Are You Using Nutritional Yeast?

PHOTO: THINKSTOCK/OLGAMILTSOVA

While most people probably are familiar with the type of yeast used to leaven bread, many have never heard of nutritional yeast, a type of inactivated yeast that has gained recent popularity for its nutritional benefits and unique taste. Sometimes referred to as “nooch,” nutritional yeast is different from conventional yeast in that it is grown on a glucose medium such as molasses or sugar cane and is inactivated by heat and then dried.  The result is a golden flake-like product that is considered to be a nutrient powerhouse by many registered dietitian nutritionists. 

So what makes nutritional yeast so special? For starters, it is packed with essential B vitamins, fiber and protein. Some varieties also are fortified with vitamin B12 and folate, which are necessary for DNA and red blood cell production and help convert food into energy, among other things. 

Nutritional yeast also contains the compound glutathione, which is an important antioxidant and can help preserve and promote proper immune functioning. Because of its nutty and cheese-like flavor, nutritional yeast is popular in the vegan community. Nutritional yeast also is gluten-free, sugar-free and free from artificial colors or ingredients, making it an easy addition to just about anyone’s diet.

Ideas to incorporate nutritional yeast into your diet:

  • Add it to soups and sauces as a thickener and flavor enhancer
  • Sprinkle it on popcorn or your favorite cracker or chip 
  • Toss in your favorite salad 
  • Add to smoothies 
  • Create “cashew cheese” by blending it with soaked cashews, a dash of salt, pepper, garlic and lemon juice, which can be poured over pasta or served as a dip or spread

Also, a quick search of “nutritional yeast recipes” online will yield a lot of great results. 

Despite its gaining popularity, nutritional yeast unfortunately is not stocked at many conventional grocery stores. However, you can find it loose in bulk foods sections and packaged on the shelves at most specialty health food stores, as well as from online retailers. Hopefully it will be stocked in more common chain grocery stores soon. 

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Joanna Foley
Joanna Foley, RD, has been practicing since 2014 and has worked as both a clinical dietitian and, more recently, a renal dietitian. She is passionate about promoting behavior changes that lead to a healthier, higher quality of life using food as medicine. Joanna enjoys experimenting with new recipes, traveling and running half marathons. Connect with her on Facebook, LinkedIn and Pinterest.