What exactly is Nutritional Yeast and is it actually good for you?

Ever wanted to make a wellness blogger’s dairy free, cheesy pasta sauce and then read the recipe and realised you’re missing the key ingredient? And then popped to the local supermarket and realised you still can’t make it? Yep, me too. Nutritional Yeast isn’t something that many of us have as a pantry staple but with the rise of vegan and plant-based cooking, it’s having a bit of a moment and mainstream supermarkets are now stocking up their shelves with the yeasty flakes.

So let’s look more closely at nutritional yeast - is it called nutritional because it’s nutritious? Is it a yeast like a yeasty fungus or mould? Is it safe to eat if you have a yeast infection?

Nutritional yeast, fondly known as nooch, is a deactivated or ‘dead’ yeast and comes from a species of yeast known as Saccharomyces cerevisiae. One of the reasons it’s become so popular is because it’s used by the plant-based community as a good source of vitamin B12, which is a nutrient that is essential for wellbeing and can only derived from animal sources. The common misconception however, is that nutritional yeast is a naturally B12-rich food source, when actually the B12 is added in during the production process.

Saccharomyces cerevisiae can actually be a live yeast and function a bit like a probiotic but the nutritional kind undergoes a different process: once submerged in water B vitamins are added to the mixture and the live yeast sucks these up and incorporates them into their ‘bodies.’ Then, when dried and deactivated it becomes a rich source of the original vitamins that were added. So, the take-away here is that nutritional yeast is not a live yeast, and also not a probiotic, but that it is fortified, usually, with B vitamins.

This means that it wont interfere with yeast infections such as candida either. It’s wrong to think that you need to avoid yeast sources when you have a yeast infection because the food source for a yeast overgrowth is sugar, not yeast. Actually, live nutritional yeasts can be helpful in these circumstances as they do us no harm when the grow and colonise inside of us, and by doing so they compete for binding sites and food sources with candida (the type of yeast usually causing the infection), and therefore have an anti-candida (or anti-yeast infection) effect.

Now let’s look further at the nutritional profile, per 100g of Engevita Yeast Flakes we are looking at:

51g protein

45mg Vitamin B1

18mg Vitamin B2

341mg Vitamin B3

34mg Vitamin B6

4400mcg Folic Acid

44mcg Vitamin B12

196mc Biotin

140mg Vitamin B5

5mg Iron

120 mg Zinc

That’s quite an impressive make up and drives home the fact that if you are looking to up your nutrition intake as a plant-based or omnivorous eater, nutritional yeast is quick win. It has the added advantage that is has a cheesy flavour, so mixed with some creamy cashews it makes a lovely, cheesy sauce for pasta or to add into hummus, scrambled tofu etc. At CPRESS we add it to our dehydrated broccoli to give it an amazing tang, and to our five seasons salad which has avocado, sesame, nutritional yeast, lemon, buckwheat falafel, flax seeds, chia seeds, red cabbage slaw and a cashew ranch dressing.




This article was contributed by Grace Kingswell, MA Cantab D.N. Med. Grace is CPRESS's marketing director and resident Nutritional Therapist. She's a passionate foodie and can usually be found swimming in the Hampstead ponds or talking passionately about health and nutrition. 

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