Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Nutritional Yeast

I have heard about this item for years. It's one of those items that is sold in health food stores and crunchy granola people swear is amazing. Although I border on being crunchy and granola, I still see myself as separate from them. I hate patchouli, hacky sack, and drum circles. Because of that, I've never tried nutritional yeast until this week. I really wish I had tried it sooner. It's delicious. I just sprinkled some on popcorn with garlic salt and devoured it.

I would describe the flavor as similar to fake cheese popcorn flavoring, except without the mental thought of, "What is this?" People describe it as nutty, cheesy, savory or umami. It's also really nutritious. A serving of 2 tablespoons and contains 8 grams of complete protein, 4 grams of fiber and only 1 gram of fat. Most companies fortify it with B-12 to help vegetarians and vegans get that into their diet. It naturally contains high levels of most of the other B vitamins.

I don't think I'm alone in avoiding this product. I think part of the problem stems from the name. It sounds like something you'd find on the shelf next to castor oil. People have tried to improve that by calling it nooch, yeshi, brufax, or savoury yeast flakes. None of those help. Nutritional yeast, although clinical sounding, is very accurate. It differentiates it from active yeast, which is used to make bread. It's simply a yeast that is cultivated on molasses then heated to "kill" it. The most common yeast used is a member of the fungi kingdom, so it's related to mushrooms and the yeast used to make alcohol. It comes in flake form, so it sort of resembles gold fish food. I wish I had a better description.

Despite it's weird appearance and unappealing name, I will continue to use this as a popcorn topper. A small amount of it doubled the fiber, tripled the protein and added many vitamins and minerals to my snack. I may also add it as a topper to other savory dishes like potatoes or other vegetables. I may also try it in some recipes.

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