Nutritional yeast is a deactivated yeast, that is an essential part of any plant-based eater’s pantry. It comes as yellow flakes or powder usually in a tub the same size as a typical can of parmesean cheese. But some grocery stores, such as Wegmans, have nutritional yeast in bulk aisles in those big plastic containers next to nuts, grains, and seeds.
Nutritional yeast is a great source of protein and vitamins. It is loaded with protein (50% by weight), B-vitamins, essential fatty acids, and folic acid. Some brands, but not all, are fortified with B-12. Vitamin B12 is usually found in meat products because of a bacteria that forms it (although the original source of B12 comes from dirt! More info on this to come in future articles!). So nutritional yeast fortified with B12 is an especially important addition to the plant-based eater who can not get B12 from meat. Some nutritional yeasts are complete proteins as they contain all the essential amino acids! It is free of sugar, dairy, and gluten which makes it a safe choice for anyone with allergies or special diets.
Nutritional yeast has a cheesy flavor which makes it a perfect cheese substitute. I love to add it to pasta dishes, tofu scrambles, on top of popcorn, or any dish where you would use cheese.
The only brand I have tried, as it is the most common amongst vegans and vegetarians, is Red Star Nutritional Yeast. Red Star’s yeast is fortified with B12. Here is their process taken right from their website:
Red Star Nutritional Yeast is primary from pure strains of Saccharomyces cerevisiae (or sugar-eating fungus. This name is derived from the Latin word “cerevisiae”, which means “brewer”. This strain of yeast is very strong and capable of fermentation, the process that causes bread
dough to rise) grown on mixtures of cane and beet molasses. After the fermentation process is completed, “cream yeast” (don’t worry! cream yeast does not contain any milk or cream! It is just the name that the yeast is given at this stage) is heated by means of a heat exchanger and held at pasteurization temperatures for a period long enough to inactivate the yeast. During this holding period, all necessary vitamins are added to meet the requirements of the specific type of nutritional yeast produced. The yeast is then drum dried before it is ground and shipped to consumers. The drying process assures that all the cells are inactivated in order for the full nutritional benefits to be available.
Ingredients: Inactive dry yeast, niacin (B3), thiamin hydrochloride (B1), riboflavin (B2), pyridoxine hydrochloride (B6), Vitamin B12.
Serving Size: 1 1/2 Heaping tbsp.
Carbohydrates: 2% DV*
Fat: 1% DV
Fiber: 16% DV
Calcium: 1% DV
Iron: 3% DV
Thiamin: 640% DV
Riboflavin: 565% DV
Niacin: 280% DV
Vitamin B6: 480% DV
Folic Acid: 60% DV
Vitamin B12: 133% DV
Biotin: 7% DVZinc: 21% DV
Selenium: 32% DV
Copper: 6% DV
*DV=Daily Value (Based on a 2,000 calorie diet)
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