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Nourishment

What on Earth is Nutritional Yeast?

Credit: Unsplash
It’s not cheese, even though it certainly resembles it.

When you think of “yeast,” does bread come to mind? Maybe beer? How about both beer and bread? These are all reasonable assumptions, however, to clarify, the yeast used in bread or beer production is referred to as “activated yeast.” You see, yeast is a tiny fungus, so when it’s activated, it’s considered “alive,” in a way. Activated yeast transforms sugar into alcohol and carbon dioxide, which is why it causes bread to rise, among other things. But what about deactivated yeast?

Deactivated yeast, more widely recognized as nutritional yeast or “noosh” in certain circles, is not alive and doesn’t perform yeast’s sugar conversion magic. It’s often found on the surface of molasses, particularly those derived from sugarcane and beets. It appears as a yellow powder or flakes; to an untrained eye, it strongly resembles powdered Parmesan cheese. Strangely enough, deactivated yeast boasts a taste that is frequently compared to cheese, with a hint of a nutty flavor. This resemblance has led to its popularity as a vegan popcorn topping.

Credit: Unsplash

But surely a substance that mimics cheese and is sprinkled over popcorn can’t be healthy, right? On the contrary, nutritional yeast is remarkably rich in several crucial nutrients. Just two tablespoons of this product will provide you with your entire daily recommended intake of eight vital B vitamins, particularly vitamin B12. Nutritional yeast is also packed with protein, fiber, and essential amino acids. The only downside to nutritional yeast is that, well, it’s still yeast. Some individuals may have a yeast sensitivity that makes consuming nutritional yeast unwise, and it’s also not advised for those with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or chronic migraines.

If you desire a flavorful garnish for your dishes without drowning them in cheese (and who doesn’t appreciate more cheese alternatives), nutritional yeast is an excellent option.

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