The use of yeast as a food dates all the way back to the Ancient Egyptians. Note that unlike the yeast used to leaven bread, nutritional yeast is inactive. It has been deactivated so that it cannot be used to make bread rise or convert sugar into alcohol. It is also different from brewer’s yeast, though the two are strains of the same fungus.
The main difference is the source. As its name suggests, brewer’s yeast is a product of the brewing industry; it is typically bitter because it is grown on malted barley and other grains. Nutritional yeast is obtained via other media, like molasses. They both contain similar amounts of roughly the same nutrients.
Researchers have traced the ancestry of modern yeast strains to yeasts back to the 16th century, but commercial production of nutritional yeast really began at the start of the 20th century. It was made usable largely as a result of the invention of the microscope and because of Louis Pasteur’s studies. Both of these factors made it possible for scientists to get a better understanding of yeast.
Nutritional yeast flavor profile
The flavor of nutritional yeast is often described as cheesy with strong umami notes. It is similar to the flavors provided by Vegemite and by Parmesan cheese.
Health benefits of nutritional yeast
Nutritional yeast is a full of many different nutrients that make it beneficial for overall health. It contains:
- Protein: Because it is a complete protein, nutritional yeast provides amino acids that your body is unable to produce on its own. Amino acids form proteins that are essential for building and repairing muscle as well as for a vast number of other body functions. A 2-tablespoon serving of nutritional yeast contains 8 g of protein, which is about 14 percent of the amount an adult male needs on a daily basis.
- B vitamins: Nutritional yeast provides you with thiamine, niacin, and vitamin B-6 along with other B-vitamins. It can be a source of vitamin B-12, which is especially important for vegans since the other sources are all animal foods. These B vitamins are important for helping our bodies to get energy from carbohydrates as well as for blood vessel formation and nervous system function. Nutritional yeast can supply 480 percent of your daily B-6 requirement, 640 percent of your thiamine and 280 percent of your niacin.
- Minerals: Nutritional yeast is a good source of minerals like magnesium and zinc. Magnesium plays a major role in a vast number of reactions in your body, including those that affect heart and bone health. Zinc helps your body to use carbohydrates for fuel and is crucial for a functioning immune system. Nutritional yeast supplies 6 percent of your daily magnesium requirement and 20 percent of your zinc requirement.
- Fiber: Nutritional yeast provides fiber, which can help to ease the passage of food through the digestive system while also removing toxins. You can get 16 percent of your daily recommended fiber from 4 g of nutritional yeast.
The nutrients in nutritional yeast can be used to prevent or treat health conditions like:
- Diabetes: The proteins and fiber in nutritional yeast help it to slow down the rate at which carbohydrates are broken down and absorbed into the bloodstream. This helps to prevent dramatic blood sugar spikes. In addition, it is a low-glycemic food.
- Pellagra: Pellagra is caused by a niacin deficiency. Nutritional yeast is a very good source of niacin.
- Pernicious anemia: This condition typically affects older adults and can be prevented by consuming adequate vitamin B12, which is found in nutritional yeast.
Common uses of nutritional yeast
Nutritional yeast is versatile in that it can be used to add a savory note to a wide variety of dishes. Vegans use it as a substitute for cheese; you can use it as the main ingredient in cheese sauces or in any other application that calls for Parmesan cheese. Use it in vinaigrettes or sprinkle it over pasta or mashed potatoes to add tangy notes.