Nutritional yeast, also known as savory yeast or nooch, is an inactive yeast made from sugarcane and beet molasses. In the scientific form saccharomyces cerevisiae, or sugar-eating fungus, yeast cells use the sugar for energy.
Yellow in color, nutritional yeast comes in flakes, granules or a powder-like form and is often found as a condiment due to its savory taste and health benefits. It has a nutty, cheesy flavor and is often used to emulate cheese in vegan dishes, thicken sauces and dressings, and act as an additional boost in nutrients because it’s filled with B vitamins!
Nutritional yeast is grown from fungi, like benefit-packed mushrooms and cordyceps, but much smaller. Despite it’s name, because it’s an inactive form of yeast, it cannot be used for baking.
A perfect addition to any meal — providing nutrition while saving calories — nutritional yeast is one source of complete protein and vitamins, in particular B-complex vitamins. It contains folates, thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, selenium and zinc, making it a great superfood! It’s low in sodium and fat, gluten-free, and doesn’t contain any added sugars or preservatives.
It’s even a great source of vitamin B6 and vitamin B12 and their benefits; however, because yeast cannot produce B12, if it is listed on the label, that means it has been fortified with it.
Nutritional Yeast Facts
While it cannot replace whole food, nutritional yeast can help provide much needed vitamins, especially to vegans and vegetarians, who often have concerns about getting enough B vitamins in their diets.
It’s important to note that nutritional yeast is not the same as brewer’s yeast. Brewer’s yeast is a by-product of beer-making and used in making bread. It has a bitter taste. While in the same scientific family known as saccharomyces cerevisiae, nutritional yeast is far superior to brewer’s yeast and is much higher in B-complex vitamins than wheat germ and many other natural food products.
According to HealthResearchFunding.org, a serving of nutritional yeast can also provide nine grams of protein! It’s safe to eat as much as you want, but like anything new, start with small amounts and make sure it works well for you.
Here is the nutritional breakdown for one serving, which is ¼ cup. Keep in mind that this shows a fortified version. You can purchase nutritional yeast that has not been fortified as well. It may be a good idea to blend the two for optimal health benefits.
5 calories from fat
5 grams carbohydrates (2 percent DV)
4 grams fiber (16 percent DV)
9 grams protein
0.5 grams fat (1 percent DV)
25 milligrams sodium (1 percent DV)
790 percent DV of thiamine (vitamin B1)
570 percentDV of riboflavin (vitamin B2)
300 percent DV of vitamin B6 (pyridoxine)
230 percent DV of niacin (Vitamin B3)
290 percent DV of vitamin B12 (cobalamin)
270 percent DV of folate (vitamin B9)
20 percent DV of zinc
The B vitamin content in the fortified form ranges from 150 percent for B12 to 720 percent for riboflavin. Since our bodies can only absorb so much of any one nutrient at a time, and since you need B vitamins dispersed throughout the day to help your body convert food to energy, it is recommended that you add just a teaspoon of nutritional yeast to foods at each meal.
One teaspoon mixes easily into any food or beverage; costs only nine cents; and provides 10 calories, 3/4 gram of fiber, 1.5 grams of a complete protein, 50 percent to 100 percent of your daily value for all B vitamins plus some selenium and iron!
Nutritional Yeast Benefits
1. Preserves Immune Function
Nutritional yeast provides the compounds beta-1,3 glucan, trehalose, mannan and glutathione, which are associated with enhanced immunity, improved cholesterol levels and risk reduction of cancer.
Dr. Michael Greger tested marathon runners and endurance athletes, finding that those who had the nutritional yeast before their marathon had “better overall health, decreased confusion, fatigue, tension and anger, and increased vigor.” They also seemed to recover faster.
In an article by Dr. Alan Christianson, N.D., published in Nutrition Science News, he reports that nutritional yeast provides a significant dose of the minerals, such as iron, which is much needed, in particular, in athletes who train more than four hours per week and prevents iron deficiency. Nutritional yeast also contains selenium, which helps repair cell damage, and benefit-rich zinc, which aids in tissue repair, wound healing, and maintains our sense of taste and smell.
Fortified nutritional yeast has significantly less iron than the unfortified type, however. Elizabeth Brown, a registered dietitian and certified holistic chef specializing in weight management, sports nutrition, disease prevention and optimal health through whole foods, reports that “beta-1,3 glucan, is a type of fiber that may aid the immune system and help to lower cholesterol. Additionally, nutritional yeast is a good source of selenium and potassium.”
Thus, nutritional yeast may help lower cholesterol naturally and also naturally treat cancer due to its selenium content.
2. Holds Antiviral and Antibacterial Properties
Dr. Seymour Pomper, an expert in yeast, notes that nutritional yeast is the fourth most prescribed herbal monopreparation in Germany due to its antiviral and antibacterial properties. Only ginkgo biloba, St. John’s wort and horse chestnut are consumed at higher levels.
Pomper explains that because nutritional yeast has not been associated with the candida albicans strain related to yeast infections, it has proven to be one of the best remedies for chronic candida symptoms, a specific type of yeast infection. It has also shown profound effects on E.coli, salmonella and staphylococcus.
3. Improves Digestion
German monographs indicate nutritional yeast as a medicinal choice for diarrhea and loss of appetite, and studies showcase the digestive system benefits of nutritional yeast. The probiotics in nutritional yeast have shown positive effects on diarrheal patients, and although more research is needed, it may help cure diarrhea.
In addition, nutritional yeast is helpful for those who suffer the symptoms of lactose intolerance since it does not contain any dairy products. The Oxford Journal suggests that Saccharomyces cerevisiae expresses significant sucrase and some isomaltase activity but no lactase activity, and it has been proposed to improve malabsorption in patients with sucrase-isomaltase deficiency who intentionally or unintentionally consume sucrose.