Eat This: Nutritional Yeast
I’d like to discuss the nutritional aspects of beer. Well, not exactly beer, but one of the by-products that is leftover after the brewing process. Sorry to get you all excited there :)
Untold thousands of years ago, humans discovered fermentation, and some time thereafter, beer was created. Sometime after that, humans discovered that beer brewing left behind a very nutritious by-product – Brewer’s Yeast. Then a bit later, someone else decided to grow the stuff specifically for it’s nutritional value, and sell it to others. And the cleverly renamed it – Nutritional Yeast.
But this isn’t just a tricky marketing term – nutritional yeast really is incredible stuff. If you’re looking to incorporate some healthy stuff into your diet, this is one product you want to know.
The scientific name is Saccharomyces cervisiae. It is de-actived yeast, grown specifically as a nutritional supplement. The taste is quite pleasant, and usually described as being slightly nutty, cheesy or sweet.
Let’s start off by listing what it doesn’t have a lot of: calories, fat or sodium. What it does have most of is PROTEIN. In fact, one tablespoon of nutritional yeast has about 8 grams of high quality protein (I’m talking to you, vegetarians!) Nutritional yeast is also a good to excellent source of the B complex vitamins, Vitamin E, Chromium, Selenium, Copper, Iron, Zinc, Potassium, Magnesium, Panthothenic Acid and Lysine. And again for you vegetarians out there, nutritional yeast is also a great source of the ever-elusive vitamin B12.
You might come across sources touting nutritional yeast as a “miracle food.” Please don’t ever fall for this. There is no such thing as a miracle food. But there are foods that are so chock full of nutrients that incorporating them into your diet is a no-brainer. Nutritional yeast is one of these. While it doesn’t work miracles all by itself, studies have show it to help lower LDL cholesterol and protect against heart disease, improve ability to maintain healthy blood glucose levels , decrease homocystene levels to protect against cancer and heart disease and assist in preventing acne.
OK I’m CONVINCED, WHERE DO I GET SOME?!?! Glad you asked. Any health foods store will carry various brands, both in the supplements section and the bulk bins. It might go by the name nutritional yeast or brewer’s yeast. Be aware that nutrient content will vary depending on the growing medium, so be sure to compare labels. I have heard Lewis Labs recommended by my own trusted sources. Be sure to purchase the inactive form and don’t confuse it with active baker’s yeast! Store in a cool, dark place in an opaque container. It keeps 6-8 months, or up to 3 years refrigerated.
A few suggested uses:
- Sprinkle on popcorn, cereal, or vegetables
- Mix in with soups and stews
- Mix with a glass of juice or a smoothie
- Add to baked goods, yogurt or cottage cheese
A few tips and cautions: If you are a new user of nutritional yeast, take it easy in the beginning to allow your digestive system to adjust. Start with ¼ tbsp and increase to 1-2 tablespoons. Don’t have more than 3 tablespoons per day, as this can cause diarrhea and nausea. Nutritional yeast is high in purines, and unsuitable for those with gout, kidney disease or arthritis. People with diabetes or hypoglycemia should consult their doctor before using nutritional yeast. As with most foods, there is a possibility of allergy to nutritional yeast, and it is not recommended for women who have yeast overgrowth (candida).
So I hope that you will give nutritional yeast a try. In the meantime, I’d love to hear from current nutritional yeast users out there! What brand do you prefer? Do you have any other uses or recipes to share?
Murray, Michael. The Encyclopedia of Healing Foods. New York: Atria Books. 2005.
Whitney, Ellie and Rolfes, Sharon. Understanding Nutrition. Belmont: Thomson Wadsworth. 2005.
Bruning, Nancy and Lieberman, Shari. The Real Vitamin and Mineral Book. NY: Penguin, 2007.
Foods that Harm, Foods that Heal. New York: Reader’s Digest Association, 2004.