What is Nutritional Yeast?
It’s usually referred to as nutritional yeast, but it’s known as savoury yeast flakes in Australia, Brufax in New Zealand and nicknamed nooch in the US.
Some say that nutritional yeast is a vegan’s dream. Others can’t stand it. It certainly has a unique taste and it seems that you will either love it or hate it and there’s no in-between.
Nutritional yeast is a deactivated yeast. It’s yellow, it’s flaky, it’s cheese-y and flavourful. But nutritional yeast is something everyone can benefit from because with just a few sprinkles, it adds stress-reducing B vitamins and cheesy-y, nutty goodness to many dishes.
So, is it Nutritious?
You bet your butt it is!
While it can vary slightly from manufacturer to manufacturer, nutritional yeast on average has 63 calories with 5 g of carbohydrates and 4 g of fiber per 20 grams (about 1.5 tablespoons). A serving also provides about 8 g of protein and is a completeprotein, providing all nine amino acids the human body cannot produce. It is also a source of selenium and potassium.
It is naturally free of dairy, soy, gluten and sugar, and contains no animal products. It’s chock full of the B-complex vitamins and these help balance the myriad systems of the body, they help convert food to energy, minimise depression, insomnia, nervousness, fatigue, trembling, loss of appetite, PMS, mood changes and irritability. B vitamins can also improve skin, nails and hair and improve memory.
Now, yeast itself cannot produce vitamin B12 as B12 is only naturally produced by bacteria. Although some species of bacteria that can produce B12 could potentially grow along with S. cerevisiae in the wild, commercially produced nutritional yeast is grown in controlled conditions that would normally not allow those bacteria to grow. Therefore, nutritional yeast should not be relied upon as a source of B12 unless it is fortified.
Luckily, just about every brand is fortified with B12 and it packs a wallop too! A well known Australia brand Lotus Savoury Yeast Flakes has 8mcg per serving (20 grams). That is 400% of your daily intake!
But don’t panic, you can’t overdose on B12. Vitamin B12 is well-tolerated, even in doses well above the recommended daily allowance. Because vitamin B12 is a water soluble vitamin, it is difficult to overdose or build up vitamin B12 toxicity. With water soluble vitamins, the body excretes excess amounts in the urine instead of storing it.
See here for a valuable B12 resource.
Nutritional Yeast Uses
Nutritional yeast enhances the flavour of soups, pastas, stews, gravies, casseroles, vegan meat dishes, and snacks. You can also sprinkle it on toast for a quick nutritious treat and make cheese sauces and cheese blocks with it!
It is especially useful in vegan dishes and the ideas are almost endless! Nutritional yeast is also a very popular in vegan mac and cheese recipes. It’s also a common ingredient in the Non-Dairy Evolution Cookbook where you can make your own incredibly simple but tasty vegan cheeses!
If you aren’t a fan of the taste of nutritional yeast, don’t worry, you can still add it to meals like stews and soups in very small amounts so it goes undetected to your tastebuds. Start with 1tsp and see how you go.