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Looking for a healthy vegetarian source of B vitamins, protein, fiber, and minerals? Nutritional yeast and brewer’s yeast are superfoods that fit the bill
Both nutritional and brewer’s yeasts are a type of fungus. So, like mushrooms, they’re neither plant nor animal. Both are good sources of B vitamins, necessary for efficient metabolism of food and to help us withstand stress, and of minerals, protein, and fiber. Although either one can be taken as a supplement in pills, flakes and powders are the most popular forms, adding a nutritional boost when mixed in juices, smoothies, dressings, sauces, or soups, or sprinkled on salads, cooked vegetables, popcorn—or just about any other food. Nutritional yeast is especially popular as a vegan substitute for grated cheese, such as Parmesan.
Both types of yeast are inactive, meaning they won’t make bread rise or generate a yeast overgrowth in your body. And both are the same species of yeast, Saccharomyces cerevisiae. But in other ways, they differ.
The taste of nutritional yeast is milder, with a nutty, cheesy flavor. Brewer’s yeast is a bit bitter, although the bitterness is reduced in some products. The concentration of vitamins and minerals differs among products, and the yeasts are cultivated on different media.
How Yeasts Are Grown
Brewer’s yeast is traditionally a byproduct of the beer-making process, in which case it’s cultivated on malted barley or other grains, which produces some bitterness. However, some brewer’s yeasts are “primary grown,” meaning they are cultivated specifically for use as a dietary supplement, and may be grown on the same types of media as nutritional yeast.
Nutritional yeast is never a brewery by-product, and is typically grown on molasses from either sugar beets or cane sugar. Much of the sugar beet harvest in the U.S. is genetically
modified, but nutritional yeasts grown on non-GMO versions are available, and some are organic.
B Vitamins and Other Nutrients
Both types of yeast contain similar amounts of protein, fiber, and a very small amount of fat—around 7 grams of protein, 4 grams of fiber, and 1 gram of fat in a 60-calorie serving. Brewer’s yeast naturally contains chromium, whereas nutritional yeast does not. In other ways, the exact concentration of B vitamins and minerals varies from one product to another. Although the yeasts naturally contain all the B vitamins, additional amounts are sometimes added, in which case B vitamins are listed as separate ingredients on the label.
How to Decipher B-Vitamin Content
Product labels typically list amounts of each B vitamin as “%DV,” meaning a percent of Daily Value, the FDA’s rough estimate of the basic amount of each vitamin required by an average adult. These are approximations to prevent a deficiency, and many nutritional professionals recommend higher amounts for optimum health.
As a guide, these are the Daily Values for each B vitamin. The %DV would be a percentage of these quantities: