Nutritional yeast is a popular health food because it has so many vitamins and nutrients. If you use nutritional yeast in your cooking, you might wonder if it’s good for you. Are there nutritional yeast dangers you should be aware of?
Let’s take a closer look.
Nutritional Yeast: It’s Not Like Other Yeasts
You might know that yeast is used in breads and beers. If you’re unlucky, you may have gotten an infection from yeast in the past. Bread yeast, beer yeast, and infection-causing yeast are different kinds of yeast, but they all belong to the same family.
- Yeast cells are classified as fungi. There are many kinds of yeast, but the three main types that you can eat all belong to the same species. There are other kinds of edible yeast, but they aren’t as common on grocery store shelves.1
- The three main kinds of yeast you can eat are nutritional yeast, baker’s yeast, and brewer’s yeast. These three yeasts are used as ingredients in many foods to add flavor or nutrition. Baker’s yeast also makes bread rise.1
- Nutritional yeast is a deactivated yeast, meaning the yeast is cooked, so the fungi are dead by the time you eat it. Nutritional yeast has a nutty or cheesy flavor. Vegans use nutritional yeast seasoning because it has a savory flavor and great health benefits.3,4
- Brewer’s yeast is used to brew alcohol. It is still alive at the start of the brewing process. After it dies, you can eat it, just like nutritional yeast. In its deactivated form, it tastes bitter. This yeast has gluten, unlike nutritional or baker’s yeast, which are gluten-free.5
- Baker’s yeast is used for baking bread and in other baked goods. The yeast is alive when it goes into the dough, but the cooking process kills it. You can find this yeast in bread and cheese.6
Nutritional Yeast – a Superfood
Nutritional yeast is a popular food with vegetarians and vegans. But even if you’re a meat-eater, you may find that nutritional yeast still has benefits you need in your diet. It’s full of healthy vitamins and minerals, plus it can help your health in surprising ways.
- One of the biggest nutritional yeast benefits is its high protein content. This makes it popular with vegetarians, vegans, and others following plant-based diets.7
- Just one tablespoon of nutritional yeast contains several minerals, including calcium, iron, and potassium. It also has vitamins like thiamin, riboflavin, and Vitamin D. Nutritional yeast is also a source of trace minerals like selenium, zinc, and magnesium.8
- Nutritional yeast contains healthy carbohydrates that help boost the immune system and may also help regulate cholesterol levels. These carbohydrates are in oats and yeast, and both foods seem to have similar benefits.9,10
- A small, two-tablespoon serving of nutritional yeast has only 40 calories. You can enjoy its savory flavor without needing to worry about weight gain.11
Nutritional yeast contains high levels of vitamins, minerals, and carbohydrates. As it turns out, this food can be fortified with vitamin B12 to make it even better for you.
What is Fortified Nutritional Yeast?
Nutritional yeast comes in two forms: fortified nutritional yeast and unfortified nutritional yeast. It is often touted as a powerhouse of B vitamins.
However, nutritional yeast does not naturally contain any vitamin B12. So this vitamin is often added to fortified nutritional yeast.
- Vitamin B12 is actually a large and complicated vitamin. You need it to make new red blood cells.12 Your body can’t store vitamin B12, so you need to eat it every day. 13
- Many people get their vitamin B12 from meat and other animal products. Vegetarians and vegans need to find other foods that have this vitamin. That’s why fortified nutritional yeast is so popular among those following a plant-based diet.14
- As you age, your body loses its ability to absorb vitamin B12. If you’re over the age of 51, it’s especially important to find ways to eat more vitamin B12, like nutritional yeast.15
Everyone’s dietary needs are different. Your age and whether you eat meat play a role in whether you need your nutritional yeast to be fortified. There is no taste difference between fortified and unfortified yeast, so choose which one to eat based on your own vitamin B12 needs.
What are the Health Benefits of Brewer’s Yeast?
If you don’t like the taste of nutritional yeast, or if you just want to try something new, you have other options. However, bear in mind that different yeasts have different health benefits. For example, here are some of the benefits of eating brewer’s yeast.
- Brewer’s yeast has many of the same nutrients as nutritional yeast, but in smaller amounts. For example, it has about half as much vitamin B5 and a tenth as much vitamin B6 compared to nutritional yeast.16
- This type of yeast has minerals like iron, sodium, and magnesium. It also has vitamins like thiamin, riboflavin, and folic acid. Unlike nutritional yeast, brewer’s yeast does not have much calcium content.17
- Yeast used in the brewing process might give you an energy boost.18
- Brewer’s yeast is a good source of protein.19
- Yeast used in alcohol brewing may help control blood sugar levels.20
If you’re a big beer fan, you may already be enjoying the benefits of this form of yeast without even realizing it. Otherwise, you can eat brewer’s yeast with your food. This yeast has a bitter taste, so you may want to stick with nutritional yeast for flavor.
Benefits Associated with Baker’s Yeast
The third main kind of yeast that you eat is baker’s yeast. This yeast, which helps bread rise, also offers a host of potentially healthy nutrients.
- Baker’s yeast contains phosphorus, potassium, and folate. It has no sugar, and it’s low in fat.21
- Baker’s yeast is also loaded with antioxidants, which help fight off free radicals. 22
- B-glucan, an ingredient in baker’s yeast, may help children fight off respiratory infections. Scientists believe that the nutrients in baker’s yeast help boost the immune system.23
- The immune boost also helps adults. One study found that athletes and people experiencing stress enjoyed better health when they consumed baker’s yeast.24
- A nutrient in baker’s yeast may help people who suffer from seasonal allergies.25
Other Kinds of Yeast and Yeast Products
You may have noticed yeast supplements and other products that aren’t one of the three main types of yeast. Some of these products may give you a health boost, but others are actually dangerous. How can you tell the difference?
- Red yeast rice is a traditional Chinese dish and health supplement. It’s made of rice and a different type of yeast than that used in nutritional yeast. Red yeast rice contains compounds that can interfere with prescription medicine. It can also have a deadly contaminant that causes kidney failure.26
- Probiotics contain live good bacteria that can help boost humans’ digestive system. Probiotics like yeast help maintain the balance of good bacteria in your gut.27
- Yeast can be enriched with chromium salt or selenium salt. When the yeast is ready to eat, it has high levels of these minerals. Look for products labeled “chromium yeast” and “selenium yeast.” 28
If you are sensitive to yeast, watch what you’re eating closely. You probably already know that breads and cheeses contain yeast. Other foods may also contain yeast, so read ingredient labels carefully.
What Is the Risk of Infection with Nutritional Yeast in Diet?
If you’ve ever had a yeast infection, you know how unpleasant it can be.
The good news is, eating nutritional yeast doesn’t cause infections.
- A yeast strain called candida causes infections. This is a different strain from what is used to make nutritional yeast and other yeasts that you eat. The most common strain that leads to yeast infection is Candida albicans.29
- Candida naturally lives in your digestive tract. Infections can happen when your body becomes overrun with this type of yeast.30
- Again, candida yeast is not nutritional yeast. Nutritional yeast almost never causes candida overgrowth.31
Are Yeast-based Foods Safe if You Suffer from Candida Overgrowth?
Nutritional yeast doesn’t cause infections. But candida may feed on the simple sugars in nutritional yeast. If you have candida overgrowth, you may need to go on an anti-candida diet to keep your candida overgrowth in check.
- An anti-candida diet means not eating food that helps candida grow. Hopefully, the candida will starve. You’ll need to stay away from sugars. Sugary foods to avoid include sweetened drinks and refined bread.
- Don’t eat fungi on this diet. Edible yeast and peanuts have fungi in them.
- Candida loves sugar and starchy foods, even fruits and vegetables. Stay away from corn, potatoes, and starchy vegetables. Don’t eat things like pineapple, banana, dried fruits, and fruit juices.
- You can enjoy whole grains on this diet, so long as you only eat one serving of complex carbohydrates per day.
- For protein, you can enjoy most meats, fish, and eggs. Vegan protein options are any kind of bean or legume. Most kinds of nuts are okay, except for peanuts or pistachios.
- On this diet, you must not ingest alcohol or vinegar. Also, stay away from any foods that have these ingredients, like pickles. Use olive oil for flavoring.
- You cannot drink regular cow’s milk on this diet. You can still enjoy unsweetened soy milk or other milk substitutes.
- Avoid sweeteners like molasses, sugar, honey, and maple syrup. Only stevia can be used as a sweetener.32
Changing your diet is important to slow or stop bad candida overgrowth. You’ll see an improvement when you avoid yeast and simple sugars. Before starting any kind of special diet, always consult with your doctor.
Health Risks Associated with Nutritional Yeast
In some cases, you may find it best to avoid nutritional yeast altogether. If you eat yeast, you’ll want to do so in moderation.
- Nutritional yeast is high in fiber. If you eat too much fiber, and your body isn’t used to it, you may get cramps, discomfort, or dehydration.33
- This yeast contains a hormone called tyramine. Tyramine might cause headaches, as well as high blood pressure.34,35
- Nutritional yeast also contains niacin. Consuming high amounts of niacin could cause facial flushing or, in extreme cases, liver damage.36-38
- Nutritional yeast can trigger allergies or intolerances. A yeast allergy can be difficult to diagnose because the symptoms are similar to other, more common conditions.39,40
- Yeast, including nutritional yeast, naturally contains monosodium glutamate, or MSG. If you are sensitive to MSG, you’ll need to avoid foods that are made with yeast.41
- Some brands of nutritional yeast have detectable amounts of lead. The level is low, but pregnant women should still be careful about eating nutritional yeast.42
Nutritional yeast can be a beneficial addition to your diet, however, you should be aware of side effects. Be especially careful if you have allergies, or if you’re pregnant. Again, if you are concerned about nutritional yeast, or you’re making any dietary changes, talk to your doctor first.
Alternatives to Nutritional Yeast
If you can’t eat nutritional yeast, other nutrient-dense foods allow you to enjoy the same health benefits.
- Eggs and yogurt have a lot of vitamin B12. Leafy greens, like spinach, and legumes, like beans or lentils, are also packed with B12.43,44
- For a protein boost, eat more beans, nuts and seeds, eggs, meat and seafood, and soy products.45
- You can find lots of antioxidants in most kinds of fruits and vegetables. You can also take antioxidant supplements. (Supplements don’t always have calcium or other nutrients you’d get from a plant-based diet.)46
- Salmon, liver, and fortified breakfast foods are full of niacin and other beneficial minerals. They’re a good option if you can’t — or don’t want to — eat nutritional yeast.47
- Leafy green vegetables are a good source of calcium. You’ll also find calcium in fortified tofu, fruit juice, and soy drinks.48
Your doctor can tell you which foods will work best for your body’s needs. For the best results, eat mostly fresh foods, especially fruits and vegetables. You can’t control what is in ready-made food.
Make an Informed Decision on Nutritional Yeast
Life can be confusing, and following a healthy diet is no different. Nutritional yeast offers many well-known health benefits. But before you use that tablespoon of yeast in your cooking, know that there are some risks to eating nutritional yeast.
Talk to your doctor if you’re concerned about nutritional yeast. Together, you can decide what’s best for your diet and your health.
35. https://toxnet.nlm.nih.gov/cgi-bin/sis/search2/r?dbs+hsdb:@[email protected][email protected]+51-67-2