7 Nutritional Yeast Benefits and How to Use it


Nutritional yeast benefits are abundant. It boosts energy, protects against cell damage, lowers cholesterol, and more. It’s also a nutty, savory seasoning that incorporates well into dishes like tofu scramble and enchiladas. If you’re focused on improving your diet and nutrition—or simply curious about nutritional yeast—here is what you need to know about it and some easy recipes to explore.

What Is Nutritional Yeast?

Nutritional yeast is a type of dehydrated, inactive yeast, especially popular in vegan and vegetarian cooking because of it’s nutty, umami, “cheesy” flavor. It comes in many forms, like flakes, powders, and granules, which makes it very versatile in culinary applications. Unlike baker’s yeast (which is used to leaven bread) and brewer’s yeast (which is used in the fermentation of beer), however, nutritional yeast is inactive. You can use it for neither leavening nor brewing.

Nutritional yeast is a rich source of vitamin B12, a nutrient typically only available in animal products like milk and eggs. Perhaps one of the most surprising health benefits of nutritional yeast is that it’s also a high-protein plant food. Read on to learn more about this umami-rich seasoning and why it might be worth adding to your daily diet.

Nutritional Information

Nutritional yeast packs protein and a punch of energy. It’s a high-fiber food with tons of other vitamins and minerals, too.

  • Energy – 400 kcal
  • Protein – 50 g
  • Total fat – 0 g
  • Carbohydrates – 30 g
  • Fiber – 20 g
  • Iron, Fe – 10 mg
  • Potassium – K2140 mg
  • Sodium, Na – 200 mg
  • Thiamin – 62 mg
  • Riboflavin – 63 mg
  • Niacin – 350 mg
  • Vitamin B6 – 72 mg
  • Folate – 2120 µg
  • Folic acid – 2080 µg
  • Vitamin B- 12150 µg

Nutritional Yeast Benefits

Nutritional yeast is a great source of many vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients. While this food might be prized for its nutty, cheesy flavor, it should also be vaulted for its rich nutritional value. Here are the top reasons why nutritional yeast is so good for you.

1. High in B Vitamins

“Nutritional yeast is a beneficial food for anyone, but particularly so for those following a plant-based diet,” says Christina Manian, RDN, registered dietitian nutritionist and sustainability expert. “This is primarily due to the B vitamins it contains, including thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, B6, folate, and B12. These will all aid in optimal energy metabolism in the body.”

In one tablespoon, nutritional yeast can have as much as:

  • 190 percent of daily recommended thiamin (B1)
  • 70 percent of daily recommended riboflavin (B2)
  • 105 percent of daily recommended niacin (B3)
  • 100 percent of daily recommended pyridoxine (B6)
  • 59 percent of daily recommended folate (B9)

These trace minerals and nutrients are vital for a variety of healthy body functions, including protecting DNA, regulating metabolism, strengthening immunity, and enhancing skin glow.

“Regarding nutritional yeast’s benefits on skin health, the B vitamins it contains, in combination with its benefits the gut microbiome, lend itself to glowing, healthy skin,” Manian adds.

2. High in Vitamin B12

Nutritional yeast is typically a rich source of B12, a vitamin that’s essential for energy, red blood cell creation, and metabolism. It’s also one of the only plant sources of vitamin B12, a vitamin mostly found in animal foods like milk, fish, and eggs.

“The vitamin B12 found in nutritional yeast, is particularly noteworthy as B12 can be nearly impossible to obtain elsewhere from food on a vegan diet,” Manian says, adding that this mineral is also “super important for DNA formation and nerve cell health.” 

When B12 levels are low, you may experience greater fatigue. When they’re sufficient, however, you may have more natural energy and tire less easily.

Many nutritional yeast brands add synthetic vitamins to their yeast during production. These fortified nutritional yeast products often have more than a day’s worth of certain nutrients, like B12. Indeed, one tablespoon of some nutritional yeasts can serve up more than six times your daily value of B12.

3. Plant-Based Protein

This unassuming ingredient is a solid source of high-quality protein. Just 2 tablespoons of nutritional yeast provides 5 grams of protein (one egg has 6 grams!). Protein provides energy and stamina, to name just a couple of its essential roles in overall health.

4. Carbohydrates for Lower Cholesterol

Nutritional yeast contains two predominant types of carbohydrates: alpha-mannan and beta-glucan. Research suggests beta-glucan can lower cholesterol.  In one study, men who consumed 15 grams of nutritional yeast every day saw their total cholesterol level fall by six percent.

“The fiber found in nutritional yeast, especially beta-glucan, binds to cholesterol in the small intestine, helping to remove it from the body as opposed to being absorbed into the blood where it could potentially contribute to heart disease down the line,” Manian explains.

A type of beta-glucan similar to the one found in nutritional yeast is also found in oats. The connection between eating oats and reducing cholesterol is well established, though more research is needed to confirm if nutritional yeast has the same protective effects as oats.

5. Antioxidants and Anti-Inflammatory Plant Compounds

Every day, our cells work tirelessly to protect themselves against free radicals, molecules that can damage and ultimately destroy the healthy cells in your body. Certain antioxidants can bind with free radicals when they enter your body and destroy them, and nutritional yeast is a rich source of antioxidants.

“The zinc and plant compounds, or phytochemicals, found in nutritional yeast are natural antioxidants that reduce inflammation throughout the body and fight off free radicals,” Manian says. “These benefits combine to prevent chronic illness and even aging-related annoyances like wrinkles.”

6. Immune Health Support

Nutritional yeast is made from the yeast strain Saccharomyces cerevisiae. Research suggests this yeast strain may be able to support your immune system, reduce inflammation, and help ward off intestinal ailments.

Indeed, one older study from 2010 found that nutritional yeast has a probiotic-like effect on the intestines. This suggests that it may help prevent some gastrointestinal infections like E. coli and Salmonella. However, more research in humans is needed to verify these protective effects and to better understand how nutritional yeast stimulates immune cells.

7. Healthy Pregnancy Support

Folic acid, a type of B vitamin, is commonly added to fortified nutritional yeast products. Folic acid is vitally important for women, especially those who may become pregnant. This vitamin helps protect growing fetuses against congenital defects, such as spina bifida.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Preventions recommends women of reproductive age get at least 400 micrograms of the vitamin each day. Most nutritional yeast products deliver more than a day’s worth. Be sure to tell your doctor if you use nutritional yeast as a folic acid supplement.

And even if you’re not pregnant (or don’t intend to be), folate and folic acid still play an important in many vital body functions, including cell production and repair of genes.

Is Nutritional Yeast Safe for Everyone to Eat?

While nutritional yeast is generally considered safe and healthy, it may not suitable for everyone. In fact, researchers recommend that people who have glaucoma, hypertension, or irritable bowel disease (IBD) avoid nutritional yeast. Likewise, people who are allergic or sensitive to yeast should avoid this nutty, savory seasoning, and anyone who is frequently diagnosed with a yeast infection should also avoid it.

Bottom Line

Nutritional yeast is a nutty, savory, “cheesy” ingredient that gets a lot of praise for its unmistakable flavor, as well as its bounty of health benefits. For vegans and vegetarians, this highly nutritious food is almost irreplaceable in the daily diet. For people who just like the rich, umami flavors, it’s a bonus that it brings with it so many wonderful benefits. If you’d like to give it a try, look for Bragg’s—it’s the OG nutritional yeast brand and the most widely available.

Easy Recipes With Nutritional Yeast

Nutrition yeast is found in a ton of recipes, thanks to the versatility of it. Nutritional yeast elevates flavor and nutrition of some crowd favorites—from savory snacks to hearty mains.

Dairy-Free Bolognese

Victor Protasio

For this Bolognese sauce recipe, you skip the milk and, instead, add in some nutritional yeast. Ground beef combines with chopped onions, celery, and carrots, as well as some red wine and crushed tomatoes. The nutritional yeast enhances the dish with a cheesy-like (but dairyless) flavor.

Smoky Kale Chips

Jennifer Causey

Smoky kale chips make for a delicious and nutritious snack. To make them, you’ll need to stem and tear kale into bunches of curly pieces. Canola oil, salt, and paprika, as well as nutritional yeast, give these chips a burst of flavor.

Vegan Breakfast Burrito With Tofu Scramble

Jennifer Causey

For a flavorful tofu scramble in a satisfying vegan breakfast burrito, nutritional yeast gives a cheesy-like touch. The tofu resembles scrambled eggs and the nutritional yeast tastes a lot like cheese, so this burrito almost tastes like the classic egg and cheese breakfast burrito. But it’s totally vegan.

Curried Cauliflower Soup

Jennifer Causey

This cauliflower soup is healthy and vegan. It is flavored from curry powder, roasted cauliflower, and nutritional yeast, which works as a vegan alternative to parmesan. It pairs well with a green salad or even a grilled cheese (which can be vegan, too) for extra cheesy flavor.

Vegan Cauliflower Alfredo Sauce

Victor Protasio

This recipe yields a creamy, vegan pasta sauce that combines cauliflower, cashew milk, and nutritional yeast. The result is an entirely plant-based variation of a classic Alfredo. The nutritional years adds some cheese-like flavor to this dairy-free dish.


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