Nutritional Yeast and Protein Portions - Ask a Nutritionist

March 21, 2024

While we touch on the importance of accurately measuring protein, the star of this episode is nutritional yeast - a versatile superfood that can transform your meals and your health. Whether you're exploring dairy-free alternatives or looking to increase your nutritional intake, this episode is packed with insights and tips on making the most of nutritional yeast's benefits.

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BRITNI: Welcome to Dishing Up Nutrition's “Ask a Nutritionist” podcast brought to you by Nutritional Weight and Wellness. We are thrilled to be celebrating 20 years on air discussing the connection between what you eat and how you feel while sharing practical real life solutions for healthier living through balanced nutrition.

And we want to thank you for your support over the years and your listenership. So let's dive into today's questions. Today I have two questions I will be answering and they are unrelated. So let's start with the first one. It is “When weighing protein, should it be before cooked or after?”

How much protein is recommended?

So when weighing your protein, it should be after it's cooked. Depending on the protein source, you could lose an ounce or maybe even more through the cooking process. And just to review some of the guidelines of amounts of protein to be aiming for, most women are going to benefit from 4 to 5 ounces or 28 to 35 grams at a meal.

Most men are going to benefit from at least 6 ounces at a meal, which would be 42 grams. And when we're thinking about snacks, women shooting for two ounces if you can, or one is better than not getting protein at all. And then men, I would say two to three ounces of protein at a snack.

When looking at labels of different foods, it can be helpful to know that one ounce is equivalent to about seven grams of protein. So when you're looking at a label of maybe some chicken sausage or a good quality meat stick, you can look to see how many grams are in one meat stick or one chicken sausage so you know how many of those to eat to get that targeted protein amount.

Brandy did a great episode of “Ask a Nutritionist” in August and the title was How to Get More Protein. That would be a really great one to refer to to just get some practical ideas of how to incorporate this protein into your diet.

Well, let's move on to our second question today, which is, “Thoughts on using nutritional yeast?” This was a fun one. I learned that there are a lot of benefits of nutritional yeast that I'm going to be sharing with you today. So, the short answer is, it is totally fine to incorporate into your diet.

What is nutritional yeast?

And for those of you who are not familiar with nutritional yeast, I want to explain it a little bit. It is a deactivated yeast. So this is different than the pathogenic or bad yeast that sometimes we talk about in regard to our gut health. And consuming the nutritional yeast is not going to cause yeast infection.

And nutritional yeast is actually an ingredient that's grown on a mixture of cane or beet molasses. So once the fermentation process has completed, the yeast is harvested, washed, pasteurized, dried, and then packaged. And you can find it in powder form, granule form or flakes and it is like a golden color.

You can find it at most grocery stores. At my house, I generally cook without dairy, so I have used nutritional yeast in some dishes to provide a cheesy flavor and that is why most people use it is just to provide a cheesy flavor if you are dairy free.

Benefits of nutritional yeast

But I do want to share all the great benefits of nutritional yeast as well. It is rich in a variety of B vitamins, including biotin, folate, B6, B1, B2. And general benefits of B vitamins, they help to reduce stress on the body, increase energy, they can improve skin, hair, nails, and then they also improve the health of your mitochondria, which are like the little furnaces in most of our cells in our body.

Nutritional yeast does not contain vitamin B12 naturally. When you look at the nutritional yeast options at the grocery store, there are generally two options. There's fortified nutritional yeast and unfortified nutritional yeast and fortified just means that they are adding other nutrients that are not naturally present in that food item.

So I would recommend sticking to an unfortified version of nutritional yeast. So when you look at the ingredient list, it is only nutritional yeast. In addition to B vitamins, there are a lot of minerals in nutritional yeast as well: potassium, which is also an electrolyte that many people are deficient in.

Magnesium is found in nutritional yeast, which we talk about all the time because it's involved in hundreds of different processes in the body. And again, a lot of people are deficient in it. There is some calcium in nutritional yeast as well, which is important for bone health and other things in the body.

There are trace minerals found in nutritional yeast and trace minerals just means that we don't need as high of a dose of these type of minerals as like magnesium or calcium. So chromium is one that helps to balance blood sugar, selenium, which helps to support immune function and thyroid function.

And there's some zinc in there as well, which is really key to immune health. Nutritional yeast is one of the only plant sources that is a complete protein. And what that means is it contains all essential 9 key amino acids, and those amino acids are necessary for making some neurotransmitters. They are the building blocks of protein. We need the amino acids to build muscle as well.

So I want to be clear. Utilizing nutritional yeast does not replace eating the dietary protein. So even though it is a complete protein, I would still recommend getting those animal sources of protein that we talk about at every meal.

There is fiber in nutritional yeast as well. Some benefits of fiber include better digestive health, balancing blood sugar. Fiber increases satiety, helps us keep, stay fuller longer, and there are two grams of fiber in two tablespoons of nutritional yeast.

It also has some antiviral and antibacterial properties and that can help to support our immune function. But in addition to that, nutritional yeast contains beta glucan and glutathione, which are both also enhance our immune function. Some research suggests that beta glucan can lower the risk of heart disease and lower cholesterol, and glutathione is a really powerful antioxidant that also helps with detoxification.


So in summary, with using nutritional yeast, it does not replace the supplements that you're taking or eating whole foods. Just think of it as an extra boost of nutrients. It does provide a nice cheesy flavor so you can use it in sauces, maybe put it in your eggs, soups, casseroles, dips, really, basically anything that you would add cheese to, you could add some nutritional yeast as well. And then I would choose the unfortified varieties of nutritional yeast. So the ingredient is just the nutritional yeast.

Well, thank you so much for listening to Dishing Up Nutrition's “Ask a Nutritionist” today. If you haven't already I encourage you to join our Dishing Up Nutrition Facebook community. You can do that by searching Dishing Up Nutrition on Facebook.

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And this private group is moderated by Nutritional Weight and Wellness so much for joining us This private group is moderated by Nutritional Weight and Wellness nutritionists and nutrition educators, and it provides a safe, supportive community to ask your questions, share ideas, and just get inspired. So once you're a member of this community, don't hesitate to ask your questions and we look forward to hearing from you. Thank you.

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