Nutritional Yeast: Not Just Cheesy Goodness

Nutritional Yeast

Nutritional yeast has long been known to vegans as a ‘go-to’ condiment for its cheesy, savory taste and supplemental B-12.

If you’ve avoided nutritional yeast all this time, thinking it a ‘fad’ food – it is time to reconsider.

Not only is it rich in protein, minerals, and B-vitamins: it also contains naturally present anti-viral and anti-bacterial properties.

It also tastes great on popcorn, in a stir-fry, or especially in a tofu scramble.

Nutritional Yeast vs. “Brewers” Yeast vs. “Baker’s Yeast – Candida Fears

So, what exactly is nutritional yeast and how does it differ from the ‘yeast’ used traditionally in baking? Can this type of yeast contribute to candida overgrowth?

Firstly, no – this type of yeast, nutritional yeast, cannot contribute and does not contribute to yeast, fungal, or candida overgrowth. In fact, studies seem to conclude the opposite, and nutritional yeast may be beneficial in those suffering from fungal concerns.

In Sensitive individuals, it may cause headaches to those that are sensitive to the amino acids naturally present in high amounts, like tyramine and glutamate. 

These are not related to candida concerns. 

Nor can nutritional yeast “cause” candida overgrowth. 

While nutritional yeast is derived from the same species of yeast as that used to bake bread and brew beer, they are ultimately different end products and should not be treated the same. 

Brewer’s yeast is a by-product of the beer manufacturing process, while Baker’s yeast is an ‘active’ form of yeast that is used in baked goods and bread. The pasteurization and production process of nutritional yeast renders the yeast ‘inactive.’ 

This elimination of yeast cells during processing means it won’t fuel candida growth – which is more often fueled by sugars and refined carbohydrates. Foods containing live yeasts, prebiotics, or live bacteria can sometimes make symptoms worse.. things like kombucha and sauerkraut. 

Antibiotics can also contribute as a huge factor when the good bacteria is killed, and the yeast can proliferate.

In extremely rare documented cases, Brewer’s yeast (but not nutritional yeast), along with other ‘live’ forms of Saccharomyces cerevisiae was found to cause a response in those that were highly immunosuppressed. 

This can be noted in cases of probiotic use as well, which is why it is also always advised to avoid the use of probiotics, bacterial cultures, or yeasts in those taking immune suppressants or those with auto-immune conditions unless confirmed by a medical professional. 

It is important to know these occur very rarely and are not linked to a specific type of type, probiotic strain, or culture. 

What about Mold Concerns?

Again, there is no evidence to support that nutritional yeast, in particular contains mold toxins or fuels mold toxicity in those that are suffering. 

Some suggest that “yeasts almost always contain high levels of mold toxins,” but do not cite any sources of this in relation to nutritional yeast. There are no research-based studies to support this claim. 

One study cites brewer’s yeast as containing mold, but the amount varied wildly among the samples tested, and we do not know the origin of the yeast used or the conditions in which it was produced or stored. 

They also make the mistake of suggesting that “when you eat yeast, it encourages a yeast-like fungus called ‘Candida albicans’ to grow in your body.” This is not the case. 

Not all yeasts are the same strain, and not all yeast contribute to fungal growth or overgrowth – particularly when it comes to Candida. 

Nutritional yeast is a dried, and inactive form of Saccharomyces cerevisiae. Again, the keyword there is inactive. 

Beta-Glucans as Protective Against Mold Toxicity

Beta-glucan, a component naturally present in nutritional yeast, was shown to support gut health, integrity, and product against fungal and mold toxins – mycotoxins, in particular

The most effective form of beta-glucan is actually derived from the same strain as nutritional yeast. 

Beta-glucans are considered ‘sugars’ that are formed in the cell walls of yeast – more complex than what we think of as simple sugars like fructose, they are polysaccharides. 

These actually prevent the rapid absorption of simple sugars from food and are often used for heart disease because they bind to cholesterol. 

Beta-glucans have been shown to stimulate white blood cells, protect against invading pathogens, and can scavenge free radicals from toxin exposure, environmental illness, or mold exposure. 

This is vital both in cases of candida infection and mold-related illness. 

For those concerned that they will ‘overstimulate’ the immune system, and create a cytokine ‘storm’ as seen in immune responses to viral infections – this does not appear to be the case, as beta-glucan does not mount an immune response unless triggered by a mold, virus, bacteria or pathogens. 

Does Nutritional Yeast Contain MSG?

The other primary concern people have with nutritional yeast is that it contains MSG.

This is another large fallacy and misunderstanding surrounding nutritional yeast that continued to receive attention online. Nutritional yeast, in no way, contains added MSG (monosodium glutamate). 

Monosodium glutamate is not the same as ‘free’ glutamic acid naturally present in whole foods, and those suggesting a difference between the glutamic acid found in aged cheeses and bone broth compared to nutritional yeast are inaccurate. 

The fermentation process releases the glutamic acid whether it is in the process of making aged cheese, wine, or nutritional yeast. 

Glutamic acid, glutamate – also do not cross the BBB (blood-brain barrier) through dietary means. Those who experience a headache after consuming nutritional yeast are likely more so reacting to the high level of naturally present ‘tyramine’ – an amino acid that is known to trigger migraines in sensitive people. 

The ‘umami’ savory flavor that lends nutritional yeast its cheesy taste is caused by this naturally occurring glutamate – which is an amino acid present in all foods to some degree. 

Those foods with more ‘umami’ or savory flavors, tend to have a higher glutamate content. 

As well, all yeast products will naturally have higher levels as glutamic acid is naturally occurring in all yeast, and are fermented – other extremely healthy fermented foods like sauerkraut, kimchi, and fermented bean paste all contain glutamate in higher levels.

Glutamate is always present in larger amounts in certain vegetables like mushrooms, tomatoes, potatoes, and peas. 

Glutamate is an important transmitter and important to many aspects of brain function – cognition, learning, and memory. It is also used for protein synthesis. Glutamate is the most abundant neurotransmitter in the brain and activates cells in the brain to communicate to send messages. 

The concern arises when there is an excess of glutamate – it would be impossible to avoid glutamate completely as it is present in all foods to some degree, and in high degrees in plenty of healthy food choices, like mushrooms, tomatoes, broccoli, soy, peas, walnuts, grapes, chocolate, seaweed, and seafood. 

The importance lies in avoiding refined or highly processed forms of unbound or ‘free’ glutamate, like monosodium glutamate, glutamic acid, hydrolyzed protein, or autolyzed yeast extract. 

These forms can cause sensitivity in some people, as there are many who cannot process or convert glutamate effectively in their body, and who may also have neurotransmitter or ‘leaky’ gut imbalances or issues that lead to more glutamate being upregulated by the brain, or ineffectively processed. 

There are also those that are genuinely allergic – those individuals should avoid nutritional yeast, or incorporate it only with monitoring how they feel. 

Recommended Use: 

In immunosuppressed individuals, or those sensitive to tyramine, nutritional yeast may be better off avoided – for those that are looking to add savory flavor to meals (pastas, soups, or bakes) – nutritional yeast offers a healthy, vitamin-rich solution that is entirely plant-based, high in protein, B-vitamins, and beta-glucan. 

High-Quality Nutritional Yeast Option Available at Healthy Planet:

Bob’s Red Mill Nutritional Yeast

NOW Nutritional Yeast Flakes

NOW Nutritional Yeast Powder