Many of the people that I work with have an intolerance to dairy, if not an allergy. From a good number of those folks, I hear something like, “Ok, I can live without milk, I can live without yogurt and butter. I can even manage without ice cream. But, how will I ever get along without cheese?! I love cheese?”
“Well, of course,” I think, there are many reasons to love cheese, but mostly the apparent clinging (I’m not saying “addiction here, but I could) to it stems from the fact that it has huge measures of the things that keep us hooked on a food, namely fat and salt.
I gave up cheese myself a few years ago, and it’s an easy thing to somehow find my way back to. But, here’s something that has helped me over some cheese-draws, and is a favorite among other serious health seekers, raw food enthusiasts or otherwise.
It’s nutritional yeast….’not a phrase that conjures up mouthwatering images, but the truth is that it’s a health food store product that I rely on heavily, and for what I think are good reasons. One of the main benefits of nutritional yeast is that it tastes cheesy enough to satisfy the longing for real cheese.
What is nutritional yeast? It is made from a single-celled organism, Saccharomyces Cerevisiae, which is grown on molasses and then harvested, washed, and dried with some heat to kill or “deactivate” it. The fact that it is inactive means that it won’t grow like baking yeast does, so it won’t leaven anything.
What nutritional yeast is not is the same as brewer’s yeast, which is part of the beer-making process and quite bitter. Nor is it Torula yeast, which is grown on paper-mill waste, and is also not very tasty.
Where can I buy it? I buy my nutritional yeast in bulk at my local health food store. Larger stores may carry Bob’s Red Mill, which would also be available on line. Amazon.com carries carry several brands. Each brand has a little different flavor, so if you have the opportunity to compare, do, by all means. There are flaked and powdered versions. I prefer the flaked.
What makes nutritional yeast so healthy? Health seekers, as I mentioned, like nutritional yeast because, well, because, as the name implies it is very nutritious. It is packed with nutrition, particularly B vitamins, which is absent from most plant foods, folic acid, selenium, zinc, and protein. It is low in fat, gluten free, and contains no added sugars or preservatives. Some brands add vitamin B-12, a difficult item to find in the plant world.
How do I use it? The real fun of nutritional yeast is in its taste, which is cheesy and nutty. A tablespoonful of it can be added to almost any dish and enhance its flavor. People who cook add it add to things like soups, stews, sauces, and egg or eggless scrambles. Some folks like to sprinkle popcorn with it. I regularly add some to my green smoothies, or sprinkle some on salads, sliced avocados, and such. It can also be blended with almonds in a blender to make “parmesan,” which is delightful on zucchini pasta with raw marinara sauce.
I recommend trying a little at a time while you experiment. Soon you’ll have plenty of your own favorite ways to incorporate it into your health-seeking diet. Enjoy! And let us know on our facebook page what you’re loving about nutritional yeast. The more people that share ideas, the more we’ll all have new ones to try!