Nutritional yeast, also known as “nooch,” has been used for eons in plant-based diets, and it's currently enjoying a surge in popularity. As nutritional yeast has a cheesy, nutty, and umami flavor, the myth that it's loaded with MSG has turned many healthy eaters off of it. However, this is FALSE! Sometimes it's called a superfood because of its amazing nutritional profile! Let's find out what I mean about this nutritional superstar.
But first, what is Nutritional Yeast?
Nutritional yeast is indeed yeast. They are typically grown on molasses from either sugar beets or cane sugar. Specifically, it's a species of the fungus called Saccharomyces cerevisiae, which is the same strain of yeast we used to bake bread and brew beer. They are, however, completely different products. Nutritional yeast is deactivated yeast as the yeast cells are killed during manufacturing. Unlike baker's yeast, nutritional yeast doesn't cause food to rise, but it adds flavor and provides several vital nutrients. So, what can it do for us?
1. Rich In Antioxidants
It contains powerful antioxidants like glutathione and selenomethionine. They provide your body with protection from free radicals and heavy metals and aid in eliminating environmental toxins. As you age, your antioxidant production declines, so it's increasingly important to have enough glutathione in your body.
2. Boost Immunity
Contains two main carbohydrates — alpha-mannan and beta-glucan. Research has shown that both support the immune system and protect against infections in several ways. For example, prevent pathogenic bacteria from attaching to the intestinal lining and stimulates immune cells which allows them more capable of fighting infection.
3. Promote Heart Health
The fiber in nutritional yeast, beta-glucan, is associated with better cardiovascular health, including lower “bad” cholesterol and increased “good” cholesterol. Potassium, which is found in it can reduce blood pressure as well. It’s a low-sodium, heart-healthy seasoning that you need for savory dishes!
4. Regulate Blood Sugar Levels
Nutritional yeast is rich in fiber and by getting fiber into your gut, it helps to produce butyric acid. Butyric acid has the ability to reduce Fat Storing Hormone resistance which allows more Fat Storing Hormone to be available for the body to utilize, therefore helping you to manage your blood sugar levels.
5. Boost Energy
B Vitamins such as B1, B6, and B12, are essential for a healthy metabolism. B vitamins help in maintaining consistent energy levels and fighting fatigue.
Nutritional yeast is also a good source of high-quality protein which provides energy and stamina.
6. Prevent B12 Deficiency in Vegans
Vitamin B12 is needed for a healthy nervous system, DNA production, energy production, and red blood cell formation. Nutritional yeast is an excellent source of vitamin B12 for people who follow a completely plant-based diet, since this nutrient is rare in whole, unprocessed plant foods. According to a study of people who followed a vegan diet for up to four years, nutritional yeast helped plant-based eaters meet their Vitamin B12 requirements.
7. It is a Complete Protein
Contains all nine essential amino acids that humans must get from food. It’s especially good for vegans and vegetarians as many plant-based sources of proteins are incomplete. Protein assists function like tissue repair, muscle build, and nutrient absorption.
Despite all the benefits nutritional yeast may offer, it is not suitable for everyone. Researchers found that nutritional yeast might worsen symptoms in individuals suffering from inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and glaucoma. Besides, individuals with a yeast sensitivity or allergy should also avoid consuming nutritional yeast.
Written by: Foo Jia Qi
BSc (Hons) Nutrition With Wellness
Reviewed by: Jasmine Lim
Love Earth Organic Nutritionist
Bachelor of Science Degree in
Dietetics (major) & Food Science (minor)
Iowa State University, USA
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Berkheiser, K. (2019). 4 Potential Side Effects of Nutritional Yeast. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/nutritional-yeast-dangers#4.-Yeast-Intolerance-and-Inflammatory-Bowel-Disease
Berg, E. (2019). 7 Benefits of Nutritional Yeast. https://www.drberg.com/blog/7-benefits-of-nutritional-yeast
Donaldson, M. S. (2000). Metabolic Vitamin B12 Status on a Mostly Raw Vegan Diet with Follow-Up Using Tablets, Nutritional Yeast, or Probiotic Supplements. Annals of Nutrition & Metabolism, 44(5-6), 229–234. https://doi.org/10.1159/000046689
Dresden, D. (2018). Top 5 Nutritional Yeast Benefits and How to Use It. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/323245#summary