In this brief guide, we will answer the question, “Can you eat nutritional yeast raw?”. We will further elaborate on the health benefits and side effects of nutritional yeast along with the different ways to use nutritional yeast.
Can you eat nutritional yeast raw?
Yes, you can eat nutritional yeast raw. Nutritional yeast does not need to be cooked. It can just be spread directly from the container over a variety of recipes, such as pasta, vegetables, and salads.
Yeasts are single cell, eukaryotic microorganisms classified in the fungi kingdom. These microscopic fungi are generally about 3–4 μm in size, have a nuclear membrane and cell walls, but unlike plants, they contain no chloroplasts. Yeasts are found in abundant quantities and are almost everywhere in the environment. They have been isolated in fruit, honey, soil, water, and plant stems, leaves, and flowers, and are naturally present in common feed ingredients such as grains, grain co-products, silage, and hay fed to animals (1).
Nutritional yeast is an inactivated yeast, in which yeast cells are killed when it is processed. It comes as powder or flakes. It has a nutty, cheesy, and savory taste. Dried yeast and brewer’s dried yeast are considered to be nutritional yeast products because they consist of yeast biomass of dead yeast cells and are fed for their nutritional value (1).
It is free of gluten, soy, and sugar, which makes it a perfect dietary addition for individuals having food allergies. It is a typical vegan cheese alternative.
Nutritional yeast is a good source of many vitamins and minerals, thus presenting a variety of potential health benefits.
According to the USDA, two tbsp serving of nutritional yeast provides in average:
- Calories: 50
- Fiber: 4 g
- Protein: 8 g
- Carbohydrates: 5 g
- Fat: 1 g
- Sugar: 0 g
It is an excellent source of:
- Vitamin B1
- Vitamin B2
- Vitamin B6
The benefits of nutritional yeast
Nutritional yeast provides a good source of vitamins and minerals. It includes all 9 essential amino acids, hence it is a great source of protein as supplied by many animal products.
The yeast biomass or extract are an excellent source of B vitamins which are particularly recommended for people with increased vitamin B requirements such as adolescents, convalescents, and individuals with high physical activity. The yeast extract also contains cell wall polysaccharides and carbohydrates. The high levels of carbohydrate concentration between 31% and 51% of the dry biomass were detected. The total lipid content is low (4–7% of the dry yeast biomass) and is represented mainly by the saturated fatty acids (28–43.5% of total fatty acids) as palmitic acid (18–34%) and stearic acid (4.6–9.5%), and mono-unsaturated fatty acids (62% of total fatty acids) with domination of palmitoleic acid (2.9–32%). The polyunsaturated fatty acids are in low concentration 5.0–9.7% of total fatty acids, predominantly as linoleic acid (4.3%). The yeast biomass also contains trace minerals, including calcium, copper, iron, phosphorus, potassium, magnesium, manganese, selenium, sodium, and zinc (2).
Essential amino acids support processes such as tissue restoration and nutrient absorption. They are also capable of controlling muscle loss.
Other benefits of nutritional yeast are as follows:
Nutritional yeast contains fiber, beta-glucan, which helps to lower cholesterol. It is a low-glycemic food that has chromium, a mineral that may help to regulate blood sugar. Keeping good blood sugar and cholesterol levels decreases the chance of cardiovascular diseases and diabetes.
Strengthens immune system
Beta-glucan also supports the immune system. A good portion of antioxidants is also present in nutritional yeast, which has anti-cancer effects and improves certain immune reactions. In a study, baker’s yeast beta-glucan supplementation has been shown to reduce the onset of upper respiratory tract infections relative to placebo over a four-week period after running a marathon (3).
Promotes muscle recovery
Nutritional yeast may boost the process of physical recovery after exertion. It has been found that yeast restores white blood cells (WBCs) that are lost during workouts. This cell restoration boosts muscle healing, supports the immune system, and lessens inflammation. Beta-glucans, unlike carbohydrates, are not absorbed in the small intestine and pass into the large intestine. In vitro as well as in vivo evidence has shown that macrophages regularly exposed to yeast beta-glucans have higher phagocytic as well as cytokine activity and that their responses are characterized by anti-inflammatory patterns involved in the regeneration process. In addition, it appears that yeast beta-glucan can improve immune defenses to prevent or shorten the duration of common colds as well as enhance the immune system activity following exercise (3).
Nutritional yeast is also rich in zinc, which helps in the restoration and rejuvenation of muscles.
Getting an adequate amount of vitamin B-12 in the diet helps to fight fatigue. The vitamin B-12 concentration in nutritional yeast offers several times the amount required by the body, so adding it to your diet assures you are fulfilling the recommended intake.
Other than vitamin B-12, nutritional yeast also contains the additional B vitamins that help in the conversion of food to energy. This helps the body in maintaining a healthy metabolism and uniform energy levels.
Other B vitamins, such as biotin, folic acid, pyridoxine, riboflavin, thiamine, and cyanocobalamin, which are present in yeast protein biomass act important catabolic functions as coenzymes involved in carbohydrate, lipids, and protein metabolism. The adequate concentration of the vitamins is essential for optimal neurological and physiological functions of the human body (2).
Some side effects of nutritional yeast
Besides being a useful addition to the various dishes, there may be some drawbacks related to using nutritional yeast as a dietary supplement.
Nutritional yeast consists of tyramine, an amino acid that helps in maintaining blood pressure. While it is rare, tyramine may induce headaches in individuals who suffer from migraines.
Research suggests that people suffering from migraines may not adequately neutralize tyramine. While normally neutralized through a detoxification process in the intestine and liver before it is absorbed into the body, tyramine sensitive individuals are believed to have increased amounts of unneutralized tyramine that gets absorbed and circulated to the brain where it may interfere with normal brain functions causing the pain that is experienced as a migraine (5).
Individuals who are allergic to yeast products should avoid nutritional yeast. Nutritional yeast may also aggravate symptoms in people who are diagnosed with inflammatory bowel diseases such as Crohn’s disease. Moreover, the consumption of yeast protein with high contents of nucleic acids could cause serious problems such as gout and kidney stones for individuals who have dysfunction in purine metabolism (2).
Nutritional yeast is high in fiber. A 2-tbsp serving of nutritional yeast consists of about 20 percent of the daily requirement. However, raising fiber intake too fast can result in digestive problems. It is better to start with smaller quantities and be sure to drink lots of water to help digestion.
The tyramine in nutritional yeast may interfere with certain drugs, such as monoamine oxidase inhibitors that cures depression, certain narcotics that cure extreme pain, and antifungal medicines.
Tyramine in food can lead to the production of biogenic amines, which are organic bases usually produced by decarboxylation of amino acids. These amines are categorized primarily as either vasoactive or psychoactive. The action of vasoactive amines, largely tyramine, is the underlying cause of the hypertensive crisis that may occur in individuals on monoamine oxidase inhibitor drugs. The physiological effects of tyramine include: peripheral vasoconstriction, increased cardiac output, increased respiration, elevated blood glucose, and release of norepinephrine. Monoamine oxidase inhibitor drugs are used to inhibit the actions of monoamine oxidase, especially in the central nervous system, to serve as an antidepressant or as an anti-Parkinsonian agent (4). Nutritional yeast is also not suggested for individuals taking drugs to cure diabetes.
Ways to use nutritional yeast
People can add nutritional yeast as a savory condiment to a number of dishes, such as pasta, vegetables, and salads.
Some other ways you can use nutritional yeast are:
- Add the nutritional yeast to scrambled eggs or a tofu scramble
- Add in a vegan macaroni or cheese dish
- Make a vegan substitute for a cheese sauce
- Stir it into a nut roast or stuffing
- Stir it in creamy soups for additional nutrients
- Sprinkle the nutritional yeast on popcorn in place of butter or salt
- Mix it into risotto in place of Parmesan
Other FAQs about Yeast that you may be interested in.
In this brief guide, we have answered the question, “Can you eat nutritional yeast raw?”. We have further elaborated on the health benefits and side effects of nutritional yeast along with the different ways to use nutritional yeast.
- Shurson, G. C. Yeast and yeast derivatives in feed additives and ingredients: Sources, characteristics, animal responses, and quantification methods. Anim feed sci technol, 2018, 235, 60-76.
- Jach, Monika Elżbieta, et al. Yeast Protein as an Easily Accessible Food Source. Metabol, 2022, 12, 63.
- Zabriskie, H.A. et al. Yeast Beta-Glucan Supplementation Downregulates Markers of Systemic Inflammation after Heated Treadmill Exercise. Nutrients 2020, 12, 1144.
- McCabe-Sellers, Beverly J., Cathleen G. Staggs, and Margaret L. Bogle. Tyramine in foods and monoamine oxidase inhibitor drugs: a crossroad where medicine, nutrition, pharmacy, and food industry converge. J Food Compos Anal, 2006, 19, S58-S65.
- Pizza, V., et al. Food intolerance in migraine. Pharmacol online, 2013, 1, 18-24.