Nutritional yeast – ‘nooch’ to some - is an absolute powerhouse of nutrition, but remains largely unknown in some circles or is associated only with the hippiest of vegans and vegetarians. These yellow flakes are growing in popularity, however, as word of its health benefits and nutty, slightly cheesy taste - not to mention its impressive nutritional profile - spread. Nooch is a deactivated yeast - typically a strain of Saccharomyces cerevisiae - meaning that it can't be used to make bread or beer and won't ferment in the gut or contribute to yeast overgrowth. Instead, nutritional yeast is often used as a topping or condiment, as well as in the making of cheesy sauces, such as vegan tofu benedict.
How to Eat Nutritional Yeast
One of my favorite ways to eat nooch is in the form of a nutty parmesan-type topping. Simply combine nutritional yeast, Brazil nuts, and a dash of salt into a food processor and pulse until s ground crumbly consistency, and voila! I typically make this in bulk and store in a Mason jar in a dark cupboard so I have it on hand for popcorn, veggie chilli, and baked potatoes. If I'm honest, I sprinkle it on pretty much every meal I make. I also use nutritional yeast in the process of making cultured vegan cheese, typically in pub cheddar-style cheese. It is also a key ingredient in making vegan mac and cheese and is fantastic for adding depth (and nutrients!) to gravy.
What's So Nutritional About Nutritional Yeast?
We've established that nutritional yeast is versatile (and delicious), so let's take a look at the reason behind that 'nutritional' moniker. These yeasty flakes are a fantastic source of a number of essential nutrients but there are only 45 calories in a typical serving (two tablespoons). Two tablespoons also provides 8 grams of protein, 4 g of fiber and a whole host of vitamins and minerals, including:
- Thiamin - 9.6 mg (640% of daily requirements)
- Riboflavin - 9.7 mg (570%)
- Niacin - 56 mg (280%)
- Vitamin B6 - 69.6 mg (480%)
- Folate 240 mcg (60%)
- Pantothenic Acid - 1.0 mg (10%)
- Iron - 0.7 mg (4%)
- Magnesium - 24.0 mg (6%)
- Zinc - 3.0 mg (20%)
- Copper 0.1 mg (6%)
Nutritional yeast contains no cholesterol, barely a trace of sodium, and no saturated fat, but is often fortified with vitamin B12 (just one of the many reasons it is so popular with vegans). Two tablespoons of fortified nooch typically provides 7.8 mcg, or 130% of the daily requirement for vitamin B12 which, alongside folate and vitamin B6, can help support healthy homocysteine levels, keeping the cardiovascular system happy.*
Storing Nutritional Yeast
As vitamins are easily lost through exposure to air, heat, and light, it is helpful to store nutritional yeast in a cool, dark place. I buy nooch in bulk and keep large bags of it in my freezer, decanting as necessary into a smaller container that I store in the refrigerator. I also typically avoid adding nooch to a dish until cooking is complete, so as to minimize nutrient loss. If you have yet to give nutritional yeast a try, head on over to the bulk or specialty aisle of your grocery store and get ready to fall in love!