Ever since I quit eating meat, my mom who’s a nurse has been concerned about my B12 intake. While it’s not as popular of a question for vegans as “Where do you get your protein?”, “Where do you get your B12?” is still something vegans and vegetarians are asked pretty frequently.
I was first introduced to nutritional yeast—the holy grail of Vitamin B12—from a couple recipes from Vegan with a Vengeance by Isa Chandra Moskowitz.
Nutritional yeast can be sprinkled on soups, salads, roasted veggies, wraps—pretty much any savory foods you eat. They have the versatility of hemps seeds, which by the way are an amazing source of protein as well as healthy omega-3 and omega-6 fats. Just three tablespoons of shelled hemp seeds pack in 11 grams of protein, 3 grams of omega-3 and 7.5 grams of omega-6.
But I digress. Today’s post is all about the wonder that is nutritional yeast. However, this is not to say that you should rely solely on these magical flakes to give you complete nutrition (it would be wise to take supplements and eat a variety of foods). Below, I’ve also included links to a few recipes that feature nutritional yeast—from its use as a thickening agent for soup to the way it creates a cheesy taste and texture perfect for dips, pastas and vegan mac and cheese (mmm I’m hungry now).
Health Benefits of Nutritional Yeast
Here are just a few reasons you would be remiss not to sprinkle some of this magical nutritional yeast on almost any of your foods.
Great Source of Vitamin B12 and other B Vitamins
Just one tablespoon of nutritional yeast gives an adult the recommended daily dose of B-12. Vitamin B12 is essential for maintaining healthy cardiovascular and nervous systems, blood cells and metabolic functions. It’s what helps you get energy because your body uses it to convert carbs into glucose. That’s why those who are vitamin B12 deficient tend to experience chronic fatigue, mood changes like anxiety and depression, digestive disorders, dizziness, muscle aches, and difficulty in focusing or remembering things. In short, your body needs it for A LOT of things!
The health benefits don’t end there. Two tablespoons of nutritional yeast give you the daily value of the following B vitamins as well:
- 640% Thiamin (B1)
- 570% Riboflavin (B2)
- 280% Niacin (B3)
- 480% Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine)
- 60% Folate (B9)
- 10% Pantheonic acid (B5)
Complete Source of Protein
Meat, eggs and dairy don’t stand a chance against nutritional yeast when it comes to getting more bang for your bite. Nutritional yeast is a great source of amino acids (the building blocks of our tissues) that make up protein, which supports our mental and metabolic health. Just 2 tablespoons of nutritional yeast provides 8 grams of protein. And if you’re counting calories, it only has 45 calories per 2 tablespoons, so you don’t have to be stingy about sprinkling it on your favorite foods.
High in Fiber
Nutritional yeast also happens to be a good source of fiber—not that vegans or vegetarians really have any issues in this department. We get a healthy dose of it from vegetables, fruits, legumes, grains, nuts and seeds. However, it doesn’t hurt to get more fiber considering it helps:
- Regulate blood sugar (helping to maintain fullness and energy longer)
- Helps lower cholesterol levels
- Supports immune, heart and digestive health
Good Dose of Minerals
Other healthy benefits of nutritional yeast worth noting are magnesium and zinc—both of which contribute to healthy blood sugar.
Magnesium is needed for more than 300 biochemical reactions in the body, including transmission of nerve impulses, energy production, detoxification and maintenance of healthy teeth and bones. Two tablespoons of nutritional yeast contain 24 milligrams of magnesium, which only amounts to 6% of the daily value. However, that’s still pretty good considering you get that much out of a couple spoonfuls.
Zinc is best known for its support of healthy immune and digestive systems. And despite its powerful benefits, thankfully, you only need a small amount daily. The recommended dietary allowance is currently 8 milligrams per day for women, and 11 milligrams per day for men. Just 2 tablespoons of nutritional yeast yields 3 milligrams (20% of the daily value).
Vegan Recipes Using Nutritional Yeast
While there’s no shortage of vegan recipes that use nutritional yeast, below are links to a few to give you a head start.
- Spicy Southwestern Stovetop Dairy-Free Mac and Cheese by Go Dairy Free
- Broccoli & Cheeze Soup by Oh She Glows
- Chickpea-Veggie Quiche by Bitter Sweet
Note: I am in no way a medical expert. The nutritional information in this post is drawn from various sources online. If you feel that you are vitamin B12 deficient, please see your doctor! Seriously.