What the heck is NUTRITIONAL YEAST?

When I became a vegan, my first mission was to find a good cheese alternative, that didn't taste disgusting. I failed, miserably...most of them taste disgusting. I kept coming across nutritional yeast in many recipes, and was grossed out by the idea of adding 'yeast' in heavy amounts to what seemed every meal. I avoided those recipes, convincing myself that some vegans were just nuts. Boy was I wrong. Nutritional yeast is now one of my favorite ingredients; one might say I over-use it in my meals. It imparts a slightly 'cheesy' flavor to meals, without the need to tug at a cow or goats nipple. So, what are the facts/ questions surrounding this mystery product?

WHAT IS NUTRITIONAL YEAST?

Nutritional yeast is similar to Brewer's yeast (but NOT the same) in that it is deactivated yeast. It first grows on cane and beet molasses, beginning as a pure strain of yeast. To make nutritional yeast, this yeast is fermented, then heated to deactivate its growing potential. Necessary vitamins and minerals are added, then the yeast is dried to be packaged and shipped to the consumer. It is commercially available in the form of flakes, or as a yellow powder similar in texture to cornmeal, and can be found in the bulk aisle of most natural food stores, or grocery stores. Not all yeast is necessarily good yeast, but nutritional yeast is in that it is not connected to infections (such as candida) like some other yeasts are. 

WHY SHOULD I USE IT?

Nutritional yeast is a favorite for vegetarians, vegans and gluten-free consumers alike. This is because it imparts a 'cheesy' nutty flavor on to foods, without the problems that can come from cheese. It is exceptionally healthy for the following reasons:

- It is a gluten-free, animal-free product, that is full of flavor.
- It is a valuable nutritional supplement as it contains high levels of proteins (55%), amino acids (18), folic acid and vitamins and minerals (15).
- Nutritional yeast is also the only reliable food source of vitamin B12 (which is great news for vegans and health nuts alike!)
- It is grown specifically for its nutritional value, and is naturally low in fat and salt.
- It maintains healthy intestinal bacteria, and aids in digestion.
- It improves blood and liver function.

These are only some of the many benefits of nutritional yeast. Overall, I enjoy it because it imparts the flavor of cheese, without having to use actual cheese. It dissolves nicely in liquid, or can be sprinkled on a variety of foods to enhance their flavor.

HOW DO I USE IT?

Nutritional yeast can be used in a bunch of different ways. It is commonly used as a replacement for cheese in that it carries the same flavor tones. Some of my favorite ways of using it are as follows:

- Sprinkling on popcorn (which gives a cheesy, salty kick, without the added fat, or salt)
- Adding it to soup to impart a cheesy flavor, and creamier texture
- Mixed into mashed potatoes
- Used as a base for gravy and sauces
- Mixed with oil/ vinegar to be used as a salad dressing
- Used in baked biscuits, scones, or breads
- Sprinkled on vegetables and beans
- Or used in small amounts as a vitamin supplement

Overall, nutritional yeast can be one of those things that you use everyday, or keep in your cupboard to be used occasionally (like that strange lemon salt you can't remember buying). Either way, it is a great addition for any cook who is trying to make healthier, lower fat, lower salt, lower a bunch of other stuff, type meals.
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1 comment:

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