Nutritional Yeast Dangers: Separating Myth from Fact
There’s been quite a buzz lately about the so-called dangers of nutritional yeast. It’s time to clear the air. I’m here to dispel the myths and bring to light the essential facts you need to know about nutritional yeast!
As someone who has consumed nutritional yeast for years without any problems (and many apparent health benefits!), I want to address many of the myths and misinformation floating around about this superfood. So I’m going to address them all to the best of my ability, along with providing some research and nutritional science, right here in this post.
What is Nutritional Yeast?
Nutritional yeast, or “nooch” as some affectionately call it, is quite the darling in the health community—and for good reason. This deactivated yeast, grown on a sugary food source, is a far cry from the active yeasts you might use in your bread-making. It won’t cause your dough to rise, but it will lift your nutrient intake to impressive new heights while offering numerous health benefits.
Nutritional yeast is a deactivated yeast, which means it’s not alive and cannot cause fermentation. It’s primarily used as a nutritional supplement for its flavor and is packed with vitamins and minerals, especially B vitamins.
Yeast cells work by consuming sugars and converting them into energy and byproducts through a process called fermentation. They need the same vitamins and amino acids that we humans do, yet because nutritional yeast is grown on sugary foods lacking in some nutrients, the yeast is forced to manufacture its own amino acids and vitamins through biochemical reactions.
Nutritional yeast is a favorite among those following plant-based diets for its savory, cheese-like flavor. You’ll often find it sprinkled over popcorn, stirred into creamy pasta sauces, or whisked into a dairy-free cheesy cashew sauce for a healthful twist on mac ‘n’ cheese.
There are two main types of nutritional yeast that often get interchanged:
Brewers yeast: This type of yeast is grown from hops (a by-product of brewing beer), and has been around since beer-making began… and can be consumed by humans or used to fortify other products or even given to pets. The other is…
Pure nutritional yeast: This is usually grown from sugar cane, beat molasses, or wood pulp. And it’s grown specifically for the purpose of human food consumption.
Nutritional Yeast Dangers: Are They Real or Overstated?
Almost everybody has some yeast in and on it. It’s found in oral cavities, the digestive tract, and even on the skin. In a healthy biological system, the presence of helpful bacteria keeps yeast in balance. If you’ve ever taken a course of antibiotics and then suffered a yeast infection, then you are aware of some of the consequences that occur when your body gets out of balance.
Post-antibiotic yeast infections occur because antibiotics kill off more than just the harmful bacteria in your body. They also kill beneficial bacteria. The result is often Candida overgrowth.
Candida is definitely a bad yeast. Candida robs your body of essential nutrients like iron and other minerals and helps keep your blood very acidic. Unless its source of food is eliminated, Candida Albicans can take over and slowly destroy your digestive system your immunity and drain you of your energy and health — often leading to the following symptoms:
Tiredness after eating
Constipation, diarrhea, or other forms of bowel irregularities
Feelings of anger, depression, aggression, or anxiety after eating
Cravings for simple carbohydrates
Repeated fungal infections like jock itch or athlete’s foot
Sensitivity to extreme environments
But not all yeast is the same!
Nutritional yeast is an entirely different strain of yeast — also known as Saccharomyces cerevisiae — and bears no relationship or connection to candida. In addition to being a different strain, Saccharomyces cerevisiae is heated and, therefore, not an “active” yeast. Therefore, it has no effect on candida whatsoever, positive or negative. Your body treats it just as it would any other food.
While there are those who argue that Saccharomyces cerevisiae is not well-tolerated by those who have Candida albicans overgrowth, there is no science or research to support this — and not even a scientific explanation. Because the yeast is deactivated, what we have left in the finished product is just an assortment of vitamins and minerals, plus macronutrients such as protein, carbs and a little fat.
Always remember: just because a food or beverage contains yeast, or uses yeast in its processing, that doesn’t mean it’s a bad yeast. Nutritional yeast is proof of that.
Natural yeast, without additives, contains approximately 6 to 11% naturally occurring glutamic acid, one of the nonessential amino acids, since our bodies can produce it.
Our bodies are meant to be able to handle a certain amount of this form of glutamate. It is in a bound form, which is naturally broken down into its free form so that it can enter the bloodstream and be released by the liver to be used by the brain.
Glutamate receptors have more recently been located in many other parts of the body, including the lungs, the breasts, heart, and joints. When naturally occurring glutamate is broken down as it should be, slowly and as nature intended, there shouldn’t be a problem unless we are born without the ability to process glutamate correctly.
The problem most likely lies in the fact that today, we are bombarded with processed foods that contain several sources of free, i.e. processed glutamate, which is the harmful and excitotoxic component of MSG.
It is harmful because it is a form that needs no digesting, allowing large amounts into the bloodstream immediately, and also because it contains other forms of free glutamate, such as pyroglutamic acid, D- glutamic acid, and carcinogens.
So free glutamic acid is a real and legitimate concern — please know that I’m not dismissing that. In my research, however, nutritional yeast is not rich in this artificially added/produced form of free glutamic acid and is, therefore not in this category. It is the many other forms of artificial “flavoring” and yeast extracts found in processed foods that we should be avoiding.
What are the Health Benefits of Nutritional Yeast?
Nutritional yeast is a cherished addition to any health-conscious kitchen, offering a wealth of health benefits in a small, versatile package.
The Vitamins Found in Nutritional Yeast
Nutritional yeast is rich in Thiamin, Riboflavin, Niacin, Vitamin B6, Folate, and often Vitamin B12 (more on this one in a moment.) These are all B vitamins that work as a complex, essentially providing you with energy and helping you to maintain proper brain function. Among many other important functions, they are also essential for beautiful, healthy hair (which I know we do all care about!).
In fact, B vitamins “wear many hats” in terms of their role in our body. In addition to energy production, brain function, and rebuilding of hair, they also have an impact on our fat burning, sleep, and much more. What’s more, B vitamins are often depleted during stress — which all of us face more than ever — and some of us more than others! This makes the need for daily consumption of B vitamin-rich foods all the more important. B vitamins can also be depleted from eating junk foods.
Vitamin B12 in Nutritional Yeast
It has been long believed that nutritional yeast contains vitamin B12, naturally — but that is not true. Unlike other microorganisms, such as probiotics, yeast cannot produce vitamin B12. The reason many fortified nutritional yeast products contain vitamin B12 is that they are added it at the end of the process. This is not necessarily a bad thing because it means that you’re still getting B12 at the end of the day!
Ultimately, as a vegan, I would not rely solely on nutritional yeast for my B12 needs. Because it is such an important vitamin and there’s more risk for us who don’t eat animal products — I think a more multi-faceted approach for B12 is best.
Your gut can produce certain B vitamins, but for B12, it requires a helping hand. This is where Solluna’s Feel Good Probiotics can play a role. They help create a balanced gut environment, which is fundamental for overall health.
Folic acid, also known as Vitamin B9, is another crucial nutrient, especially important for cell growth and DNA synthesis. While nutritional yeast can be a good source of folic acid, if you’re on a vegan diet, it’s also important to include a variety of folic acid-rich foods like leafy greens, oranges, and beans, or consider a supplement to meet your needs.
Just like with B12, you can’t rely exclusively on nutritional yeast for all your vitamin needs. It’s all about a balanced, diverse diet to ensure you’re getting the full spectrum of nutrients your body requires.
For bodybuilders and fitness enthusiasts, the yeast’s high protein content, representing 71% of its weight, is a boon. It’s a complete protein, meaning it contains all nine essential amino acids that our bodies can’t produce on their own. This makes it particularly beneficial for muscle repair and growth, and because it’s plant-based, it’s a fantastic option for vegans and vegetarians looking to boost their protein intake.
Nutritional yeast’s mineral content, including zinc, selenium, and magnesium, supports various bodily functions, from immune response to bone health. It’s also a fiber-rich food, aiding digestion and promoting a feeling of fullness, which can help with weight management.
Final Thoughts: Nutritional Yeast in Your Diet
Hopefully, this article helps you understand everything you need to know about nutritional yeast and dispels some myths about why it may be bad for you. I realize I’ve given you a lot of information, so please take time to read through it carefully, and please definitely let me know if you have any questions.
Anecdotally, I want to conclude by saying that I’ve personally been consuming nutritional yeast very regularly for years, and I’ve experienced no issues at all. If anything, I feel stronger, healthier, and more mentally sharp than ever before.
So this experience, coupled with the research and nutritional information I’ve provided, is what causes me to feel comfortable recommending it to you and our community.
Of course, the underlying truth of all nutritional advice is that as you become more sensitive to the effects of different foods and learn to listen to your body better and better — you’ll instinctively know when food works well in your body. Or when it’s time to eliminate it.
Nutritional yeast works for me, and ultimately, it’s up to you to determine whether it’s the best thing for your body.
Thanks again for reading and being part of this super awesome community, and look out for more great stuff from us this week!
 Grande Covian F. Vitamin deficiencies during the Spanish Civil War in Madrid: a reminiscence. Acta vitaminologica et enzymologica (1982) 4(1-2):99-103.
 Lipson A, et al. The selenium status of children with phenylketonuria: results of selenium supplementation. Australian paediatric journal (1988) 24(2):128-31.
 Offenbacher EG, Pi-Sunyer FX. Beneficial effect of chromium-rich yeast on glucose tolerance and blood lipids in elderly subjects. Diabetes (1980) 29(11):919-25.