Recently I had an amazing pasta dish at a restaurant in Seattle, which was a take on the Italian classic Cacio de Pepe (essentially pasta tossed with parmesan cheese and pepper). However, in this version, there was another subtle burst of umami, which I was told came from the addition of nutritional yeast. Not only did it taste amazing, but I later learned that nutritional yeast has health benefits to boot.
Though it’s often used by vegans as a dairy-free replacement for cheese (and it kind of resembles yellow powdered cheese), it’s also high in protein and is often fortified with vitamin B 12, which is essential to a healthy nervous system. (Just be sure that the brand you buy explicitly says it contains vitamin B.) A spoonful of the tiny flakes packs a punch of nutrients and natural probiotics that may also help strengthen your immune system and aid in digestion. Plus, even though it’s salty, it’s sodium-free, so it’s a great way to add a savory touch to everything from pastas and veggies, salads and eggs without increasing your salt intake. It’s also fat-free, gluten-free, and preservative-free. Simply sprinkle a few tablespoons over whatever you want to spruce up; just like you would grated cheese. If you’re a busy mom looking for a way to add nutrition to a picky child’s diet, it’s also a secret weapon (try it on broccoli, potatoes or even popcorn).
Nutritional yeast is the same yeast used to make bread, except it’s been pasteurized, which brings out the nutrients. It can be found in health food stores or places like Whole Foods.
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