Just Like Cheese, but Better: Meet Nutritional Yeast

Everyone likes cheese. Nowadays, scientists even recognize that in addition to the traditional sweet, sour, bitter, and salty taste there is a fifth one – savoury, or umami, found first and foremost in cheese. What could possibly replace it? Certainly not some yeast! But what if?..

Why would anyone eat yeast?

Unless you are vegan and follow the related trends, the idea of eating yeast might seem weird. Isn’t yeast some kind of bacteria that makes cake dough rise and causes beer to ferment? Well, first of all, yeast is a fungus. Second, the yeast you buy for baking your cakes is very much alive, though dormant: as soon as you add sugar, it starts growing and multiplying (and that’s why you shouldn’t try to eat baking yeast – it may try to do the same in your stomach!). However, nutritional yeast is quite different. It does belong to the same fungus family, and it is usually grown on wood pulp or molasses, so it is a fully vegan product. But after it has reached the necessary volume, it is heat-dried, which completely stops its growth (the same happens in your cake when you bake it), so it is completely safe to consume. And it does taste of cheese (and nuts)!

A vitamin bomb

We all know that real cheese is a guilty pleasure, since it is full of fat and calories. Nutritional yeast, on the other hand, is completely guilt-free! While it is quite caloric, the actual serving size is quite small – just add a spoonful or two into any dish or salad. It turns out that nutritional yeast contains great amounts of protein (9g per serving, or a quarter of a cup), almost no fat and no sodium. Proteins without fats – isn’t it every nutritionist’s dream?

Further, nutritional yeast contains very high amounts of B vitamins (in fact, usually it is fortified with B12). Since normally B vitamins are found only in animal products, it makes yeast particularly valuable to vegans. Studies show that the combo of vitamins B9 (folic acid) and B12 helps prevent cancer and cerebrovascular disease; besides, it helps preserve the cognitive function in the old age.

Vitamin B1 (thiamine) boosts your immune system (more on its benefits here), while B2 (riboflavin) acts as an anti-oxidant. Besides, all B vitamins are essential for the metabolism processes in our body. While a single serving of nutritional yeast can potentially cover all your daily needs of B vitamins, keep in mind that we simply cannot absorb so much in one go; therefore, it is better to sprinkle one spoonful of yeast at a time into your dish at every meal. (On the other hand, you don’t have to worry about getting a vitamin overdose, either.)

Apart from B vitamins, nutritional yeast contains good amounts of iron, selenium, and zinc. Moreover, it is one of the so-called complete proteins, meaning that it contains all the nine essential amino acids that our body cannot produce. Meat, fish, and dairy are complete proteins, but among plant sources there are only a few, such as buckwheat, chia seeds, spirulina, and quinoa… and nutritional yeast!

It’s time to introduce these miracle flakes into your diet! Start with small amounts in your pasta sauce or salad and make sure to try different brands – they do taste different. Then experiment adding it to smoothies, omelettes, and vegetable dishes, and soon enough you will wonder how you ever lived without it!

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