Nutritional Yeast Nutrition Facts and Health Benefits

Nutritional yeast
Verywell / Alexandra Shytsman

Nutritional yeast is a deactivated form of yeast that's used as a seasoning and nutritional supplement. One of it's most popular uses is as a plant-based substitute for cheese. If you're wary about the idea of adding fungus to your food, keep in mind that yeast is already responsible for many of our favorite foods and beverages. Unlike baker's yeast, nutritional yeast doesn't cause food to rise, but it adds flavor and provides several vital nutrients.

Nutritional Yeast Nutrition Facts

The following nutrition information is provided by the USDA for 1 tablespoon (9g) of nutritional yeast.

  • Calories: 34
  • Fat: 0g
  • Sodium: 25mg
  • Carbohydrates: 3g
  • Fiber: 2g
  • Sugars: 0g
  • Protein: 5g

Carbs

A tablespoon of nutritional yeast contains 3 grams of carbohydrates which includes 2 grams of fiber. Yeast provides an especially beneficial form of soluble fiber called beta-glucan, which offers unique health benefits.

Fats

Most brands of nutritional yeast are naturally fat-free.

Protein

Unlike most plant-based products, nutritional yeast is a complete protein. Nutritional yeast provides all of the essential amino acids with 5 grams per tablespoon.

Vitamins and Minerals

Most nutritional yeast products are fortified with added B-vitamins. The nutritional data above is from a popular brand, Bragg's, which provides 200% or more of most B-vitamins per tablespoon. It also has 563% of the daily value for vitamin B12.

Nutritional yeast also has some calcium, iron, and potassium.

Health Benefits

In a small serving, nutritional yeast packs in a lot of nutrition that helps fill nutrient gaps and promote health. Here are some of the health benefits that nutritional yeast provides.

Reduces Risk of Anemia

When it comes to anemia, the first nutrient to come to mind is usually iron. However, inadequate folate or vitamin B12 also causes anemia. A common treatment for a vitamin B12 deficiency is injections, but large oral doses can also be effective.

Most brands of nutritional yeast are fortified with B12, providing over 500% of the daily value per serving. Because B12 is water-soluble, it is unlikely to cause toxicity even when consumed in high doses through food. People who follow a plant-based or vegan diet often have limited sources of vitamin B12, so nutritional yeast can serve as a key source of this essential nutrient.

Supports Heart Health

Nutritional yeast contains a substance called beta-glucan, which is a type of carbohydrate found in the cell walls of plants, bacteria, and fungi. Higher intakes of beta-glucan lead to favorable cardiovascular outcomes, including lowering "bad cholesterol" and increasing "good cholesterol." In addition, most brands of nutritional yeast contain potassium, which reduces blood pressure. Nutritional yeast is a low-sodium, heart-healthy seasoning that adds flavor to savory dishes.

May Promote Healthy Immune System Function

Although more research is needed, several studies have pointed to yeast-derived beta-glucan as an immune strengthener. Researchers attribute these benefits to beta glucan's bacterial fermentation in the intestines.

Beta-glucan may also stimulate the activity of crucial immune system cells, like macrophages. Animal studies have even demonstrated the ability of beta-glucan to equip the immune system in fighting off anthrax infections. Nutritional yeast is an easy way to boost your intake of this promising nutrient.

Prevents Constipation

Nutritional yeast contributes 2 grams of fiber per tablespoon. Fiber is essential, although unfortunately, most people do not get enough. The recommendation for fiber intake is at least 25–35 grams per day, while the typical American's intake is less than half that amount.

Fiber regulates bowel movements by pulling water into the colon and adding bulk and softness to stool. Using nutritional yeast in place of cheese or other seasonings can help you work towards achieving adequate fiber intakes.

Aids Diabetes Management

In addition to fiber's role in digestion, getting enough fiber helps prevent sudden blood sugar fluctuations. Low-fiber eating plans have been shown to increase the risk of diabetes in various population studies.

Fiber slows down digestion and increases satiety, controlling hunger and the glycemic response of food. Not only is fiber beneficial for preventing diabetes, but it also helps those with diabetes to maintain good numbers. Nutritional yeast is a creative way to add more fiber to your plate.

Allergies

If you suspect an allergy to yeast or mold, see an allergist for a full evaluation. Yeast overgrowth is another possible condition that is unrelated to yeast allergies. Yeast overgrowth can occur in compromised immune systems or following antibiotic treatment.

Because yeast is present in many foods, anyone with a true yeast allergy may have to avoid several food items including baked goods, fermented alcoholic beverages, marmite/vegemite, sourdough bread, and certain multivitamins. Before placing unnecessary restrictions on yourself, determine if you truly have a yeast allergy by speaking to a qualified health care provider.

Adverse Effects

Unlike brewer's yeast, nutritional yeast is inactive and unlikely to cause any negative effects. However, if you suffer from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or migraines, yeast may be a trigger for you. Pay attention to how you feel and watch out for side effects when trying a new food, like nutritional yeast.

Varieties

Nutritional yeast may be sold as granules, powder, or flakes. Check the food label to see if the nutritional yeast product you are considering is fortified with added vitamins and minerals, or if it contains added sodium.

When It's Best

Nutritional yeast is a dry food product that can be found year-round in the supermarket with other seasonings. It is sometimes sold out of a bulk food bin.

Storage and Food Safety

Although it's a dry product, nutritional yeast will keep longer in the refrigerator once it's been opened. Store it in an airtight container and be mindful of the expiration date specified on the label.

How to Prepare

The taste of nutritional yeast is often described as nutty or cheesy. It's typically added to savory dishes such as pasta, roasted meats, vegetables, and salads. 

Some interesting ways to use nutritional yeast include:

  • Use as a popcorn seasoning
  • Use it in pasta in place of Parmesan cheese
  • Make a vegan alternative to a cheese sauce
  • Stir it into soup
  • Add it to your scrambled eggs
  • Sprinkle it on top of garlic bread

Recipes

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Article Sources
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