By: Michalea Gale
Nutritional what…? I will admit what many of you may be thinking, the name or appearance does not make you particularly excited to try this product. This summer I found myself continuously coming across nutritional yeast in various articles and recipes. After deciding to give it a try I was pleasantly surprised, not only does it taste great in dishes but is LOADED with several health benefits. What’s not to love about that?
First of all, what is nutritional yeast? It’s made from a single-celled organism, Saccharomyces Cerevisae, which is grown on molasses and then harvested, washed, and dried with heat to kill or “deactivate” it. You may be familiar with brewer’s yeast, Torula yeast, or active dry yeast. Nutritional yeast differs from these as it does not grow or have leavening ability due to its inactive state, hence these ingredients should not be used interchangeably!
These flimsy little flakes pack a big punch when it comes to nutrition! Two tablespoons of nutritional yeast contains 60 calories and 9 grams of protein. That’s more protein than an egg (6 grams) or 2 tablespoons of peanut butter (8 grams). It’s also high in fiber, which plays an important role in terms of gut health and functional digestion. Fiber slows the absorption of sugar, thus improving blood sugar levels and potentially reducing the risk of developing type II diabetes. Also, nutritional yeast contains a full day’s supply of Vitamin B-12 in just one tablespoon. Most sources of B-12 are animal based, making this a great option for vegans or vegetarians. Vitamin B-12 is required for proper functioning of the brain and nerves, as well as red blood cell production. Rich in folate, nutritional yeast is great for women who are pregnant or plan to become pregnant as folate is known to prevent many major birth defects. Oh and one last added bonus- it’s gluten free!
Okay so it sounds great on paper but trust me, its flavor is delicious too! Nutritional yeast is known for its nutty, cheesy essence. With its somewhat umami (savory) characteristics it can be used as a seasoning for a wide variety of foods. Many individuals, especially those who are lactose intolerant or dairy free, use it the same way one would use shredded cheese. Sprinkle it over roasted veggies, pasta, eggs, or salads for that same “cheesy” flavor. Another fan favorite is sprinkling it over popcorn with some olive oil, salt, and pepper for a crunchy and satisfying snack. Overall it can serve as a replacement for cheese in any recipe, while saving calories and adding an abundance of essential nutrients.
This product is not typically something you’ll find on the corner stand of your local grocery store, I actually had to try three different locations before I could find it back at home. Luckily if you’re in the Harrisonburg area there is a few places you can be sure to find it.
1. Friendly City Food Co-op: 150 E Wolfe Street, Harrisonburg
2. Kate’s Natural Products: 451 University Blvd, Harrisonburg
3. Sue’s Super Nutrition: 3060 S Main Street, Harrisonburg
It stands out with it’s bright yellow color and is most commonly sold powdered or in flakes that resemble fish food. Below I’ve included one of my favorite recipes to use it in, enjoy!
Ingredients, Serves 4
Basil & Spinach Filling
2 cups cashews, soaked for minimum 4 hours
3 cloves garlic, crushed
¼ cup nutritional yeast
1 tbsp lemon juice
½ cup almond milk
½ cup basil
¾ cup spinach
¼ tsp salt
½ tsp pepper
2 tbsp olive oil
2 cloves minced garlic
1 can chopped tomatoes
1 tsp honey or other sweetener (optional)
salt & pepper
2 tbsp chopped basil
2 tbsp grated parmesan or nutritional yeast (optional)
• Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit
• Drain the soaked cashews and place them in a blender or food processor with the garlic, nutritional yeast, lemon juice and almond milk. Blend until the cashews have broken down into a creamy consistency. Add in the spinach and basil and continue to blend until completely smooth. Season with salt and pepper and set aside
• Cut the eggplant lengthwise into ¼ to ½ inch thick slices. Lightly salt each side and allow to rest for 10-15 minutes to remove excess moisture. After 15 minutes wipe the eggplant with paper towels to remove the salt.
• The eggplant can be grilled for 2-3 minutes per side on a well oiled grill or baked in the oven for 15 minutes at 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Once cooked remove and set aside
• To make the sauce, heat the olive oil in a pot on medium heat and add the garlic. Allow to cook until soft before adding in the can of chopped tomatoes and sweetener. Let the sauce simmer for 10 minutes until it begins to thicken. Season with salt and pepper and pour a small amount of the sauce into the bottom of a baking dish.
• Place about 2-3 spoonfuls of the spinach and basil mixture onto the end of each slice of eggplant and roll tightly, placing them seam side down on top of the sauce in the baking dish.
• Pour the remainder of the sauce overtop the rolls and bake in the oven for 15 minutes.
• Serve straight from the oven sprinkled with parmesan (or more nutritional yeast) and chopped basil.