For years, nutritional yeast has been making waves in the vegan and vegetarian communities for its pleasant, nutty flavor, incredible versatility, and wide array of nutrients. This superfood ingredient contains high-quality protein, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, truly doing the most to help your body thrive. Have you tried nutritional yeast yet?
So what is nutritional yeast? Nutritional yeast is a high-quality yeast derived from the same yeast used in baked goods, but it has been deactivated and pasteurized. The drying process acts to break it down into small golden flakes, perfect for sprinkling on foods. Nutritional yeast can be grown on various food sources, such as molasses. But it can also be produced on petrochemical substrates – so be sure your source of nutritional yeast is grown on natural materials. Fortified nutritional yeast contains added vitamins to boost the nutrient content of the finished yeast, while unfortified yeast contains only the vitamins and minerals that are actively produced by the yeast as it grows.
The resulting flakes or ground yeast is massively nutritious, containing delicious protein, B vitamins, and many trace minerals. Better yet, nutritional yeast is a complete protein, containing all nine of the essential amino acids that must be obtained from food. This makes nutritional yeast a high-quality protein additive, especially for vegans and vegetarians, and even meat-eaters, to boost the overall protein content of meals. While the exact amounts of vitamins and minerals may differ depending on the brand, nutritional yeast can contain up to 30% of the recommended daily intake of B vitamins and trace minerals.
Vitamin B12 can be especially difficult for vegans and vegetarians to obtain, since it is mostly found in animal products. Critical for a healthy nervous system, DNA production, creation of red blood cells, and energy metabolism, vitamin B12 is incredibly important in the body. Nutritional yeast is a delicious way to restore healthy B12 levels in deficient people.1
But... how do you eat it?
It turns out, nutritional yeast is easier to add to your diet than you might think. You can add it to nuts or seeds to add savory flavor, mix it into a vegetable risotto, or create a “cheese” sauce to drizzle over main dishes that is both healthy and vegan. This pantry staple can also be stirred into creamy soups to add a nutrient boost or added to a tofu scramble for a nutty taste. Nutritional yeast is just as versatile as it is healthy!
- Donaldson MS. Metabolic vitamin B12 status on a mostly raw vegan diet with follow-up using tablets, nutritional yeast, or probiotic supplements. Ann Nutr Metab. 2000;44(5-6):229‐234. doi:10.1159/000046689