What’s cheesy, savory, and actually good for you? Nope, not Doritos (we wish!). Nutritional yeast — the healthy superfood long loved by vegans – is crossing over into the mainstream, and it actually tastes way better than it sounds.
No longer exclusively sold by niche health food stores, nutritional yeast is available from retailers like Amazon, Walmart, and Whole Foods, and the flavorful flakes pump up everything from popcorn to roasted vegetables. TODAY anchor Sheinelle Jones recently shared she can’t get enough of the stuff after starting a plant-based-diet.
Here’s what you need to know about “nature’s Cheeto dust”:
What is nutritional yeast?
Most nutritional yeast is an inactive, dry form of Saccharomyces cerevisiae, a species of yeast. Live S. cerevisiae is used to bake bread and brew beer. However, nutritional yeast is deactivated with heat during processing (read: it’s not live). Most versions you’ll find in stores also get fortified with folic acid, a vitamin that’s especially important if you’re trying to get pregnant, and vitamin B12, a key nutrient that’s harder to obtain when following a vegan diet. This gluten- and dairy-free flavoring also sometimes goes by the name “nooch.”
Nutritional yeast powder or flakes taste cheesy, nutty, and almost salty, even though they do not contain any sodium. The bottle does not need to be refrigerated; store it tightly sealed in a cool, dry place.
Is nutritional yeast good for you?
“Nooch packs more than 100% of the daily value for B vitamins like thiamin, riboflavin, and niacin, plus folate and vitamins B6 and B12 — all of which are crucial for helping you convert food to energy and maintain a normal metabolism,” says Jaclyn London, MS, RD, CDN, Nutrition Director at the Good Housekeeping Institute. “Adequate dietary intake of these nutrients during pregnancy and lactation is critical to proper fetal brain development and supporting cognition during adulthood.”
If nutritional yeast is not your thing, don’t worry: You can also find these vitamins in other foods like meat, seafood, dairy, veggies, and whole grains. That said, nooch is especially helpful for vegetarians, vegans, or anyone watching their salt intake.
“As an R.D., I love it as a swap for higher-sodium foods since it’s super flavorful without any added sodium,” London says. Here’s what you’ll get in each scoop of fortified nutritional yeast:
Nutritional Yeast Nutrition Facts
Serving Size: 1 Tablespoon
- Calories: 20
- Total Fat: 0g
- Sodium: 0mg
- Total Carbs: 2g
- Dietary Fiber: 1g
- Protein: 3g
- Iron: 2% DV
- Thiamine (Vitamin B1): 180% DV
- Riboflavin (Vitamin B2): 140% DV
- Vitamin B6: 140% DV
- Vitamin B12: 40% DV
- Folic Acid: 40% FV
- Selenium: 10% DV
Where can I buy nutritional yeast?
You can find nutritional yeast at health food stores as well as chains like Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, and The Vitamin Shoppe. Check the bulk bin or spice aisles; if you’d rather not wander around a store, you can also order nutritional yeast from Amazon:
What are the side effects of nutritional yeast?
Since nutritional yeast contains a lot of fiber — almost 10% of your daily value in 2 tablespoons — it’s possible that eating too much, too fast can lead to stomach upset. You’re better off starting slow on the yeast flakes if you’re not used to a high-fiber diet.
How can I use nutritional yeast?
Sprinkle nutritional yeast on anything in lieu of cheese, since it’s essentially like powdered Parmesan. Try it on:
- Kale chips