Before I started my plant-based journey, I had no clue what nutritional yeast was or the benefits it could provide. Now, I use it regularly in sauces, soups and stir-frys. I sprinkle it on salads, mashed potatoes, rice, vegetables and popcorn! Let's explore what it is and why you should consider incorporating it in your diet.
Nutritional yeast, also called hippy dust, is a form of deactivated yeast, contrary to Baker's yeast and Brewer's yeast that are used alive to leaven bread or brew beer. Nutritional yeast is made in much the same way, but then killed during heating specifically to be used as a food source. It comes in the form of golden yellow flakes with a cheesy, almost parmesan-like smell. It's very well known in the vegan and vegetarian community because of its high vitamin B complex and B12 content, and also because of its use as a vegan cheese substitute. We add it to most of our cashew sauces, in our stir-frys, scrambled tofu and even use it as a popcorn topping. It can also be used to simply boost nutrition, by mixing it in your soup or sprinkling it over vegetables or potatoes.
Nutritional yeast is a nutrient power house. It's chock-full of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants and also a great source of "complete" protein, meaning that it contains all 9 essential amino acids. In a mere 15 grams (one quarter cup), it contains a whopping 3 grams of fiber, 8 grams of complete protein and enough B-complex vitamins for days, all while being dairy and gluten free. Some can contain up to 30% of the RDI (recommended daily intake) for trace minerals like zinc, selenium and manganese, which are all involved in important metabolic and immune processes. Its B12 content can be upwards of 800% of the RDI per serving! Up to several tablespoons can be used every day before worrying about any excess vitamin intake or toxicity. The water soluble nature of these vitamins makes them easier to excrete when in excess.
This super food has zero added sugar, and contains a powerful immuno-modulatory carbohydrate called beta-glucan.
This special carbohydrate has been studied and found to decrease LDL cholesterol and potentially decrease the risk of cardiovascular disease when consumed regularly. Studies have also suggested that its antioxidant content reduces oxygen free radical damage and boosts immunity. A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial found that using nutritional yeast could reduce the incidence and severity of colds in children, which is great news for parents desperately searching for ways to get a good night's sleep. A study done on high-level athletes also suggested that marathon runners who consumed nutritional yeast after running a marathon got less colds and felt more energetic after their run. Moderately active athletes have less viral infections than their sedentary counterparts, but athletes who over-train, or do super intense bouts of physical activity, have increased risks of upper respiratory infections in the days following their activity, due to a documented dip in their circulating levels of white blood cells. A placebo controlled study done with beta-glucan, found in nutritional yeast, showed decreased rates of infection, better energy and improved mood in the group taking 250mg of beta-glucan. Even better results were seen in the 500mg group, where they reported even less upper respiratory tract infections, decreased fatigue and better energy, compared to placebo. Studies on oral and topical beta-glucans have also showed accelerated wound healing after surgery, after burns and even in patients with leg ulcers. Oral beta-glucans have demonstrated significant tumor shrinkage in mice, but can that be applied to humans? Studies in Japan seem to suggest that yeast beta-glucan enhances the effect of life-saving and life-prolonging chemotherapy in patients undergoing cancer treatment, with no side effects. All these studies can be criticized due to their study structure or the number of participants, but many other factors must be taken into account. To start, the doses of beta-glucan studied can be found in a pinch of nutritional yeast, and no side effects were reported, leaving me to ask the following question about nutritional yeast: "why not?".
Even considering its great nutrient content and medicinal properties, nutritional yeast isn't for everyone. Some studies have suggested that people with Crohn's disease might experience symptom relapse with nutritional yeast, due to yeast hypersensitivity that may have developed in the context of their auto-immunity and dysbiosis (meaning a loss of balance in their gut flora). Others, although super rare, can be allergic to yeast itself and should avoid it.
Nutritional yeast should be stored in a dark, cool place, and sealed to keep away from moisture. It's shelf stable for up to two years and can be easily incorporated in anyone's diet, whether they're following a plant-based diet or not.
Include this super food in your recipes, or sprinkle it on any food you like. We love to mix a tablespoon in our soups and consume it regularly for all the reasons noted above. It's tasty, cheap, super healthy and a great food source for anyone looking for a nutritional boost!
Thanks for reading! If you’ve learned something new, there are probably more people that are currently unaware of the amazing benefits of adding nutritional yeast regularly to their diet. Please share and keep taking care of yourselves and each other! Please drop a comment if you’ve never tried it, or let me know how you do use it so others can benefit from our collective experience with nutritional yeast!
Check out my website plantbaseddrjules.com and look for the “How To” section in the menu. There, you’ll find tips and tricks that helped me on my journey towards a plant-predominant diet. Everything there is completely free, no catches! If you're looking for quick, easy and healthy plant-based recipes, check out plantbaseddrjules.com and download my free recipe eBook!
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Plant-Based Dr. Jules 💚🌱
Plant-based Dr Jules 🌱💚
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Jayachandran M, Chen J, Chung SSM, Xu B. A critical review on the impacts of β-glucans on gut microbiota and human health. J Nutr Biochem. 2018 Nov;61:101-110. doi: 10.1016/j.jnutbio.2018.06.010. Epub 2018 Aug 10. PMID: 30196242.
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