Unless you’re deep into the vegan or vegetarian game, chances are you’ve probably never heard of “nutritional yeast”. For those of us in the know, nutritional yeast is often referred to as “hippy dust” or “nooch” and it’s a magical ingredient that adds umami flavors to plant based foods.
As a life-force food in the plant-based world, “nooch” is a good source of many vitamins and minerals. Plant based or meat lovers, eaters of all kinds can benefit from eating the “nooch”!
What is nutritional yeast, anyway? It’s a tiny microorganism whose main uses have historically been the creation of bread and beer. Yeast, like mushrooms, is a fungus that feeds on a nutrient source and is considered a vegan food. Nutritional yeast is typically grown on beets, molasses, or barley, then it is harvested, heated, dried, and crumbled into powder or flakes. This process deactivates the yeast, so it cannot be used at a leavening agent.
Nutritional Yeast is gaining popularity as a simple way to add a little flavor and a lot of nutrients to any diet, here are the most notable nutrient facts:
- It’s a vegan source of Vitamin B-12. Most sources of Vitamin B-12 are animal based, so nutritional yeast is a major player in the nutritional wellbeing of vegans and vegetarians since B-12 is a crucial nutrient for health. One tablespoon per day provides your recommended amount of B-12.
- It’s high in protein. 2 spoonfuls contain 9 grams of protein. That’s more than the protein found in an egg (6g), or in an ounce of beef (7g).
- It’s high in fiber. Fiber is essential to gut health. It regulates blood sugar, providing sustainable energy and you get 3 grams of fiber from one spoon of nutritional yeast.
- It’s a great source of folic acid. Especially important for women out there trying to get pregnant or carrying, folic acid is known to prevent spina bifida and other major birth defects. For those not planning to get pregnant, folic acid plays an important role in cell maintenance and production.
A few notes on buying and consumption:
- Nutritional Yeast will grow on many different plants and plant derivatives, including beets, molasses, and barley, so if you have a gluten issue, do your research.
- Nutritional Yeast has a moisture content of approximately 0%, so to try to eat it by itself may result in more gagging than swallowing. You’re better off trying it in a recipe that going it alone!
- Nutritional Yeast is a deactivated product. Live yeast is the stuff that makes bread rise and beer ferment, and you can imagine what might happen inside your stomach if you’d consume a copious quantity of that stuff. Be sure to get yeast created for human consumption, not for baking or brewing.
Where Can I Find It?
As its popularity grows, Nutritional Yeast is finding its way into mainstream stores. You can be almost certain to find it at a Natural/Health food store, Whole Foods and if you’re fortunate, a local supermarket or store may carry it. One popular brand is Bob’s Red Mill Nutritional Yeast, and that’s now available at national chains. You can also buy online at Thrive Market or you can find my personal favorite brand, Bragg’s Organic Nutritional Yeast here.
Nutritional Yeast provides an interesting way to add an intriguing flavor and important nutrients to many different dishes, so give it a try, and maybe you’ll soon be throwing around the word “nooch” and making the tastiest dishes around! Check out my 7 favorite ways to unleash the yeast here.