The Health Benefits of Adding Nutritional Yeast to Your Diet – Health News Today

Love Parmesan, but are trying to ditch dairy? Listen up: You’ll probably also dig nutritional yeast, or nooch, as some fans like to call it. While there’s nothing cheesy in it, nutritional yeast is often described as having a rich cheese-like flavor, one reason you’ll see it used on everything from pasta to popcorn.

Although nutritional yeast frequently guests stars in vegan fare, you don’t have to be vegan to eat it. In fact, no matter what your diet, everybody can benefit by shaking a little more of it into their meals.

The Health Benefits of Nutritional Yeast

Nutritional yeast is a flaky, yellow-colored yeast that typically grows on cane or beet molasses, says Willow Jarosh, M.S., R.D., owner of Willow Jarosh Culinary Nutrition in New York City. Because it’s a deactivated yeast, it’s not alive when you use it in your kitchen. And while it has similar properties as brewer’s yeast, the two are different.

If that hasn’t sold you on trying it yet, maybe the nutritional benefits will. Start with B vitamins. Just two tablespoons of it contain all eight of the B vitamins you need and well over 100 percent of the recommended daily value of five of them, including thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B6, and vitamin B12, says Sharon Palmer, M.S.F.S., R.D.N., a plant-powered dietitian in Los Angeles who offers free resources at sharonpalmer.com. And on that B12 note, you’ll get more than a day’s worth of vitamin B12 in those same two tablespoons. B12, which occurs naturally in animal products, is key for vegetarians and vegans, Palmer says. It’s important for regulating blood and nerve cell health and preventing a specific type of anemia, and a lack of B vitamins overall can lead to depression.

Nutritional yeast also contains eight grams of protein and four grams of fiber, namely a type of soluble fiber called beta-glucan which is the main fiber in oats, too. “Beta-glucan helps lower total and LDL cholesterol levels and can lower your risk for heart disease,” says Julie Upton, M.S., R.D., San Francisco-based dietitian and co-founder of Appetite for Health and AFH Consulting.

And if you’re looking for amino acids, you’ll get all nine in the powder, says Angela Wortley, R.D.N., dietitian and certified intuitive eating counselor in Ann Arbor, Mich., adding that its chromium may be beneficial for blood sugar control. And don’t forget the zinc; two tablespoons has 20 percent of your daily value of zinc, Palmer adds.

Just note, though: Nutritional yeast may not be for everybody. “People with health conditions like migraines and inflammatory bowel disease may find that nutritional yeast worsens symptoms, though smaller amounts may be tolerated,” Wortley says. And of course, if you’re sensitive or allergic to yeast products, you should avoid nutritional yeast.

Kale chips topped with nutritional yeast. Photo Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

How to Use Nutritional Yeast in Your Food

Nutritional yeast lovers are fans of…