This golden yellow protein powder is the vegan answer to cheese, packing a powerful nutritional punch on top of your favorite dishes! It’s rich, nutty and umami flavor is perfect for a savory melt over pastas, vegetables, or even enchiladas.
Nutritional Yeast comes from the same species of yeast found in hops, and is the same species used in the beer-making process. However, unlike active or brewer’s yeast, Nutritional Yeast is deactivated through heat or pasteurization, and doesn’t leaven (which is how it has become known as “nooch”). By its Latin name, Saccharomyces cerevisae can be harvested from sugar beets, whey, or blackstrap molasses.
Use nutritional yeast the same way you would grated cheese— sprinkle it over popcorn, salads, or veggies and rice for a savory food seasoning that is both sodium-free and dairy free (and usually gluten free— always check the label for any possible allergies).
But its not just a seasoning— nutritional yeast IS in fact nutritional, especially if it has been fortified during the manufacturing process. You’ll need to check the labeling to get an accurate read of nutritional content, but nutritionists have a host of reasons why they recommend fortified yeast to their clients, with the following 5 Reasons to Add Nutritional Yeast to Your Pantry being the most important:
1. Gain Essential B Vitamins from a Plant-Based Source
It’s not just vegetarians and vegans who love this stuff— plenty of people across the world today are reducing their consumption of animal products for a variety of reasons, such as concerns for the environmental impact of animal farming and its effect on climate change, as well as an increased awareness for their overall personal health and determination for a change in lifestyle.
Nutritional yeast is a powerful plant-based source of B Vitamins, the collection of nutrients known to improve blood cell and nerve production (which fights infections and prevents anemia), to improve overall brain functioning, to help your body protect itself from cancer, and to naturally provide higher energy throughout your day!
Vitamin B12 is a vital nutrient for many of these functions, and is typically only found in animal products, like eggs and milk. By adding a light layer of fortified yeast to your meals, you can receive 150% of your daily value of B12. This is why Nutritional Yeast has become such an essential ingredient for vegetarians and vegans, as it provides an important nutritional substitute for what might otherwise be lacking from their diet.
2. Support a Healthy Pregnancy with Iron and Folic Acid
Fortified yeast may provide 20% of your daily iron (a mineral), along with folic acid (or folate, a vitamin), both of which are essential for women in their child-bearing years.
An iron deficiency can cause anemia, fatigue, dizziness, and breathlessness, as well as fainting spells. Additionally, it may cause extreme, strange cravings for eating clay, paint off the walls, metal, or ice. Restless Leg Syndrome is also linked to anemia, and can appear during pregnancy. Fortified nutritional yeast is an easy way to supplement your iron intake on a daily basis, whether you are pregnant, planning to be, or not.
Likewise, folic acid (in conjunction with B12), may significantly reduce the risk of serious birth defects, such as neural tube defects like spina bifida, congenital heart defects, and possibly even autism. Folic acid is also shown to prevent preterm birth. It becomes essential for women to get enough daily iron and folate before, during and yes, even after their pregnancy to keep their risk of birth defects and miscarriage down. For postpartum moms, it will help with lactaction, hormone balance, and overall energy levels to help care for your newborn.
3. Recover Faster and Build Stronger Bones with Plant-Based Protein and Calcium
Vegetarians and omnivores alike can appreciate the added protein boost that a few shakes of nutritional yeast can yield to your meals, allowing your body to recover faster following a tough workout. With 8 grams of protein in just a quarter cup, you can add the protein punch to any meal throughout the day without harming any animals in the process.
Additionally, a quarter cup of nutritional yeast can provide 40% of your daily calcium, building stronger bones and improving your overall bodily strength. Women typically lose calcium faster than men, especially in their 30s, and even more so through pregnancy, childbirth and breastfeeding. A loss of calcium can lead to bone diseases like osteoporosis. Meeting your daily need of calcium can be challenging— an 8oz glass of milk may only provide 30% of your daily value— but by adding nutritional yeast to your meals, it becomes a cinch.
4. Feel Full Longer and Prevent Disease with Essential Fiber
Did you know that the recommended daily amount of fiber is 35 grams? The average American struggles to consume even 10 grams of fiber, which is why obesity, diabetes and cancer rates are so high! You would have to eat 9 spinach salads every single day to meet your daily need. But you can help close the gap with just a quarter cup of nutritional yeast sprinkled on top, delivering an additional 3 grams of essential fiber, helping you cleanse your insides while feeling full longer. Nutritional yeast is a great supplement for maintaining a healthy weight while still delivering powerful nutrients and antioxidants.
5. Flavor Vegan Dishes with a Dairy-free, Sodium-Free Alternative to Cheese
Lastly, nutritional yeast tastes great and is completely vegan, which is why so many chefs have built vegan and vegetarian menus using nutritional yeast as both a seasoning, and a cheese substitute. When hot, it melts similarly to cheese, giving a creamy, rich, umami flavor that enhances vegetable dishes and is great in casseroles, from enchiladas to eggplant parmesan.
Convinced that nutritional yeast is worth a try? Try one of these savory dishes to get your golden game on!
Crispy Vegan Cheesy Roasted Broccoli by The Roasted Root
Almond & Herb Crusted Acorn Squash with Sriracha Cashew Aioli by Dishing Up Dirt
Brussel Sprouts and Sausage Quiche with Almond Crust by Dishing Up Dirt
Creamy Fennel Roasted Cauliflower Soup by Cotter Crunch
Vegan Walnut sage and Cranberry Stuffed Holiday Mushrooms by Blissful Basil
Have you cooked with nutritional yeast? What’s your favorite recipe? Tell me about it in the comments below, and share a photo if you have one.