Nutritional yeast, also known as nooch, has a pleasant, cheese-like flavor. (It tastes particularly good on popcorn. Try it!) An immune-activating beta-glucan fiber is found in brewer’s, baker’s, and nutritional yeasts. The IgA-boosting effects of the beta-glucan from a daily heaping teaspoon or so of nutritional yeast can reduce the incidence, duration, and severity of upper-respiratory-tract infections compared to placebo. Randomized controlled trials have also found it has anti-inflammatory effects sufficient to improve wound healing, reduce the severity of canker sores, and alleviate symptoms in ragweed sufferers, as well as benefit weight loss.

Nutritional yeast is also an option for athletes who want to sustain their immune function. Runners who were given the daily equivalent of about a spoonful of nutritional yeast in the four weeks after the race appeared to have just half the rates of upper-respiratory infection compared to runners consuming a placebo. Remarkably, the runners on yeast reported feeling better too. When asked how they felt on a scale of one to ten, with ten being the best, the people taking the placebo reported about a four or five. On the other hand, the subjects on the nutritional yeast consistently reported feeling better, around a six or seven. Elite athletes normally experience mood deterioration before and after a marathon, but this study revealed that a little nutritional yeast may improve a wide range of emotional states, reducing feelings of tenseness, fatigue, confusion, and anger, while at the same time increasing perceived “vigor.”

None of the studies reported treatment-related adverse effects, but I would caution against the use of any kind of yeast for those with two specific autoimmune diseases: Crohn’s disease and a skin condition known as hidradenitis suppurativa.

For substantiation of any statements of fact from the peer-reviewed medical literature, please see the associated videos below.

Image Credit: jacqueline / Flickr. This image has been modified.

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