Updated: Apr 10, 2022
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.