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Nooch: Buy or Bye?

Taking a deep dive into trending foods to find out if they are worth the hype.

Spoonful of nutritional yeast, known as nooch

The swell of enthusiasm for plant-based eating of late has helped nutritional yeast, or nooch, go mainstream. Nutritional yeast is a deactivated form of the microorganism Saccharomyces cerevisiae produced by culturing the yeast on a sugar-rich medium, like molasses, for several days. After this growth period, the yeast is heated and then dried for packaging. The distinctive “cheesy” taste can be attributed to its abundance of naturally occurring glutamate, an amino acid that interacts with specific taste cells in the tongue to unleash a umami, Parmesan-like wave of flavor.

With 4–5 grams of protein in a 2-tablespoon serving, nutritional yeast is a pretty solid source of plant-based protein. But in reasonable serving sizes, it should never be considered a major contributor to dietary protein needs. Most brands contain a whole slew of B vitamins, however, including thiamine, niacin and B6 to support a healthy metabolism. These nutrients are typically added during processing.

A notable benefit of nooch for vegans is that it’s also often very high in vitamin B12, an essential nutrient typically only found in animal products like meat, eggs and dairy. And don’t overlook it can add cheesy flavor to dishes for a much lower calorie cost than regular cheese; a quarter cup has a mere 60 calories. But for anyone allergic or sensitive to yeast, this flakey seasoning is a no-go.

The verdict: While not the health savor that’s suggested in online chatter, nutritional yeast can certainly add a nutritious boost to diets of all strips. It comes in either powder or flake form, making it easy to sprinkle on just about anything: popcorn, roasted or steamed veggies, cooked grains, mashed potatoes, pizza, and soups. It’s a great addition to creamy dressings and dips. Nutritional yeast is also a common ingredient in dairy-free creamy sauces for dishes like pasta and casseroles.

See also: Ask the RD: Are There Health Benefits to Nutritional Yeast?

Matthew Kadey, MS, RD

Matthew Kadey, MS, RD, is a James Beard Award–winning food journalist, dietitian and author of the cookbook Rocket Fuel: Power-Packed Food for Sport + Adventure (VeloPress 2016). He has written for dozens of magazines, including Runner’s World, Men’s Health, Shape, Men’s Fitness and Muscle and Fitness.

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