What is Nutritional Yeast and How is it Made?
I will admit 'nutritional yeast' does not sound appealing in the slightest, however, it offers great flavor and health benefits. Vegan and plant-based communities have made nutritional yeast the new hot item in supermarkets. It is primarily used by vegans as a nutrition source and replacement for cheese. Nutritional yeast, also known "nooch", can be added to recipes or sprinkled over foods like popcorn, pasta, and soup. It provides a savory, cheesy, nutty flavor and adds a yellow-orange color to recipes.
It is the same species of yeast used to make beer and bread but is a different end product. When making beer or bread, the yeast is typically used in its active form. Nutritional yeast is different in the sense that it is inactive and won't rise. It is usually made by growing Saccharomyces cerevisiae on a sugar-rich molasses medium. After that, the yeast is deactivated with heat, then washed, pasteurized, dried, and crumbled. You can either buy it fortified with nutrients like B vitamins or unfortified.
1. Great Source of Protein and Fiber
Nutritional yeast is over 50% protein by weight. It has more protein per calorie than any meat product on the market. Four tablespoons of it contain 8 grams of protein, 3 grams of fiber, and all 9 amino acids that the body requires. Because of the high fiber and protein count, nutritional yeast will help improve digestion and keep you feeling full.
2. Supports Immune Function
Athletes are more likely to get sick in the short run because strenuous exercise impairs immune function. In a study, athletes who ate 3/4 teaspoon of nutritional yeast per day saw improvements to their immune system. A different study looked into marathon runners. These runners consumed a spoonful of nutritional yeast every day. Not only did it improve the runners' overall physical and mental health, but also decreased post-race incidence of upper respiratory infections.
3. Lowers Blood Cholesterol Levels
Nutritional yeast contains carbohydrates, including trehalose and beta glucans, which can help lower blood cholesterol and triglyceride levels. This will help maintain heart health. Most of the studies were researching the effect from oats, which also contain a high level of beta-glucans), but yeast has shown similar effects. Researchers have been looking into the impact of yeast on cholesterol. A small study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found an 8% reduction in LDL (bad) cholesterol levels in 15 obese men after eight weeks of having them eat 15 grams of yeast-derived beta-glucans daily.
4. Packed with Antioxidants
With a high concentration of antioxidants, how could you go wrong? One strong antioxidant in nutritional yeast is glutathione, which is responsible for combating free radicals, detoxifying the body, and supporting liver function. One gram of nutritional yeast contains 2.5 mg of glutathione, which is a very concentrated amount. As you age, your body begins to produce less glutathione making it more important to get it from other sources to prevent chronic disease.
5. Rich Source of Minerals
Nutritional yeast contains zinc, selenium, magnesium, molybdenum, phosphorus, and potassium. These trace minerals support the immune system and active metabolisms. Nutritional yeast is also a great option for people with prediabetes and diabetes because it is low-glycemic food and contains chromium, which your body uses to regulate blood sugar levels. This means that you'll sleep better, have increased energy levels, and have fewer cravings.