Guide to Nutritional Yeast


Guide to Nutritional Yeast

Yeast is a tiny plant-like microorganism that exists all around us; in soil, on plants and even in the air. Yeasts are scientifically classified as fungi. Although some yeasts are pathogenic and can cause infection in people, and others can be a source of food spoilage, many have been very useful throughout human history. Yeast has been used for fermentation purposes since at least its earliest recorded use in Egypt in 1550 BC and centuries later, it is still being used for the fermentation of beer, wine and distilled spirit making and in bread making. Today yeast can also be found in the nutritional supplement and health food realms. There are many types of yeasts, the most commonly used by humans is Saccharomyces cerevisiae.

Some yeast, such as baker’s yeast used for bread making, are active. These yeasts are able to create fermentation under the right circumstances. Nutritional yeasts are inactive: their enzymes are no longer viable. Most nutritional yeasts are primary yeasts, grown specifically as a nutritional supplement. The exception is Brewer’s yeast, which is a beneficial by-product of the beer brewing process.

Types of Yeast

Yeast Flakes- An inactive, primary yeast grown from pure stains of Saccharomyces cerevisiae on cane or beet molasses. As it grows, the yeast is fed nutrient-rich food, which greatly boosts its vitamin and mineral content. Nutritional yeast contains all 18 amino acids, many trace minerals and is very rich in B-Vitamins. Some brands of nutritional yeast are grown on a base fortified with Vitamin B12, such as Red Star Vegetarian Support Formula. Nutritional yeast has a strong flavour that can be described as nutty, toasted or cheesy, which makes it popular as an ingredient in cheese substitutes. It is often used in place of parmesan cheese.

Yeast flakes dissolve readily, especially in cold liquids.

Engevita Yeast– Engivita yeast is an inactive, primary Saccharomyces cerevisiae yeast that is specifically grown on beet molasses as a nutritional supplement. Engivita-type yeast has virtually the same nutritional profile as Yeast Flakes. Engivita is actually a brand of nutritional yeast, but has become the common name of all powdered nutritional yeast.

Brewer’s Yeast– This inactive secondary yeast, a by-product of the beer brewing process is also from Saccharomyces cerevisiae. Considered nutritional yeast, its naturally occurring nutritional profile is rich in B-Complex and other vitamins and is especially high in the trace mineral Chromium, also known as Glucose Tolerance Factor  (GTF).  This nutrient is necessary for blood sugar regulation and is important for people with blood sugar imbalances. In its natural state, Brewer’s yeast has a characteristic bitter, hops flavour. When taken as a supplement it is suggested to start with 1 to 2 tsp of the powder daily, as it may cause gas in some individuals. As tolerated, the amount can be increased. Brewer’s yeast was a cornerstone product of the natural foods movement of the 1970s.

Torula Yeast– The inactive primary yeast strain Candida utilis is grown on a wood sugar medium which is a by-product of paper production. Torula yeast is a type of nutritional yeast, though not as high in nutrients as the others. Its blander taste lends itself to applications such as a flavouring in processed foods and pet foods.

Yeast Extract Spreads– This savoury food paste is made from Brewer’s yeast and various spice and vegetable extracts. It is processed to create a salty, smooth, yeasty flavoured paste. A common food condiment in Australia (Vegemite), New Zealand and Britan, it has found less popularity in North America. It shares a similar nutritional profile with Brewers Yeast.

Nutritional Analysis of Inactive Yeasts per 16g (roughly 2TB)

Red Star Veg Support Flake & Engevita Brewer’s Torula
Protein 8.34mg 7.41mg 8mg 8mg
B1 9.6mg 0.43mg 1.4mg n/a
B2 9.6mg 6.35mg 0.7mg 0.54mg
B3 56mg 2.69mg 5.3mg 7.54mg
B5 1.04mg 82.5mg 0.4mg 0.61mg
B6 9.6mg 0.5mg 0.6mg 0.224mg
B12 8mcg 4.46mcg 2mcg n/a
Folic Acid 240mcg 88mcg 240mcg 0.042mg
Calcium 11.2mg 13.84mg 59mg 0.011mg
Iron 0.77mg 1.84mg 1.5mg n/a
Potassium 320mg n/a 222mg n/a
Chromium <0.5mcg n/a 60mcg n/a
Zinc 3.2mg n/a 1.2mg 2.01mg
Magnesium 20.8mg n/a 33mg 0.067mg
Copper 0.128mg n/a 0.5mg 0.16mg

Baker’s Yeast– The primary, active Saccharomyces cerevisiae is the yeast found in commercial “cream yeast”, cake yeast and the common dry active yeast used for home baking. Its main purpose is to serve as a catalyst in the process of fermentation, which is essential in the making of bread. Active yeast should never be taken as a supplement as it can deplete the body of B Vitamins and propagate in the intestinal tract. Once active yeast is cooked, as in baked bread, its viability is completely destroyed.

Candida Albicans Yeast- Candida is a pathogenic yeast. It is found normally in small amounts in the healthy flora of the intestinal tract, but can become overgrown in the body and present a number of health concerns. Candida is the yeast responsible for oral thrush, vaginal yeast infections and some forms of gastrointestinal stress. In the past, it has been suggested to those suffering with the effects of Candida to consume a yeast-free diet. It has now been shown that the inactive yeasts in nutritional yeast products are safe for those with Candida and do not contribute to the overgrowth of yeast infections.