Can vegans eat yeast?
In this brief guide, we are going to answer the question “Can vegans eat yeast?”, and discuss other questions like what is yeast, why is yeast considered vegan.
Can vegans eat yeast?
Yes, vegans can eat yeast. Most vegans include yeast in their diet.
People who practice veganism intend to avoid practices that cause harm to sentient beings of other species, that is, vegans value animal welfare or the ethics of animal rights. Still, there is also a concern for the environment, because animal husbandry has a major impact on human-induced climate change (1).
According to The Vegan Society, veganism is “a philosophy and way of life which seeks to exclude, as far as is possible and practicable, all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose”. Therefore, it is not restricted to diet, but also to clothes, furniture, and personal care (1).
But, as yeasts are microorganisms (2) and not animals, these yeasts can be part of a vegan’s diet, without hurting their ethical concerns.
Why is yeast considered vegan?
Yeast is considered vegan because it is a microorganism, unicellular fungi, and has a round, oval, or elongated shape (2,3).
This microorganism has become the most important microorganism that man has benefited from for obtaining and processing the most relevant alcoholic beverages and bread (4).
Especially Saccharomyces cerevisiae and related species, yeast has been used by humans since ancient times. In past centuries, the increased demand in yeast-related products has converted yeast biomass into a valuable product and has forced the generation and optimization of industrial yeast biomass production processes, which currently generate vast quantities of yeasts yearly (5).
Mushrooms are also a fungi and it is consumed by vegans (without hurting their philosophy). The difference between mushrooms and yeast is that yeast is unicellular, while mushrooms (filamentous fungi) are multicellular (and macroscopic) (15,16,17). Therefore, yeast can also be consumed by vegans.
Yeast is within the fungal kingdom (18) so, they do not belong to the animal kingdom. Previously, fungi were even classified in the plant kingdom. But these days fungi have their kingdom (19). Therefore, yeasts are more like plants than animals.
What is the yeast used for?
Yeast is generally regarded as safe (GRAS) with the status given by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) (6).
It has been used industrially for years and is a very useful microorganism participating in the most varied industrial sectors, such as food, beverages (breweries, wineries, distilleries), fuels (bioethanol), cosmetics, pharmaceuticals (biopharmaceuticals) and others (7,8).
Below are some of the commercial yeast biosynthesis products and their applications.
– Biofuel: precursor of derivative esters and p-xylene; additive for paint, ink, automotive polish, paint cleaner, and gasoline (6);
– Insulin protein – Used for diabetic treatment in the pharmaceutical industry (6);
– Hepatitis B surface antigen: Used to produce hepatitis vaccines (6);
– Human P53 tumor suppressor: Used as therapeutic proteins in the medical field (6);
– Fibroblast growth factor 20 (FGF20): Involved in embryonic development, cell growth, morphogenesis, tissue repair, tumor growth, and invasion and helps in effective drug development (6);
– Probiotic: Some studies show the efficacy of S. cerevisiae var. boulardii against different pathogenic gastrointestinal diseases.
Consumption of yeast S. cerevisiae var. boulardii may also reduce the likelihood of comorbid conditions caused by continuous antibiotic use over long periods (9);
– Ethanol: Beer, wine, and whisky are some examples. In general, yeast converts sugar into alcohol (ethanol) and carbon dioxide (carbon dioxide) in a process called fermentation (10). But they also are responsible for the different flavor profiles of beer, for example (11);
– Lactic acid (LA): food additive, detergent industry, antibacterial agent (6);
– Succinic acid (SA): Food additive and dietary supplement, a precursor to polymers, resins, and solvent (6);
– Single Cell Protein: Also called “microbial meat” or “microbial protein”, it is a dry cell of microorganisms (which may also be from bacteria, fungi and algae).
Single Cell Protein is used as a protein food supplement in human or animal food, having a high content of protein, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals in addition to being rich in essential amino acids such as lysine and methionine that are absent in most plant and animal foods (12,13).
It is also a way to dispose of large amounts of residual yeast from the production of beer, wine, etc (14).
Are there any benefits to eating yeast as a vegan?
Yes, there are many benefits to eating yeast as a vegan.
Vitamin B12 is vital for the proper functioning of the body and its deficiency can lead to a wide variety of physical and mental symptoms, and may affect vegetarians because the main source of this vitamin is from animal foods (23).
The brewer’s yeasts are often used as an abundant source of a vitamin B complex, including B1 (thiamine), B2 (riboflavin), B3 (niacin), B5 (pantothenic acid), B6 (pyridoxine), B9 (folic acid), and B7 (biotin) (20,21). So, it reduces the risk of deficiencies.
Yeasts also contain other essential microelements that participate in the physiological and metabolic processes in human organisms, such as Zn, Cu, Mn, Fe, and Mg (21).
The literature shows that yeast, with the addition of selenium, protects proteins, lipids and DNA from oxidative damage and helps the immune system and thyroid hormone (22).
Studies suggest that chromium supplements can be beneficial for diabetic patients. It can help them keep sugar levels in check, and improve glucose tolerance, therefore reducing the amount of insulin needed (22).
It’s important to highlight that since the brewer’s yeasts are known to affect glucose metabolism, diabetic patients should call for medical advice before consuming it (21).
Some other benefits of yeast are: it may be used as a protein supplement and energy booster; it is effective in patients with acne; helps to lower the risk of obesity and cardiovascular diseases (6).
Is there any harm in eating yeast?
Yes, there are some harms to eating yeast.
For individuals with inflammatory bowel disease (eg, ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease), glaucoma, and hypertension, yeast is not recommended. People who frequently suffer from yeast infections or who are allergic to yeast should avoid brewer’s yeast supplements (21).
In this brief guide, we answered the question “Can vegans eat yeast?”, and discussed other questions like what is yeast, why is yeast considered vegan and what are its benefits and harms.
If you have any questions please let us know.
Other FAQs about Vegans which you may be interested in.
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