I’ve been hearing this term and seeing it pop up on recipes as a low sodium, dairy-free cheese substitute. Considering a large portion of my patients struggle with hypertension and other cardiovascular aliments, I have decided to do a little digging into Nutritional Yeast and its benefits related to heart disease.
What Is Nutritional Yeast?
Nutritional Yeast is a deactivated yeast… now WAIT, what does that mean?! In case you didn’t know, yeast is a living micro-organism that uses sugar for energy and produces gas as a by-product.
Traditionally yeast is used in breads to make them rise and provide a fluffy texture. In beer brewing, it produces alcohol and carbonation. Deactivated yeast is essentially baker’s or brewer’s yeast that has been killed and the nutrient profile preserved.
In 1 tablespoon, nutritional yeast contains approximately 2 grams of complete protein, 0 grams of fat, 2 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of fiber, and 5 mg of sodium.
Although it naturally contains b-vitamins and trace elements, like selenium and zinc, it is commonly fortified with additional B-vitamins and minerals.
Full Nutrient Profile. *Remember this varies between brands. Be sure to read nutrition labels!
Is Nutritional Yeast Beneficial?
Nutritional Yeast has gained popularity with vegans because of its nutty, savory, and cheese-like taste. It is a common ingredient in vegan cheese substitutes among other vegan dishes. Besides adding flavor, fortified yeast can be a good source of iron and B-12, which are common deficiencies in vegans.
When it comes to heart health, replacing saturated fat in your diet and reducing sodium intake are a couple ways to ward of cardiovascular disease along with increasing intake of soluble fiber. Nutritional yeast provides a lower sodium and saturated fat alternative to cheese and can be used as a low-sodium seasoning. Additionally the soluble fiber, beta-glucan, found in yeast may provide an additional benefit by helping to lower cholesterol levels.
Should You Eat Nutritional Yeast?
In my opinion, Yes. Nutritional yeast is a nutrient-dense, plant-based food. Substituting nutritional yeast for salty seasonings and cheese in recipes can prevent B-vitamin deficiencies and decrease your sodium and saturated fat intake.
Even if you aren’t vegan or struggling with heart disease, nutritional yeast has various potential health benefits. More so, eating a variety of plant based food in our diets has been shown to reduce the risk of chronic illness.
If you have inflammatory bowel disease (Crohn’s or diverticulitis) or a diagnosis of IBS, speak with your doctor or dietitian before adding nutritional yeast into your diet. Persons with an allergy to yeast should not consume nutritional yeast or products that contain it.
How to Use Nutritional Yeast
Nutritional yeast is sold as flakes or powders and can be found in the spice isle. Store well-sealed in a cool dry place.
- Use as seasoning over dishes like pasta and popcorn
- Stir into soups and sauces for a savory or cheesy flavor (also adds thickness)
- Check out these recipes for inspiration!
Butternut Squash Mac-N-Cheese
Cheesy Roasted Cauliflower
Oil-Free Pesto Sauce
Roast Carrot Salad with Quinoa Chickpeas +Everything Dressing