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Is Nutritional Yeast Bad For You?

Also Known As: Noosh, Savory Yeast Flakes



Short answer

Nutritional yeast, or 'nooch', is not bad for you and can be beneficial, especially for those on plant-based diets needing B-vitamins and protein. It's a complete protein, rich in B-vitamins (often fortified with B12), fiber, and minerals like zinc and selenium. However, its purine content may affect those with gout, and its natural MSG and histamines could concern sensitive individuals. While excessive intake of fortified nooch could cause nutrient imbalance, it's generally safe and nutritious when consumed in moderation.



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Long answer

Nutritional Profile of Nutritional Yeast

Nutritional yeast, often affectionately called "nooch" by its aficionados, is a deactivated yeast that is popular among vegans and vegetarians due to its cheesy, nutty flavor, which makes it a palatable alternative to cheese. Yet, beyond its taste, the allure of nutritional yeast is predominantly due to its impressive nutrient profile. Studying the nutritional makeup of this product, we find a treasure trove of vitamins, minerals, and other beneficial compounds.

One of the most notable aspects of nutritional yeast is its rich B-vitamin content. Certain brands of nutritional yeast are fortified to boost these levels even further, making it an especially valuable supplement for those following plant-based diets which may lack sufficient B-vitamins, particularly vitamin B12.

List of Common Nutrients in Nutritional Yeast:

  • B-Vitamins: High in thiamine (B1), riboflavin (B2), niacin (B3), pyridoxine (B6), and often fortified with cobalamin (B12).
  • Protein: A complete protein source, providing all nine essential amino acids that the body cannot synthesize.
  • Fiber: Contains both soluble and insoluble fiber, contributing to digestive health.
  • Minerals: A good source of zinc, selenium, magnesium, and iron, among others.
  • Antioxidants: Includes glutathione and selenomethionine which have antioxidant properties to combat oxidative stress.
  • Beta-1,3 glucan: A form of soluble dietary fiber known to support immune function.

In terms of quantities, let's take a closer look at what a typical serving of nutritional yeast might contain:

Nutrient Amount per 2 Tablespoons (Approx.) % Daily Value (Approx.)
Calories 50 N/A
Protein 8 g 16%
Fiber 4 g 16%
Thiamine (B1) 640% DV (fortified) 640%
Riboflavin (B2) 570% DV (fortified) 570%
Niacin (B3) 280% DV (fortified) 280%
Pyridoxine (B6) 480% DV (fortified) 480%
Cobalamin (B12) (fortified) 130% DV (fortified) 130%
Iron 4% DV 4%
Zinc 20% DV 20%

However, quantities can vary greatly depending on whether the nutritional yeast is fortified and the brand in question. Always check the label for the precise content of macro- and micronutrients.

It's important to note that nutritional yeast naturally contains compounds known as purines, which are common in many foods and can be metabolized into uric acid. For individuals with gout or high uric acid levels, consuming foods high in purines may exacerbate their condition. Given that nutritional yeast could potentially contribute to uric acid levels, such individuals should consult with a healthcare professional before incorporating it into their diet in significant amounts.

Overall, the nutritional profile of nutritional yeast can be considered comprehensive and contributive to a healthy diet, especially as a supplemental source of B-vitamins and protein for those on restrictive diets. The scientific community acknowledges these benefits, with studies highlighting its nutritional value and potential health effects, creating a broad consensus on its utility in enhancing dietary quality.

Monosodium Glutamate (MSG) Content in Nutritional Yeast

Monosodium Glutamate, commonly referred to as MSG, is a flavor enhancer that has been a subject of various nutrition debates for decades. Often associated with processed foods and Asian cuisine, MSG has been both demonized and defended in the nutritional community. One food that has been scrutinized for its natural MSG content is nutritional yeast.

Nutritional yeast is a deactivated yeast, often a strain of Saccharomyces cerevisiae, that is favored for its cheesy, nutty flavor. It is packed with vitamins, particularly B-complex vitamins, and is often fortified with vitamin B12, making it a popular supplement among vegans and vegetarians. However, what concerns some people is that nutritional yeast naturally creates glutamic acid during its fermentation process, which is a component of MSG.

It is essential to understand that MSG is the sodium salt of glutamic acid, and it occurs naturally in many foods, including tomatoes, soy products, and cheeses. The glutamic acid in nutritional yeast is bound to other amino acids or proteins. When it is part of a whole protein, it does not have the same impact as free glutamic acid, which is not bound and can impact the taste receptors on the tongue, hence its role as a flavor enhancer.

Studies have debunked many myths about MSG. The FDA classifies MSG as a food ingredient that is "generally recognized as safe" (GRAS), the same designation that many food additives share. However, it's acknowledged that a minority of the population may have a sensitivity to MSG, leading to transient symptoms such as headache, sweating, or chest pain, often referred to as 'Chinese Restaurant Syndrome'.

In the case of nutritional yeast, the connection to MSG is more about its natural glutamic acid content rather than added MSG. Current research suggests that the naturally occurring glutamic acid in foods does not cause the adverse reactions some associate with added MSG. However, those with a known sensitivity to MSG may exercise caution or consult a medical professional before incorporating high-glutamic acid foods like nutritional yeast into their diet.

When considering the MSG content in nutritional yeast, it's crucial to look at portion sizes and the overall diet context. A small amount of nutritional yeast can provide flavor and nutrients without significantly increasing your intake of free glutamic acid, especially when part of a balanced and varied diet.

For those concerned about MSG but still want to enjoy the benefits of nutritional yeast, there are strategies to minimize potential risks, including:

  • Limiting the use of nutritional yeast to small amounts
  • Including nutritional yeast as part of meals rich in whole foods with natural fibers, which may help mitigate any potential negative effects
  • Opting for unfortified nutritional yeast if concerned about added synthetic vitamins
  • Monitoring for any personal sensitivity reactions when consuming nutritional yeast and adjusting usage accordingly

To gain further clarity, here's a quick comparison table:

Nutritional Yeast Property Detail
Natural MSG Content Naturally occurring glutamic acid present from fermentation
Added MSG None; no added MSG in standard nutritional yeast products
Health Considerations Generally safe for most people, potential sensitivity for some individuals
Serving Recommendations Consume in moderation, especially if sensitive to glutamic acid/MSG

Overall, the naturally occurring forms of glutamic acid in nutritional yeast are generally not of concern to the average consumer. It is the free, added form of MSG that has been linked – though inconclusively – to various health complaints. Nutritional yeast remains a valuable nutritional supplement for many, particularly those following plant-based diets, provided it is consumed in moderation with attention paid to individual tolerance levels.

Histamine and Yeast Sensitivity Concerns

Nutritional yeast, a deactivated yeast often praised for its savory, cheese-like flavor, is a popular food supplement among vegetarians and vegans. While it is a source of protein and B vitamins, there are concerns for certain individuals when it comes to histamine content and yeast sensitivities.

Histamine is a naturally occurring compound found in certain foods that can trigger symptoms similar to allergic reactions in people with histamine intolerance. Nutritional yeast, being a fermented product, can have varying levels of histamine. Those with histamine intolerance may experience headaches, sniffling, sneezing, skin rashes, or digestive distress after consuming histamine-rich foods.

Although not all brands of nutritional yeast have been studied for their histamine content, it is generally suggested for individuals with known histamine intolerance to exercise caution. If nutritional yeast does trigger symptoms, they might consider moderating their intake or seeking histamine-free alternatives. Consulting with a healthcare professional for personalized advice can be beneficial in these cases.

Yeast sensitivities or allergies can also pose a concern for some individuals. Symptoms of a yeast sensitivity can include gastrointestinal discomfort, headaches, fatigue, and skin issues. It is important to differentiate between yeast allergies and the inability to tolerate high-histamine foods, as they require different dietary adjustments.

Despite these concerns, it's important to note that most people tolerate nutritional yeast without any issues. In fact, for many, it is a valuable source of nutrients that may be difficult to obtain from diet alone, particularly in plant-based diets. However, those who have been diagnosed with yeast sensitivities or histamine intolerance may need to approach nutritional yeast with caution.

Steps for People with Histamine Intolerance or Yeast Sensitivity:

  • Identify symptoms: Keep a food diary to correlate intake of nutritional yeast with any adverse reactions.
  • Test histamine or yeast reaction: Seek professional diagnosis to confirm sensitivity or intolerance.
  • Moderate intake: If confirmed, reduce the amount of nutritional yeast consumed or temporarily eliminate it from the diet.
  • Consider substitutes: Explore other nutrient-dense foods or supplements that don't elicit a negative response.
  • Seek professional guidance: Work with a healthcare provider or dietician specialized in food sensitivities for personalized advice.

It's essential to balance the potential health benefits of nutritional yeast with individual tolerance levels. Adjust your dietary intake accordingly and always consider seeking expert advice for health concerns related to food sensitivities. By understanding your body's reactions, you can make informed and health-promoting dietary choices.

Nutritional Yeast and Its Role in a Balanced Diet

Nutritional yeast, a deactivated yeast often sold in the form of flakes or powder, has increasingly become a popular condiment and ingredient in the health food community. This section delves into the role that nutritional yeast can play in a balanced diet, highlighting its nutritional content, potential health benefits, and considerations for various dietary needs.

Firstly, nutritional yeast is a rich source of B-vitamins. For those following a vegetarian or vegan diet, it serves as an essential supplement for B12, a vitamin primarily found in animal products and one that is critical for nervous system health and the formation of red blood cells. This yeast is often fortified with vitamin B12, making it a practical choice for those at risk of deficiency.

  • Provides Thiamine (B1)
  • Offers Riboflavin (B2)
  • Contains Niacin (B3)
  • Includes Pyridoxine (B6)
  • Often fortified with Cobalamin (B12)

Beyond the B-vitamins, nutritional yeast is also rich in protein and contains all nine essential amino acids, making it a complete protein. This is particularly noteworthy for those whose diets may be lacking in protein diversity, as a complete protein source helps to ensure that all amino acid requirements are being met.

Importantly, nutritional yeast also contains trace minerals such as zinc, selenium, manganese, and molybdenum. These minerals are involved in numerous bodily functions, including immune system support and antioxidant processes. It is crucial to note, however, that while beneficial in moderate amounts, these trace minerals can be harmful in excess. Therefore, nutritional yeast should be consumed as part of a diet that is varied and includes other sources of nutrients to maintain balance.

Furthermore, the fiber content in nutritional yeast can contribute to a healthy digestive system. Fiber aids in regular bowel movements and has been linked to numerous other health benefits, such as maintaining healthy blood sugar levels and contributing to satiety, which can help manage weight.

For individuals sensitive to dietary components such as gluten, MSG (monosodium glutamate), or certain allergens, it is reassuring to note that nutritional yeast is naturally free of these substances. Nonetheless, it’s always prudent to check the labeling of individual brands for any added ingredients that might pose a concern.

While nutritional yeast can be a boon for many, individuals with certain medical conditions need to exercise caution. For example, those with gout or kidney issues should monitor their intake due to the naturally occurring purines in yeast, which can exacerbate these conditions. Additionally, an overconsumption of nutritional yeast could lead to an excessive intake of certain nutrients, such as folic acid in its synthetic form, which has been associated with potential health risks when taken in large doses over time.

In conclusion, when considering the role of nutritional yeast in a balanced diet, it is a versatile ingredient with numerous health benefits. It can enhance the nutritional profile of various dishes, particularly for those with specific dietary restrictions or needs. As with all foods, moderation and dietary variety are key to maximizing health benefits while minimizing potential risks.

Potential for Vitamin B12 Overdose in High Intake

Nutritional yeast is commonly fortified with vitamin B12, an essential nutrient that supports nerve function and the production of DNA and red blood cells. While it's a beneficial supplement for those following plant-based diets, as B12 is primarily found in animal products, there is a potential concern with overconsumption leading to a vitamin B12 overdose.

The recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for vitamin B12 for adults is 2.4 micrograms per day. However, many brands of nutritional yeast provide significantly more than this amount in just one serving. While the body can generally handle high intakes of B12 without issue since it is a water-soluble vitamin, there is still a concern, albeit minimal, for a few reasons.

  • Masking of Deficiencies: Excessive B12 can potentially mask the signs of a vitamin B9 (folate) deficiency, delaying its diagnosis and treatment. Symptoms such as anemia and neurological issues could be overlooked due to high B12 levels.
  • Drug Interactions: High levels of vitamin B12 may interact with certain medications. For instance, it can affect the effectiveness of proton pump inhibitors and certain diabetes medications.
  • Existing Conditions: Individuals with conditions like Leber's disease, a hereditary eye disease, should avoid taking vitamin B12 supplements as it could harm the optic nerve.

Though cases of genuine B12 toxicity are exceedingly rare, they can occur. Symptoms linked to vitamin B12 overdose may include:

  • Dizziness
  • Headache
  • Anxiety
  • Nausea

Studies that evaluate the toxicity of vitamin B12 have shown that due to its low toxicity, an upper limit has not been established. For instance, a study published in the "Journal of Clinical Oncology" suggests high doses of vitamin B12 supplements showed no adverse effects. However, these findings do not eliminate the potential risks associated with long-term overconsumption of vitamin B12, especially when sourced from fortified foods like nutritional yeast.

Additionally, a review in the "European Journal of Clinical Nutrition" underlined the need for more research to conclude the consequences of high dietary vitamin B12 intake. Different individuals may have different sensitivities to vitamin B12; hence, caution is advised.

In conclusion, while nutritional yeast is a valuable source of vitamin B12, particularly for vegans and vegetarians, it's essential to keep track of your daily intake and consider how much is present in other aspects of your diet. Pay close attention to the serving sizes and the nutritional information provided on the packaging to avoid excessive consumption.

Frequently asked questions

While nutritional yeast is a rich source of vitamins and minerals, overconsumption could potentially lead to imbalances. It's important to consume it as part of a varied diet and not rely solely on it for nutritional needs. For example, excess intake of synthetic folic acid found in some fortified versions may pose health risks over time, and high levels of trace minerals can be harmful. Therefore, it's essential to monitor intake and balance it with other nutrient sources.

If you're new to nutritional yeast, start by sprinkling small amounts on foods where you might use cheese, such as popcorn, salads, or pasta dishes. Its umami flavor also makes it great for enhancing soups and stews. Start with a teaspoon or two and gradually increase as desired to ensure you tolerate it well and to get accustomed to its strong flavor.

Nutritional yeast itself is low in sodium, making it a good choice for those on a low-sodium diet. However, it's always best to check the nutrition labels as some brands may add sodium for flavoring. When used in moderation within the context of a low-sodium diet, nutritional yeast should not pose significant concerns.

For most people, the fiber in nutritional yeast can benefit digestive health. However, individuals with certain gastrointestinal conditions, such as IBS or those who are not used to a high-fiber diet, may experience discomfort. It's advisable to gradually increase fiber intake and ensure adequate hydration to minimize potential digestive issues.

Ask a question about Nutritional Yeast and our team will publish the answer as soon as possible.

Possible short-term side effects

  • headache
  • sweating
  • chest pain
  • gastrointestinal discomfort
  • sniffling
  • sneezing
  • skin rashes
  • digestive distress
  • dizziness
  • anxiety
  • nausea

Possible long-term side effects

  • uric acid elevation
  • possible masking of vitamin b9 deficiency
  • possible drug interactions
  • harm to optic nerve
  • excessive intake of nutrients

Ingredients to be aware of

  • purines
  • synthetic folic acid
  • high vitamin b12 content


  • rich in b-vitamins
  • complete protein source
  • contains fiber
  • source of minerals
  • immune support
  • antioxidant properties

Healthier alternatives

  • unfortified nutritional yeast
  • whole foods
  • b-vitamin complex supplements

Our Wellness Pick (what is this?)

Bragg Nutritional Yeast

  • Rich in protein
  • Enhances flavor
  • Vitamin-packed
  • Vegan friendly
  • Gluten-free substitute
Learn More!

Thank you for your feedback!

Written by Diane Saleem
Published on: 12-19-2023

Thank you for your feedback!

Written by Diane Saleem
Published on: 12-19-2023

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