect your body from many chronic diseases. 

If you follow a strictly vegan eating pattern, fortified nutritional yeast may be especially beneficial for you because it supplies vitamin B12, a nutrient mostly found in animal products. While yeast alone doesn’t contain this crucial vitamin, certain beneficial bacteria can produce B12. Food manufacturers add this bacteria-grown vitamin to the fortified nutritional yeast to help vegans and vegetarians meet their daily needs.

Just as crucial as the nutrients it contains are the ingredients you won’t find in nutritional yeast! Nutritional yeast is gluten-free, sugar-free, fat-free, and naturally low in sodium. 

Health Benefits of Nutritional Yeast

There are many reasons to try nutritional yeast! The following benefits are associated with the excellent nutrients found in this delicious food. 

Stabilizes Blood Sugar: The fiber and protein in nutritional yeast can help stabilize your blood sugar after a meal and prevent blood sugar spikes. When you keep your blood sugar in check, it can help you manage cravings and prevent chronic disease. 

Healthier Cholesterol levels: Beta-glucan, a type of soluble fiber found in nutritional yeast,  is studied for its role in lowering cholesterol levels. And, eating beta-glucan from nutritional yeast and other sources may help keep your cardiovascular system healthy. 

nutritional yeast vitamins

Vitamin B12 Deficiency: Vitamin B12 helps promote the health of your DNA and red blood cells. Typically, B12 is mostly found in animal products, making it challenging to get if you’re vegan. If you eat fortified nutritional yeast, it can help you get more of this vital nutrient and prevent a deficiency.

Boost Immunity: In animal studies, yeast helped boost immunity. It keeps harmful bacteria from attaching to the walls of your intestines, stimulates your immune cells, and binds to toxins to make them less dangerous. 

Healthy Brain Function: The B vitamins found in Nutritional Yeast may keep your mind sharp! B vitamins play a crucial role in energy production and optimal brain function. Nutritional yeast provides many B vitamins that can help you reach your daily needs. 

It Tastes Great 

Nutritional yeast has a unique, nutty, cheesy flavor. It’s a versatile food you can use to make food more flavorful and nutritious. If you haven’t tried nutritional yeast, you may want to start with the following serving suggestions:

  • Top popcorn: nutritional yeast is delicious sprinkled on top of popcorn! Mix in a bit of coconut oil, salt, and a few tablespoons of nutritional yeast into air-popped corn for a tasty and filling snack! 
  • Cashew cream sauce: A delicious, vegan staple you can add to pasta or other dishes in place of a cheese sauce.  
  • Add it to broccoli or cauliflower soup: Nutritional yeast will add a cheesy flavor to your soup, and it will help thicken your soup and make the texture richer. 
  • Tossed with roasted vegetables: Potatoes, sweet potatoes, or winter squash pair deliciously with the rich nutty flavor of nutritional yeast. Roast your vegetables, then add the nutritional yeast while your veggies are still hot and toss to coat.   
  • Add to eggs or tofu scrambles The cheesy flavor pairs perfectly with savory eggs and omelets. If you’re vegan, you can add it to silken tofu in place of eggs. 

Best Storage Practices

Store nutritional yeast in a cool, dark place with a tightly sealed lid to keep moisture and oxygen from destroying nutritional yeast vitamins. The shelf life of nutritional yeast is about two years if you store it properly, but you should always consult the “best-by” date.  

Possible Risks or Side-Effects of Eating Nutritional Yeast

If you suffer from the following conditions, you may want to avoid or limit nutritional yeast.

  • If you have a yeast allergy, you should avoid nutritional yeast completely. 
  • If you have a hard time metabolizing folic acid (the synthetic form of vitamin B9), try unfortified nutritional yeast instead. 
  • If you suffer from migraines triggered by the amino acid tyrosine, don’t eat large nutritional yeast quantities.
  • If you have irritable bowel disease (IBD) or a sensitive digestive tract, the fiber in nutritional yeast might cause digestive upset. So, eat smaller quantities. 

Otherwise, you should be able to enjoy several tablespoons of nutritional yeast per day without complications. If you eat large amounts, you could get bloated or have digestive discomfort because of nutritional yeast’s high fiber content.

It would be difficult to exceed the upper intake (UI) level for vitamins found in nutritional yeast, but always check the product label to make sure you don’t overdo it and suffer any ill effects from the high vitamin content. 

Nutritional Yeast for Good Health

Nutritional yeast is chock-full of nutrients that promote good health. It’s packed with fiber and protein to help you manage cravings, maintain a healthy weight, and feel full and satisfied all day long. The high vitamin and mineral content add extra nutrients to your meals and prevent deficiencies. 

If you are curious about this flavorful food, give it a try! It’s a versatile addition to your pantry, and it’s delicious and healthy. If you have tried nutritional yeast and have a favorite way to eat it, let us know in the comments!

Author's bio

Hayley Harris, RD

Hayley Harris, RD

Hayley is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist, recipe developer, and nutrition coach. She writes killer nutrition content for websites including Recover Zone and KetoVale, and Whole Foods, Catalina Crunch, and Colours of Nature have featured her recipes. During her studies for a Bachelor of ...