Due to its nutritional content, yeast in this form may increase a person’s energy, support their immune system, and offer additional health benefits.
In this article, learn about the benefits of nutritional yeast and how to incorporate it into a healthful diet.
What is nutritional yeast?
Nutritional yeast comes from a species of yeast known as Saccharomyces cerevisiae. There is another form of this yeast species, which is called brewer’s yeast. Although people sometimes use the terms interchangeably, it is essential to note that nutritional yeast is not the same as brewer’s yeast.
As the name suggests, brewer’s yeast is a by-product of the beer-making process, and it grows on hops. Manufacturers can grow nutritional yeast on a variety of sources, including blackstrap molasses, whey, and sugar beets.
Nutritional yeast is similar to the yeast that people use in baking, but it undergoes a heating and drying process that renders it inactive.
Nutritional yeast is dairy-free and usually gluten-free. As a result, it can be a useful supplement for people with food allergies or sensitivities, as well as those on restricted diets. It is also low in fat and contains no sugar or soy.
Nutritional yeast is an excellent source of vitamins, minerals, and high-quality protein. Typically, one-quarter of a cup of nutritional yeast contains:
- 60 calories
- 8 grams (g) of protein
- 3 g of fiber
- 11.85 milligrams (mg) of thiamine, or vitamin B-1
- 9.70 mg of riboflavin, or vitamin B-2
- 5.90 mg of vitamin B-6
- 17.60 micrograms (mcg) of vitamin B-12
It also contains vitamin B-3, potassium, calcium, and iron.
The benefits that nutritional yeast may offer people include:
1. Boosting energy
Although many manufacturers fortify nutritional yeast with vitamin B-12, not all of them do, so it is best to check the label. Vitamin B-12 may help boost energy, as a deficiency of this vitamin can lead to weakness and fatigue.
Nutritional yeast can be particularly helpful for vegetarians and vegans if it has added vitamin B-12, as this vitamin mostly occurs in animal products.
Adults need about 2.4 mcg of vitamin B-12 per day. Just one-quarter of a cup of nutritional yeast provides more than seven times this amount.
2. Supporting the immune system
Research has shown that S. cerevisiae, the strain of yeast in nutritional yeast, can support the immune system and reduce inflammation resulting from bacterial infection. It may also be helpful in treating diarrhea.
3. Promoting skin, hair, and nail health
Some research suggests that nutritional yeast can combat brittle nails and hair loss. It may also help reduce acne and improve other common skin problems, particularly in adolescence.
4. Improving glucose sensitivity
While some people believe that nutritional yeast improves glucose sensitivity in people with type 2 diabetes, studies have yet to prove this.
However, some research on chromium-enriched yeast, which is usually brewer’s yeast, found that this type of yeast could lower fasting blood glucose levels and cholesterol in an animal model.
5. Supporting a healthy pregnancy
Nutritional yeast can also support a healthy pregnancy. The United States Preventive Services Task Force recommend that all women who are planning a pregnancy take 400–800 mcg of folic acid a day to prevent congenital abnormalities and support the growth of the fetus.
Manufacturers frequently fortify nutritional yeast with folic acid, which can make it a useful supplement for pregnant women.
Some brands of nutritional yeast may contain more than a standard serving of folic acid though, so individuals should consult a doctor before using it as a supplement.
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