The Rising Agent: Nutritional Yeast

Most people think about light, airy baked goods when it comes to the word “yeast”. However, yeast comes in many different forms with various purposes; one being nutritional yeast. Known as Saccharomyces cerevisiae in the scientific world, nutritional yeast is an inactive form of yeast that is cultured and grown on a glucose medium such as molasses. It differs from Brewer’s yeast, which is a product of the beer fermentation process and cannot be used to help your bread rise. What really separates nutritional yeast from baker’s yeast are the flavor and nutritional components.

Yeast has flavor?

Nutritional yeast has a rich, savory, umami flavor that makes it a favorable cheese replacement among vegans. Yes, you read that right. Yeast is used to add flavor to foods. Nutritional yeast receives its umami flavor from naturally occurring MSG and there are many misperceptions about the safety of MSG.  However, MSG is generally recognized as safe by the FDA and there are many foods that have naturally occurring MSG, such as cheese and tomatoes. Check out our quick fact sheet for more information concerning MSG.

Nutritional yeast comes in a flaky and powder form, so it is perfect to use as a seasoning. There’s nothing fancy about nutritional yeast. Just add it to any recipe of your choosing such as salads, pasta, mashed potatoes, or popcorn for cheesy boost without using actual cheese!

Nutritional Value

Aside from the flavor aspect, this food product is a nutrition powerhouse. Let’s take a look at the nutrients provided per 2 tablespoons:

  • 6g protein: A plant-based, high-quality protein source that is also free of ingredients such as dairy and wheat, gluten, soy, sugar, and corn. This makes it a great option for those with dietary restrictions and/or food allergies looking to get a source of flavorful protein in their diet.
  • 2g fiber: According to the 2001-2010 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) data, the average intake of fiber for adults was 16.1g. The recommendations for adequate dietary fiber intake set by the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015-2020 is 14g per 1000 kcal (or 25g for adult women and 38g for adult men), so there’s always room for improvement. Besides regulating our digestive processes, fiber has been linked to numerous health benefits. Studies have shown its beneficial role in feeding the “good” bacteria in our bodies, regulating blood sugar levels, and  lowering high blood pressure.
  • A whole lot of B-vitamins: B vitamins help our bodies convert carbohydrates into fuel for energy and help the nervous system function properly. Of these B vitamins, vitamin B12 (also known as cobalamin) has gained the most attention when it comes to nutritional yeast, since it is usually only found in animal products. Bacteria in the animal’s intestines produce vitamin B12, while plants do not produce vitamin B12. Through fortification, nutritional yeast provides a good source of vitamin B12, which is needed for cell division and blood formation.

Takeaways

Nutritional yeast packs the tasty goodness with a ton of nutritional benefits. No wonder it’s a big hit among the vegan community! Whether you are a vegan, a carnivore, or anything in between, adding nutritional yeast to your food will provide that umami flavor and a boost of nutrition to your diet! 

This blog was written by Young No, a Sodexo Dietetic Intern.