Popular in raw food and vegan circles, nutritional yeast recipes contribute a nutty, cheesy umami quality that isn’t always easy to come by when foods like real cheese, prosciutto, bacon, anchovies and fish sauce are off the menu. While a bacon-cheddar burger is packed with umami, a salad typically is not. However, if you drizzled a savory dressing or vinaigrette made with nutritional yeast on top of your freshly tossed salad, well, now you’d be getting a hit of umami too. And chances are you would find your umami-enhanced salad to be more satisfying. That’s because umami enhances our perception of tastes, mellowing bitter and sour and making sweet sweeter and salty saltier.
But are Nutritional Yeast Recipes Actually Healthy?
You’d think, wouldn’t you, that the super clean eaters like the vegans and raw foodies might shun the idea of purposely adding something like yeast to their recipes. After all, yeast is a substance known to feed on sugars in the body and promote candida. But here’s the deal; nutritional yeast is not the same as the “active” baking yeast you would use to make a cake or muffins. Nutritional yeast is innactive, meaning that it does not feed and grow once inside the body. For this reason, those who are advised to avoid yeast (usually meaning the active yeast) can still almost always tolerate nutritional yeast.
However, not all nutritional yeast is created equal. If you have read our Clean Cuisine book then you know any food or ingredient marketed as “fortified” or “enriched”, such as enriched flour or fortified cereal, is not a healthy choice. Many nutritional yeast options on the market are fortified, but the best choice for making truly healthful nutritional yeast recipes is to look for the unfortified stuff (my favorite being Sari Foods brand).
Keep in mind that foods are fortified and enriched with synthetic vitamins. Although it might not sound like a big deal to have a few extra vitamins lurking in your whole grain bread or Cheerios, the thing is man-made vitamins can actually create nutrient imbalances and force your kidneys and liver to work extra hard. If you have an MTHFR genetic mutation (and approximately 50% of the population has at least one MTHFR mutation, including me) then you should absolutely avoid the synthetic folic acid found in typical low-quality multi-vitamins, prenatal vitamins and fortified foods because your body won’t be able to properly utilize the synthetic stuff. What happens to folic acid that your body can’t utilize? It builds up to a toxic level (note: there ARE safe multi-vitamins and prenatals that contain the active form of folate—not folic acid—that people with MTHFR mutations can tolerate well.) Although this is not an article geared toward MTHFR genetic mutations, just know that a toxic build up of folic acid can create a number of serious health problems. This is why many cutting edge pediatricians are advising their patients to steer clear of prenatal vitamins with synthetic folic acid. The point here though is that synthetic vitamins and foods fortified with them can absolutely cause problems. It is best to avoid processed foods that have been fortified with synthetic, man-made vitamins and instead just stick to whole foods.
Ok, so lets get back to nutritional yeast. Non-fortified nutritional yeast IS a whole food. What should you buy if you want to make the best-tasting and healthiest nutritional yeast recipes? You simply want to look for natural, non-fortified nutritional yeast. Again, Sari Foods (see photo to the left) is my favorite. Sari Foods brand non-fortified nutritional yeast is 100% whole food based with nothing synthetic added. And it really does makes the absolute most delicious umami flavored nutritional yeast recipes!
A Few Reasons Why You Might Want to Make Nutritional Yeast Recipes
If you are not familiar with the nutritional profile of non-fortified nutritional yeast, here’s just a quick overview:
-It is a very unique source of complete plant protein (nutritional yeast is comprised of 50% protein)
-Provides all 18 amino acids
-Contains 15 different minerals (including iron, selenium and zinc)
-Is a rich source of the powerful free radical scavenger, glutathione peroxidase
-Is a particularly rich source of naturally-occurring B-vitamin complex
Non-fortified nutritional yeast is such a superfood that even if I don’t manage to sneak it into a recipe, I still make sure to consume it everyday. My everyday favorite nutritional yeast recipe is so simple I am hesitant to even call it a “recipe”, but it does the trick. It’s more or less a tea. It’s really a great to drink when you have finished a meal but are still craving something more that you just can’t quite put your finger on—I think it’s the umami quality of the tea that really satisfies. Here is the recipe below:Print
- 1 cup hot water
- Juice from one whole lemon
- 2 tablespoons non-fortified nutritional yeast (such as Sari Foods])
- Pinch of cayenne pepper (optional)
- Pour hot water into a coffee or tea cup and then stir in the lemon juice and nutritional yeast. Add a pinch of cayenne pepper if desired. Drink warm.
Additional Nutritional Yeast Recipes Worth Trying
If you aren’t into drinking your nutritional yeast, worry not! There are plenty of deliciously edible nutritional yeast recipes that are sure to please. Here is just a short list below:
–Vegan Gravy (believe it or not, this stuff is AMAZING!!)
Risotto (Note: the only thing I would really change about this recipe is to substitute quinoa for the arborio rice)