Rich in B-vitamins and the savory umami flavor, nutritional yeast is frequently used as a seasoning or food additive. The health benefits of nutritional yeast have made it particularly popular among vegetarians and vegans, since the tiny organisms are an abundant source of nutrients that can be difficult to obtain from plant sources. Though foods like Parmesan cheese, soy sauce and cooked mushrooms can impart the same flavors, they lack the health benefits of nutritional yeast.
Due to their restrictive diet, it can be difficult for vegans to obtain foods that possess the satisfying umami flavor. While mushrooms, soy and seaweed can all provide some of this savory flavor, they lack the health-promoting benefits of nutritional yeast. Soy and seaweed products can contain high levels of sodium, while mushrooms have little nutrition altogether.
This small microorganism is a powerhouse of nutrition, particularly the B-vitamins thought by some naturopathic physicians to play an important role in protecting the central an peripheral nervous systems. Just two teaspoons of nutritional yeast contain 670% of the recommended daily intake (RDI) of vitamin B-1, 590% of vitamin B-2, 280% of vitamin B-3, 560% of vitamin B-6, and 400% of vitamin B-12. It also contains 180% of the recommended daily intake of folic acid and 10% of pantothenic acid as well as 30% of the recommended daily intake of selenium, 16% of dietary fiber, and as much as 9 g of protein. By incorporating this superfood into the daily diet as a seasoning or salt substitute, it is possible to take advantage of the benefits of nutritional yeast without taking it in the form of capsules.
As a dietary supplement, nutritional yeast has an incomparable safety record. While many vitamin and mineral supplements can produce side effects like flushing and gastrointestinal distress, nutritional yeast is incredibly well-tolerated due to the nutrient buffering provided by its natural form. Compared to conventional vitamin supplements, natural nutritional yeast is also extremely inexpensive, which may account for much of its popularity.