Nutritional yeast (sometimes referred to as “nooch”) is a species of yeast known as Saccharomyces cerevisiae, which is the same type of yeast that’s used to bake bread and brew beer (1). However, nutritional yeast is an inactivated version, which means that, if you tried to use it to make bread or beer, it wouldn’t work well and would likely be too bitter to enjoy.
Nutritional yeast is a deactivated yeast, which means yeast cells are killed during processing and inactive in the final product.
It’s described as having a nutty, cheesy, and savory flavor. It’s a common vegan cheese substitute.
This article explains what nutritional yeast is, reviews its health benefits, and suggests creative ways to use it.
There are two types of nutritional yeast — unfortified and fortified:
- Unfortified. This type doesn’t provide any added vitamins or minerals. It only contains the vitamins and minerals that are naturally produced by the yeast cells as they grow.
- Fortified. This type contains synthetic vitamins added during the manufacturing process to boost nutrient content. Any additional vitamins are included in the ingredient list.
Fortified nutritional yeast is the most common type and offers the most benefits.
Nutritional yeast is sold as thin flakes, granules, or powder. You can find it in the spice or condiment section at most grocery stores or in bulk bins of health food stores. It has a pale yellow color and may come packaged in a bag, shaker, or plastic container.
This ingredient fits nearly any diet or eating style. It’s naturally low in sodium and calories, and it’s fat-free, sugar-free, gluten-free, and vegan.
Some main nutritional benefits of nutritional yeast include:
- Protein. Nutritional yeast contains all nine essential amino acids that you must obtain from food. It’s also a source of high quality plant protein (2).
- B vitamins. Fortified nutritional yeast is especially rich in B vitamins, including thiamine (B1), riboflavin (B2), niacin (B3), and B6 and B12 (2).
- Trace minerals. These include zinc, selenium, manganese, and molybdenum, which are involved in gene regulation, metabolism, growth, and immunity (2, 3, 4).
Exact nutritional values vary between brands, so always read labels to find the variety that meets your needs.
Buy fortified versions to get the most health benefits, particularly if you’re using nooch to add extra vitamins and minerals to your diet. If you’re using nutritional yeast simply for its flavor, you may be less concerned about whether it’s fortified.
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