This evidence-based content is written by a registered dietitian nutritionist. Scientific references are from trusted sources.
What Is Nutritional Yeast?
Nutritional yeast is a healthy and flavorful food that can be used as a vegan alternative to cheese or taken as a health-boosting vitamin supplement.
This article reviews what nutritional yeast is, as well as its nutrient content and benefits, how much you should eat daily, and what the best nutritional yeast supplements are.
7 Nutritional Yeast Benefits
Here are just a few of the many wonderful benefits of nutritional yeast:
- Rich in B vitamins. Nutritional yeast contains high amounts of several B-vitamins like thiamin, folate, and riboflavin. In addition, fortified nutritional yeast is a great source of vitamin B12 for vegans and vegetarians.
- Is a complete protein. It contains all nine essential amino acids that you must get from your diet. This makes it ideal for vegetarians, as most of the other known complete proteins are from animal sources (7).
- Contains antioxidants. Nutritional yeast contains antioxidants like selenomethionine that can reduce or reverse cellular damage resulting from environmental toxin exposure (8, 9).
- Is antiviral and antibacterial. According to animal and test-tube studies, nutritional yeast has some bacteria and virus-killing properties (10, 11, 12).
- High in fiber. Most of the carbohydrates in nutritional yeast come from fiber, which can help improve digestive health and decrease constipation (13).
- Contains probiotics. Probiotics are healthy bacteria that can populate the digestive tract and improve your gut health (14).
- May improve immune health. Nutritional yeast contains glutathione, which can boost your body’s immune response to potential invaders (15, 16).
Additionally, there are several other benefits of nutritional yeast as well. For instance, it is great for pregnant women because it contains high amounts of folate—which can help prevent birth defects. It may also promote healthy hair, skin, and nails because of its B vitamin content (5, 17, 18).
These science-backed benefits of nutritional yeast make it a great choice as a supplement or to use in cooking.
Is Nutritional Yeast Good For You?
Nutritional yeast is an inactive form of the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae. It is golden-yellow in color and is most commonly sold in powder or flake form.
Nutritional yeast has a rich, cheesy flavor. For this reason, it’s a staple in vegan and vegetarian diets—where it’s used as a cheese substitute and a condiment. It’s great on pasta, salads, popcorn, and more.
In addition, many people use it as a supplement because of the numerous health benefits it provides. It is rich in vitamins that are often difficult to attain from vegan or vegetarian diets, along with several amino acids—the building blocks of protein.
Nutritional yeast is made by first growing yeast cultures which are fed with sugar, and then heating them up in order to deactivate the yeast.
From there, the yeast is dried to produce the end result of nutritional yeast powder or flakes (3).
Is It Nutritious?
As you can tell from its name, nutritional yeast is incredibly nutritious. It is a rich source of B vitamins, along with protein and fiber.
One quarter-cup (15 grams) of nutritional yeast—containing only 60 calories—provides the following (4):
- Protein: 8 grams
- Fiber: 3 grams
- Thiamin: 980% of the Daily Value (DV)
- Riboflavin: 750% of the DV
- Vitamin B12: 730% of the DV
- Vitamin B6: 350% of the DV
- Niacin: 290% of the DV
Nutritional yeast is exceptionally rich in B vitamins—including riboflavin, niacin, and thiamin. These vitamins help your body efficiently transform the food you eat into energy that it can use.
However, yeast naturally contains much smaller amounts of these vitamins. Nutritional yeast is fortified with additional B vitamins—including all of the vitamin B12—during production (5).
Because it can be difficult to get enough of these vitamins in vegetarian diets, nutritional yeast is truly a nutritional powerhouse for vegans and vegetarians (6).
Nutritional Yeast & Candida
Candida overgrowth is caused by an imbalance of your gut flora resulting in higher-than-normal levels of Candida yeast.
Because nutritional yeast is also a yeast, some people worry that it may make Candida overgrowth worse. However, there is not a lot of research to support this.
Candida albicans is the yeast that causes Candida overgrowth, while nutritional yeast is made from Saccharomyces cerevisiae.
Still, to be safe, you may want to avoid nutritional yeast until your Candida overgrowth is under control.
How Much Intake Per Day? How To Use Nutritional Yeast?
If you choose to use nutritional yeast as a dietary supplement, it is probably most convenient to purchase it in powder or flake form.
While you can buy it in a pill form, most of these require you to take 6-9 pills per day to get a full serving of nutritional yeast.
If you are vegan or vegetarian, you should choose a nutritional yeast that contains 100% of your daily needs for vitamin B12 in a single serving (6).
The typical serving size for nutritional yeast as a supplement is 1-2 tablespoons (12-24 grams). You can take this all at once, or sprinkle it on your food throughout the day.
How Nutritional Yeast is Made
Nutritional yeast is made first by growing Saccharomyces cerevisiae cultures by feeding them sugar (3).
After the culture has grown to an appropriate size, it is heated to inactivate the yeast cultures.
The cultures are then collected, thoroughly cleaned, and dried to remove any moisture and increase the shelf life.
During manufacturing, additional nutrients are added to fortified nutritional yeast flakes.
After drying and fortification, the yeast is ready to be sold. Nutritional yeast can be purchased online or at many natural grocery stores.
Helps Prevent Vitamin B12 Deficiency
One of the most important benefits of nutritional yeast is that it helps to prevent vitamin B12 deficiency in vegans and vegetarians.
Vitamin B12 is only found in animal foods like meat and milk, so vegetarians must take a vitamin B12 supplement to avoid deficiency. Symptoms of deficiency include fatigue, shortness of breath, nerve problems, anemia, and weakness (6, 21).
Although vitamin B12 does not occur naturally in nutritional yeast, it is often added to it.
This is ideal because nutritional yeast is a commonly used food for vegetarians—eliminating the need for vitamin B12 pills or injections.
Nutritional yeast is an extremely healthy food that doubles as a vitamin supplement.
It has many benefits, the most important being that it provides vitamin B12 and other B vitamins to vegans and vegetarians—who are at high risk of becoming vitamin B12 deficient otherwise.
It can be taken all at once as a supplement, or sprinkled over food to add rich and cheesy flavor while significantly boosting your intake of B vitamins.
Nutritional yeast truly lives up to its name.