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Nutritional Yeast: The Two Tablespoon Powerhouse

Updated: Jan 24, 2021

This fortified food is an excellent source of Vitamin B12 -- an essential nutrient which needs to be supplemented for anyone following a plant-based diet. It's also a great option to have in the pantry for those looking for a cholesterol- and saturated fat-free alternative to grated cheese.

Have you heard of people using nutritional yeast, but aren’t sure what it is or how to use it?

Nutritional yeast, Saccharomyces cerevisiae, is a powdered yeast that is packed with vitamins, minerals, protein and fiber. It’s considered a vegetarian supplement because of its B-vitamin content -- vitamins that tend to be lacking in a predominantly plant-based diet. While it can be purchased in a pill form, the focus here is on the versatility of the powder form.

With only 45 calories per two tablespoons serving, it also packs in six to eight grams of protein and four grams of fiber. That’s as much protein as a half a cup of most types of beans and lentils and as much fiber as a half cup of broccoli.

One serving also contains about 24 milligrams of magnesium and three milligrams of zinc.* That’s 20% of your daily zinc needs. Magnesium is involved in almost 400 different functions including maintaining good heart, metabolic, mental, bone and digestive health. Zinc optimizes the metabolic performance of carbohydrates in the body so they can be used for fuel. This is important for your blood sugar, overall energy, immune health and weight maintenance.

Sounds pretty good so far, right? But it’s really the B-vitamin content that makes this food such a powerhouse! One serving contains: 640% of thiamin, 570% of riboflavin, 280% of niacin, 480% of vitamin B6, 60% of folate, 10% of pantheonic acid and 130% of the vitamin B12 our bodies require every day. B-vitamins are important for body functions such as using carbohydrates for energy. Although these amounts sound high, B-vitamins are water-soluble so the body does not store excess amounts as it does the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K. One thing to keep in mind if you follow a vegetarian or a vegan diet, despite the high B12 content, nutritional yeast should not be your only source of this vitamin. Talk to your doctor about a supplemental sublingual form of B12 since the body absorbs it more efficiently.

How to use it: Sprinkle it on scrambled eggs, kale chips, over salads and sautéed vegetables, baked potatoes and popcorn, or use it like you would parmesan cheese on pasta dishes. Incorporating nutritional yeast can decrease saturated fat and cholesterol intake by swapping out cheese and butter.

Some well-known brands of nutritional yeast include: Bragg, Bob's Red Mill, Red Star, Frontier Naturals/Organics.

Check out Dr. Michael Gregor's video on Vitamin B12 for more in-depth daily and weekly supplementation recommendations.

*Vitamin and mineral contents are approximate and vary among brands. Be sure to read the nutrition label of the product you're purchasing as not all nutritional yeasts are fortified.

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