What is Nutritional Yeast?
Nutritional yeast is a deactivated version of the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae. 1 The activated form is used to bake bread and brew beer, but the deactivated version–nutritional yeast–is less bitter and has a pleasant, savory flavor that is often used to mimic the taste of cheese in vegan recipes. It comes in flakes, powder, or granules, and may be sold in shakers, bags, or in the bulk section of your local health-food store.
Nutritional yeast is available in both fortified and unfortified varieties. Unfortified nutritional yeast does not contain any added nutrients, while the fortified version has added vitamins. Fortified nutritional yeast is the most common variety and, for the purposes of this article, is what we are referring to when we talk about nutritional yeast.
The Health Benefits of Nutritional Yeast
May Help Manage Cholesterol
The beta glucan content in nutritional yeast may help lower cholesterol. 2 Beta glucans are polysaccharides that interact with lipids and biliary salts in the bowel to reduce cholesterol levels. 3 One study found that men with high cholesterol who consumed 15 grams of yeast-derived beta glucan every day for eight weeks saw a 6% decrease in cholesterol levels. 4 If you are looking for natural ways to reduce your cholesterol, adding more nutritional yeast to your diet may be beneficial for you.
High in Vitamin B12
An adequate intake of vitamin B12 is crucial because it plays an essential role in DNA synthesis, nerve and blood-cell health, and the prevention of anemia. 5 Nutritional yeast is very high in vitamin B12–just two teaspoons gives you 313% of the daily recommended intake. 6 People following a plant-based diet often struggle to get enough vitamin B12, so nutritional yeast is highly recommended for those who do not consume animal products. 7
Packed with Antioxidants
Nutritional yeast is a good source of antioxidants. Antioxidants are compounds that help protect your body against harmful free radicals. 8 A diet rich in high-antioxidant foods may help reduce your risk of developing a number of serious conditions, including cancer, macular degeneration, and cardiovascular disease. 9 Nutritional yeast contains selenomethionine and glutathione, both of which are powerful antioxidants. 10
Ways to Use Nutritional Yeast
This is a versatile ingredient that can be used in a number of ways, so feel free to experiment and get creative. Here are a few of our favorite ways to use it.
- Add to mashed potatoes or baked potatoes to give them a deeper flavor
- Use as popcorn seasoning
- Add to your favorite soup or stew recipe to pack in extra nutrients
- Put on toast with a little olive oil for a quick, nutritious breakfast or afternoon snack
- Sprinkle it over salads, stir fries, pasta, and grain bowls
- Mix into an egg or tofu scramble for a hearty breakfast
- Add to pesto instead of parmesan for plant-based recipe that still tastes cheesy
- Sprinkle on an avocado half for an easy snack
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