Nutritional Yeast: Not Just Another Pretty Face

 

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Okay, let’s face it, nutritional yeast is not much to look at. Maybe Shreck would use it to garnish his gruel, but other than that, nutritional yeast is one of those ingredients that is destined to be esteemed for its health benefits not its visual appeal.

We first heard about nutritional yeast (NY) from our vegan and vegetarian friends, and if it’s good enough for those strictly following a plant-based diet, it’s good enough for the average omnivore too. But just what is nutritional yeast, and why is it so highly valued by vegans?

Yeasts are single cell organisms, of the fungus kingdom. These organisms, dormant when dry, become active when exposed to water and carbohydrate, and depending on the type of yeast, convert carbohydrates to carbon dioxide and/or alcohol, a process we know as fermentation. This is of course why the strain of yeast most of us are familiar with, Saccharomyces cerevisiae is a vital ingredient in the manufacture of breads and alcoholic beverages; Saccharomyce is Latin for “sugar-fungus” and cerevisiae means, “of beer.” Makes sense.

Nutritional yeast on the other hand, though it may be the same strain, has been processed a little differently; it is allowed to ferment a few days in a nutritional bath of water and glucose, usually from molasses, then just when it is having the time of its life it is artificially deactivated, usually through exposure to extreme heat. It is then washed and dried and packaged.

NY is a big hit with vegans –and is healthy for everyone else too- because it is a complete protein; it contains all eighteen amino acids, including the nine that humans cannot produce by themselves but obtain through our diet. It is also a good source of B- vitamins, including thiamine, folate, B-6 and niacin. Two tablespoons has 9 g of complete protein, 4 g of fibre and only 60 calories. Just half a tablespoon of NY will supply you with your RDA of all the B vitamins, with some fortified brands providing up to 300% of your RDA. Dairy -free, soy-free, gluten-free and is free of the yeast which aggravates candidiasis.

 

Nutritional yeast on popcorn? Oh, you betcha!

Nutritional yeast on popcorn? Oh, you betcha!

 

One subjective concern when it comes to meatless cooking is that vegan or vegetarian dishes often lack that “meaty” or umami flavour. Not so when NY is added to dishes, as it is prized for it umami qualities, its taste often described as cheesy or tangy. Indeed, NY is often added to vegan cheese sauces for precisely this reason, the incredible nutritional benefits a bonus.

 

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This flavour enhancing property makes NY attractive to omnivores too, as it adds a flavour boost to soups, sauces and stews as well as omelettes, meatloaf….the list goes on and on. Like powdered cheese or parm on your popcorn? Try a little NY on it instead, it adds that cheesy flavour as well as a huge nutritional boost. If you’re looking for a quick and easy way to add delicious flavour to your next dinner, as well as serious nutrition, try a little. You’ll love it!

 

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