I’m a holistic nutritionist and I recommend that anyone who may have a low Vitamin B-12 level add nutritional yeast as a dietary supplement. Vegans, vegetarians, and older adults are often deficient in this important vitamin.
This Holistic Nutritionist was Unfamiliar with Nutritional Yeast
My first experience with nutritional yeast was at a conference sponsored by the American College of Lifestyle Medicine. The conference organizers ensured that we ate healthy food by working with the hotel chef to make special meals for the attendees. The offerings were all vegan, which I found a little extreme. I took note of the fact that every meal included nutritional yeast. I wasn’t sure what those mysterious yellow flakes were, but they tasted a little cheesy, no pun intended.
As a certified holistic Nutritionist, I felt compelled to educate myself on this unfamiliar food. What I learned is that nutritional yeast is a Vitamin B powerhouse and particularly rich in Vitamin B-12, a nutrient which many of us become deficient in as we get older. Vegetarians and vegans often need a complete protein like nutritional yeast since B-12 is found mainly in animal products.
Why You Should Pay Attention to Your Vitamin B-12 Levels
Vitamin B-12 is a nutrient that keeps the body’s nerve and blood cells healthy and helps our bodies make DNA, the genetic material in all cells. A Vitamin B-12 deficiency may cause tiredness, weakness, constipation, loss of appetite, weight loss, and megaloblastic anemia. Nerve problems, such as numbness and tingling in the hands and feet, can also occur. It’s important to treat a deficiency as soon as possible. It is estimated that as many as 20% of older adults are deficient in this important nutrient.
The reason older adults need to monitor their B-12 levels is that as we age our stomachs produce less hydrochloric stomach acid, which breaks down our food and makes the nutrients available. Therefore, even if you eat a healthy diet, you may not be absorbing enough B-12 from your food.
Advice from a Holistic Nutritionist: Add Nutritional Yeast to Get Your B-12
What is Nutritional Yeast?
Nutritional (which is often called “nooch”) is an inactive yeast, a form of fungus grown on sugar cane and beet molasses, then dried and sold in flake or powdered form.
A range of B Vitamins, including Vitamin B-12, are added to most nutritional yeast products. But, make sure you scrutinize the label to make sure since not every manufacturer adds B Vitamins. One widely available product is Bragg’s Nutritional Yeast will satisfy 80% of your B-12 needs in just 2 tablespoons. Red Star is another good source. Nutritional yeast can also be found in other foods. One of my favorite is a tasty almond paste called Bitchin’ Sauce.
Other Benefits of Nutritional Yeast
Nutritional yeast also contains a lot of fiber. Nutritional yeast packs 4 grams of fiber into a 2 tablespoon serving. (It’s suggested that a healthy diet includes 25-38 grams of fiber a day.) Fiber is a type of carbohydrate that helps regulate appetite, digestion, blood sugar, and cholesterol.
Nutritional yeast is also a source of minerals like iron and magnesium which are important for good health. It’s recommended that older adults get at least 8 milligrams of iron a day. Iron deficiency is the second most common cause of anemia in older adults. An iron deficiency independent of anemia can also lead to fatigue and a predisposition to certain infections.
How Does Nutritional Yeast Taste?
It’s marketed as a tasty cheese substitute with a Parmesan-like flavor. I’d characterize this as a bit of an overstatement. If I was grading it for flavor, I’d give it a C+. It does taste faintly of cheese, but I’d compare it to eating a KitKat versus indulging in Valrhona 71% Chocolate. In a blind taste test, I’m quite sure no one would mistake it for real cheese.
How To Use Nutritional Yeast
Nutritional yeast can be used in any dish where you would add cheese, including soups, salads, pastas, pizza and popcorn. However, if you add it to a dish with a strong flavor, like a marinara sauce, it will get overpowered. You’ll still get the dietary benefits, but you won’t notice the cheesy taste.
Where to Buy Nutritional Yeast
Nutritional yeast is readily available in bulk and jar form in natural foods and health food stores. More grocery stores are also starting to stock it in their natural foods departments.
Click here for a slightly different version of this article from a holistic nutritionist published in LifetimeDaily.com.