By Susan Joy
What is nutritional yeast?
Nutritional yeast is a savoury substitute used to add a cheesy flavour to dairy-free dishes. Nutritional yeast is a species of yeast known as “Saccharomyces cerevisiae”. While brewer’s and baker’s yeasts are technically made from the same species of yeast, it is essential to note that nutritional yeast is a very different product. Nutritional yeast is grown specifically to be used as a food. To produce it cells are grown for several days on a sugar-rich medium like molasses. The yeast is then deactivated with heat, harvested, washed and dried. Crushed into a powder or into flakes and is ready to be added to our food. The yeast cells are killed during manufacturing so nutritional yeast is not alive, it’s a fermented, deactivated yeast that doesn’t grow. It is used in cooking to give a cheesy, nutty flavour to dairy-free recipes and is a popular food product used in vegan cooking to add protein and additional vitamins and minerals to one’s diet.
Is it nutritious?
Studies have shown that due to its nutritional content, yeast in this form has a wide range of potential health benefits, from increasing a person’s energy, supporting their immune system, to protecting the body from free radical damage.
- It is naturally low in kilojoules and sodium. It’s free from sugar, gluten, grains (wheat, corn, rice), soy, eggs, starch, colours or preservatives.
- Nutritional yeast is a complete protein as it contains all 9 essential amino acids that our bodies can only get from food.
- It is rich in B vitamins (especially rich in thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, B6 and B12).
- It contains minerals such as zinc, selenium and manganese.
What are the health benefits of nutritional yeast?
It may boost your immunity and reduce inflammation – Nutritional yeast contains 2 main carbohydrates, alpha-mannan and beta-glucan.
Studies have shown that they stop pathogenic bacteria from attaching to the lining of the intestines. They stimulate immune cells, making them more effective at fighting infection and they attach to certain types of toxins that yeast can produce in food crops and reduce their harmful effects.
Energy booster – Nutritional yeast is fortified with vitamin B12. This vitamin may help boost energy levels, as a deficiency of B12 can lead to fatigue and weakness.
Contains powerful antioxidants – Nutritional yeast contains the powerful antioxidants glutathione and selenomethionine. They protect our cells from damage caused by free radicals and heavy metals and also help our bodies eliminate toxins from the environment.
Promotes healthy skin, hair and nails – Recent research has suggested that nutritional yeast can combat brittle nails and hair loss, and may improve some common skin problems like acne.
How do I use nutritional yeast?
As mentioned above nutritional yeast has a savoury, cheesy or nutty flavour. It comes either in the form of flakes, granules or powder. Use it as a savoury seasoning to flavour dishes or sprinkle over salads to add protein and extra nutrients. Further suggestions but there are no end to the uses:
- Add to dairy-free nut cheese spreads.
- Add to white cauliflower or nut milk sauces to use in place of a dairy white sauce.
- Mix into hot savoury dishes to add flavour.
- Use to thicken gravies, sauces and stews.
- Stir into creamy type soups for added nutrients and flavour.
- Add to stuffing mixtures.
- Add nutritional yeast flakes to my casserole or mornay grain-free toppings.
- Add to an almond meal or coconut mixture when crumbing chicken or fish.
Recipes for you to try:
This is the perfect replacement for soft cheese, it’s spreadable, full of flavour and very versatile. I love Macadamia ‘cheese’ Spread on toasted Paleo bread and crackers, as a dip and also to dollop on top of my baked pizzas. (As an alternative you may use cashews or a combination of the two).
Serve this tasty creamy, cheesy zucchini recipe with wild caught smoked salmon, egg, avocado and sauerkraut for a nutritional breakfast.
A tasty, substantial pork and egg breakfast muffin that will keep you satisfied until lunch. Perfect to prepare ahead for those busy mornings, also suitable to serve at lunch accompanied with a fresh salad.
My Tuna Mornay is made with a deliciously creamy white cauliflower sauce that will make it hard for you to believe there’s no dairy in this dish. Nutritional yeast flakes have been mixed with almond meal and golden flaxseed to create a delicious topping in place of breadcrumbs.
Spiralized vegetables are an excellent replacement for traditional pasta in a healthy lifestyle. Use this tangy, cheezy flavoured vegetable ‘pasta’, with meatballs, bolognese or for any meal that wheat pasta would be used.
My healthy savoury spread (Vegemite & Marmite alternative) does not contain gluten, refined salt, additives, colours, or refined sugar. My base ingredient is black tahini paste (ground black sesame seeds), I’ve used nutritional yeast flakes, a Medjool date, ground cinnamon and little-smoked paprika to add flavour and a little sweetness. I have a lot more information in this blog about why I made a Vegemite alternative, click the link here.
You will find many more recipes using nutritional yeast flakes on my website and in my cookbooks. Purchase from health food stores or in the health food aisle in supermarkets and it’s best to store in the fridge even though it has a 12-month shelf-life.
By Susan Joy