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Nutritional yeast is a species of yeast known as Saccharomyces cerevisiae.
It is the same type of yeast that’s used to bake bread and brew beer.
While brewer’s, baker’s and nutritional yeasts are technically made from the same species of yeast, they are very different products
- Baker’s yeast: Baker’s yeast is purchased alive and used to leaven bread. The yeast is killed during cooking but adds an earthy, yeasty flavor to bread.
- Brewer’s yeast: Brewer’s yeast can be purchased alive and is used to brew beer. The dead yeast cells leftover from the brewing process can be consumed as a nutritional supplement but have a very bitter taste.
- Nutritional yeast: This yeast is grown specifically to be used as a food product. The yeast cells are killed during manufacturing and not alive in the final product. It is used in cooking and has a cheesy, nutty or savory flavor.
To produce nutritional yeast, S. cerevisiae cells are grown for several days on a sugar-rich medium like molasses.
The yeast is then deactivated with heat, harvested, washed, dried, crumbled and packaged for distribution.
There are two types of nutritional yeast — unfortified and fortified.
- Unfortified: This type does not contain any added vitamins or minerals. It only contains the vitamins and minerals that are naturally produced by the yeast cells as they grow.
- Fortified: This type contains synthetic vitamins added during the manufacturing process to boost nutrient content. If vitamins have been added to the yeast, they will be included in the ingredients list.
Fortified nutritional yeast is the most common type available for purchase.
Nutritional yeast is sold as flakes, granules or powder and can be found in the spice section or bulk bins of health food stores.
Nutritional yeast is a versatile food that works with nearly any type of diet or eating style. It is naturally low in sodium and calories, as well as fat-free, sugar-free, gluten-free and vegan.