7 nutritional yeast benefits and how to use them

The benefits of nutritional yeast are plentiful. It increases energy, protects against cell damage, lowers cholesterol and more. It’s also a nutty, savory condiment that goes well in dishes like tofu scramble and enchiladas. If you’re focused on improving your diet and nutrition, or are just curious about nutritional yeast, here’s what you need to know about it and some easy recipes to discover.

What is nutritional yeast?

Nutritional yeast is a type of dehydrated, inactive yeast, especially popular in vegan and vegetarian cuisine for its nutty, umami, “cheesy” flavor. It is available in many forms, such as flakes, powders and granules, making it very versatile in culinary applications. However, unlike baker’s yeast (which is used to make bread rise) and brewer’s yeast (which is used in the fermentation of beer), nutritional yeast is inactive. You can use it neither for rising nor for brewing.

Nutritional yeast is a rich source of vitamin B12, a nutrient typically only available in animal products such as milk and eggs. Perhaps one of the most surprising health benefits of nutritional yeast is that it is also a high-protein plant food. Read on to learn more about this umami-rich seasoning and why it may be worth adding to your daily diet.

Nutritional information

Nutritional yeast contains proteins and a good dose of energy. It is a fiber-rich food with numerous other vitamins and minerals.

  • Energy – 400 kcal
  • Protein – 50 g
  • Total fat – 0 g
  • Carbohydrates – 30 g
  • Fiber – 20 g
  • Iron, Fe – 10 mg
  • Potassium – K2140 mg
  • Sodium, Na – 200 mg
  • Thiamine – 62 mg
  • Riboflavin – 63 mg
  • Niacin – 350 mg
  • Vitamin B6 – 72 mg
  • Folic acid – 2120 µg
  • Folic acid – 2080 µg
  • Vitamin B – 12150 µg

Nutritional yeast benefits

Nutritional yeast is a great source of many vitamins, minerals and other nutrients. While this food can be appreciated for its nutty, cheesy flavor, it should also be praised for its rich nutritional value. Here are the top reasons why nutritional yeast is so good for you.

1. Rich in B vitamins

“Nutritional yeast is a beneficial food for everyone, but especially for those following a plant-based diet,” says Christina Manian, RDN, registered dietitian nutritionist and sustainability expert. “This is mainly due to the B vitamins it contains, including thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, B6, folic acid and B12. These will all help with optimal energy metabolism in the body.”

In one tablespoon nutritional yeast can contain as much as:

  • 190 percent of the daily recommended thiamine (B1)
  • 70 percent of the daily recommended riboflavin (B2)
  • 105 percent of the daily recommended niacin (B3)
  • 100 percent of the daily recommended pyridoxine (B6)
  • 59 percent of the daily recommended folic acid (B9)

These trace minerals and nutrients are essential for a variety of healthy body functions, including protecting DNA, regulating metabolism, boosting immunity and improving skin glow.

“As for the benefits of nutritional yeast for skin health, the B vitamins it contains, combined with its gut microbiome benefits, lend themselves to glowing, healthy skin,” Manian adds.

2. Rich in vitamin B12

Nutritional yeast is generally a rich source of B12, a vitamin essential for energy, red blood cell production and metabolism. It is also one of the few plant sources of vitamin B12, a vitamin found mainly in animal foods such as milk, fish and eggs.

“The vitamin B12 found in nutritional yeast is particularly notable because B12 is virtually impossible to obtain elsewhere from foods on a vegan diet,” says Manian, adding that this mineral is also “super important for DNA formation and health of nerve cells.”

When B12 levels are low, you may experience more fatigue. However, if they are sufficient, you may have more natural energy and tire less quickly.

Many nutritional yeast brands add synthetic vitamins to their yeast during production. These enriched nutritional yeast products often contain more than a day’s worth of certain nutrients, such as B12. In fact, one tablespoon of some nutritional yeasts can provide more than six times your daily value of B12.

3. Vegetable proteins

This humble ingredient is a solid source of high-quality protein. Just 2 tablespoons of nutritional yeast provides 5 grams of protein (one egg contains 6 grams!). Protein provides energy and endurance, to name just a few of its essential roles in overall health.

4. Carbohydrates for lower cholesterol levels

Nutritional yeast contains two main types of carbohydrates: alpha-mannan and beta-glucan. Research shows that beta-glucan can lower cholesterol. In one study, men who consumed 15 grams of nutritional yeast every day saw their total cholesterol levels drop by six percent.

“The fiber found in nutritional yeast, especially beta-glucan, binds to cholesterol in the small intestine and helps remove it from the body, rather than being absorbed into the blood, where it could potentially contribute to heart disease in the over time,” Manian explains.

A type of beta-glucan similar to the type of beta-glucan found in nutritional yeast is also found in oats. The link between eating oats and lowering cholesterol is well established. although more research is needed to confirm whether nutritional yeast has the same protective effects as oats.

5. Antioxidants and anti-inflammatory botanicals

Every day, our cells work tirelessly to protect themselves from free radicals, molecules that can damage and ultimately destroy the healthy cells in your body. Certain antioxidants can bind with free radicals as they enter your body and destroy them, and nutritional yeast is a rich source of antioxidants.

“The zinc and plant compounds, or phytochemicals, found in nutritional yeast are natural antioxidants that reduce inflammation throughout the body and fight free radicals,” says Manian. “These benefits combine to prevent chronic diseases and even age-related annoyances such as wrinkles.”

6. Immune system support

Nutritional yeast is made from the yeast strain Saccharomyces cerevisiae. Research suggests that this yeast strain may support your immune system, reduce inflammation, and help prevent intestinal disease.

An older study from 2010 indeed showed that nutritional yeast has a probiotic effect on the intestines. This suggests that it may help prevent some gastrointestinal infections, such as E.coli And Salmonella. However, more research in humans is needed to verify these protective effects and to better understand how nutritional yeast stimulates immune cells.

7. Support for a healthy pregnancy

Folic acid, a type of B vitamin, is often added to fortified nutritional yeast products. Folic acid is critical for women, especially those of childbearing potential. This vitamin helps protect growing fetuses against birth defects, such as spina bifida.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Preventions recommends that women of childbearing age get at least 400 micrograms of the vitamin every day. Most nutritional yeast products provide more than a daily value. Tell your doctor if you are taking nutritional yeast as a folic acid supplement.

And even if you’re not pregnant (or don’t plan to become pregnant), folate and folic acid still play an important role in many vital body functions, including cell production and gene repair.

Is nutritional yeast safe for everyone to eat?

Although nutritional yeast is generally considered safe and healthy, it may not be suitable for everyone. In fact, researchers recommend that people with glaucoma, high blood pressure, or irritable bowel disease (IBD) avoid nutritional yeast. Likewise, people who are allergic or sensitive to yeast should avoid this nutty, savory seasoning, and anyone who is frequently diagnosed with a yeast infection should avoid it as well.

In short

Nutritional yeast is a nutty, savory, cheesy ingredient that gets a lot of praise for its unmistakable flavor and many health benefits. For vegans and vegetarians, this highly nutritious food is almost irreplaceable in the daily diet. For people who love its rich, umami flavors, the fact that it comes with so many wonderful benefits is a bonus. If you want to give it a try, look for Bragg’s; it is the OG brand of nutritional yeast and the most widely available.

Easy recipes with nutritional yeast

Nutritional yeast can be found in a lot of recipes, thanks to its versatility. Nutritional yeast boosts the flavor and nutrition of some crowd favorites, from savory snacks to hearty main courses.

Dairy-free Bolognese

Victor Protasio

For this bolognese sauce recipe, skip the milk and add some nutritional yeast instead. Ground beef is combined with chopped onions, celery and carrots, as well as some red wine and crushed tomatoes. The nutritional yeast gives the dish a cheesy (but dairy-free) flavor.

Smoky kale chips

Jennifer Causey

Smoky kale chips make for a delicious and nutritious snack. To make them, you need to stem the kale and tear it into clumps of curly pieces. Canola oil, salt and paprika, as well as nutritional yeast, give these chips a burst of flavor.

Vegan breakfast burrito with tofu scramble

Jennifer Causey

For a flavorful tofu scramble in a satisfying vegan breakfast burrito, nutritional yeast adds a cheesy touch. The tofu resembles scrambled eggs and the nutritional yeast tastes a lot like cheese, making this burrito almost taste like the classic breakfast burrito with egg and cheese. But it is completely vegan.

Curry cauliflower soup

Jennifer Causey

This cauliflower soup is healthy and vegan. It’s flavored with curry powder, roasted cauliflower, and nutritional yeast, which works as a vegan alternative to parmesan cheese. It pairs well with a green salad or even grilled cheese (which can also be vegan) for an extra cheesy flavor.

Vegan Cauliflower Alfredo Sauce

Victor Protasio

This recipe yields a creamy, vegan pasta sauce that combines cauliflower, cashew milk, and nutritional yeast. The result is a completely plant-based version of a classic Alfredo. The nutritional years add a cheesy flavor to this dairy-free dish.

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