Extra oomph: nutritional yeast

Being a [mostly] vegetarian is very rewarding but also has its drawbacks.  On the good side, you avoid eating factory-raised meats which can have all kinds of physiological and karmic nastiness in them.  But some people, myself included, need a lot of protein in our diets.  So, I am always looking for ways to inject protein into my diet in the most natural and least fattening ways.  I mean, let’s be real: as a vegetarian, you could eat an entire mac & cheese casserole.  If you REALLY want to get skinny, go vegan.  My friend Sarah Felder can tell you how it squeezes out all the fat in your body – even the stuff you forgot you had tucked away.

But I digress… back to my need for protein.  You may not realize it, but almost everything you eat has protein.  Pasta, veggies, oatmeal, bread… just check the labels.  But instead of changing my diet, I wanted a way to enhance my preferred diet with additional protein.

Enter:  nutritional yeast.  I had heard of nutritional yeast last year whilst at a permaculture design retreat in Oregon.  I brushed it off as some nasty hippie supplement and didn’t even try it.  It sounded simply dreadful.  Yeast?  Why would I sprinkle yeast on my food?

Nutritional yeast

However, lately I’ve been trying to explore all the products in my new little local food coop, and nutritional yeast was one of them.  The label said you sprinkle it on things… salads, pasta, etc.  That seemed to fit my desire to supplement rather than supplant my current food choices.

Potato leek soup with nutritional yeast

Yesterday was my first experiment with it.  I opened the container and gave a whiff.  It had an earthy smell – not too strong – and it was in a flake form.  Many days I eat a small serving of pasta for lunch with olive oil, grated cheese and spices on it.  I added the 1.5 Tablespoon recommended serving size of nutritional yeast to that and stirred it up.  It melted into the mix nicely without any flaky residue.  It adds a slight orange/yellow color to the food.  Then the real test… It tasted great!  I could slightly taste it, but it was more of an enhancement like salt would be.  The above is some homemade potato leek soup that got “nutrified.”

And let’s talk about the nutritional benefits:

Nutritional yeast vitamins

Holy Vitamin B!  8 grams of protein, 487% of your daily Vitamin B6 and 130% of your daily Vitamin B12.  That’s what I call energy!  Not to mention the fiber, thiamin, niacin, folate and riboflavin.  I’m making this a permanent addition to my vegetarian cooking repertoire.

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