Ah, the wonders of nutritional yeast. How vegans, gluten and casein free (GFCF) dieters and cats love it. Many people, however, either do not know what it is or how exactly to use it. For starters, nutritional yeast is deactivated. According to the Fat Free Vegan, it is made from Saccharomyces cerevisiae, a single-cell organism that is grown on molasses. It is harvested, then washed and dried using heat. This is what causes it to become deactivated. Yeast is a member of the fungi family. It can usually be found at a health food store or co-op in the bulk bins and because it is so light and a little goes a long way, nutritional yeast is very inexpensive. Bob’s Red Mill and Bragg’s also offer the flakes pre-packaged.
Probably the greatest health benefit from nutritional yeast is the potentially high B12 content. Sometimes the B12 is an additive, but the best way to get it is when the yeast is grown within a medium that is enriched with the vitamin. It is important to check for the B12, because sometimes it is not included. Nutritional yeast also contains other B vitamins, is gluten and sugar free, low in sodium and fat, has iron and is considered to be a complete protein. Again, it is important to use the fortified variety of nutritional yeast as this will yield greater health benefits.
One very important aspect of nutritional yeast to understand is that it has a high phosphorous content. That means that too much of it can deplete calcium from the body. Some manufacturers actually add calcium to help counteract this affect.
For vegans and GFCF dieters, nutritional yeast is the next best thing to eating cheese. Vegans do not eat cheese since it is an animal by-product and GFCF dieters do not eat it because of the presence of the protein casein. Nutritional yeast is also a good cheese alternative for those who are lactose-intolerant. Many products available use nutritional yeast.
Any vegan queso worth its weight will have copious amounts of nutritional yeast and is very easy to make at home. Pirate Brands, the makers of Pirate Booty, make a life-saving alternative to Cheetos, called Tings. They are shaped like Cheetos, but are made wonderfully cheesy, and light colored, by the nutritional yeast.
There is also a great alternative to parmesan cheese, called Rawmesan by Gopal’s Health Foods. It is so delicious, however, at about $6 for a 4 oz. bottle, it can be made at home, yielding a large batch for about the same price.
Adding nutritional yeast to rice, pasta, popcorn, vegetables, greens, scrambled eggs (or tofu) and salads not only changes the flavors up a bit, but adds some extra, well, nutrition. The texture is dry and flaky. If putting nutritional yeast on something else that is dry, like rice cakes or toast, also add some olive oil to create a fantastic food fusion. It also works as a terrific thickener for sauces and soups.
If there is a cat in the family, try sprinkling some on their food, they tend to go bonkers for the stuff! The woman who made that suggestion said that she can put her cat’s food down without the nutritional yeast on it and he will look up at her as if to say, “You forgot something.” She also said that his coat has gotten much softer since she started feeding it to him.
Nutritional yeast has such a great reputation as a food supplement, that even non-vegans have grown to love it. Many people have discovered what a wonderful and fun cheese substitute it is. Nutritional yeast has even been given a cute and cuddly pet name, nooch.
By Stacy Lamy