A few years ago, I started to strictly limit the amount of dairy I ate. Since doing so, my digestion has improved tenfold: I no longer get stomachaches after eating dinner or feel bloated all the time. The truth is, I really don’t miss milk at all. I’ve found almond and coconut milk to more than fill that void. But I do miss cheese. And, yeah, while I will give in and have it on occasion, for everyday cheese cravings, I use something called nutritional yeast.
“What is nutritional yeast?” you ask. It’s actually completely different from the yeasts you are used to: brewer’s yeast, baking yeast, dry-active yeast. It is deactivated yeast that was once a living microorganism cultured and grown on sugar cane and molasses. When the yeast is ready, it’s heated (deactivated), washed, dried and packaged up. It is yellowish in color and comes in powder and flake form.
The benefits of nutritional yeast are quite outstanding:
- Use it to make anything taste cheesy — really! Mac and cheese, salad dressing, popcorn topping, “parmesan cheese”… The uses are endless.
- Protein: 8 to 10 grams of complete protein (i.e. all eight essential amino acids) in every 2 tablespoons.
- Fiber: 4 to 5 grams in every 2 tablespoons.
- 17 vitamins, including B vitamins, folate, and if fortified (make sure of this when you buy!), B12.
- 14+ minerals, including zinc, magnesium and copper
- It’s vegan and gluten-free.
You can find nutritional yeast at Whole Foods, local health food stores, or online. Want to give it a quick try? Mash half an avocado with lemon juice, salt and nutritional yeast. Top a piece of Ezekiel bread with it, or dip in some carrots. Or, try my almond-parmesan recipe below and use it as a topping for pasta, pizza or salad.
1 cup raw almonds (either with skins or without) OR almond meal (already ground)
2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon mineral salt
1. Place all ingredients in food processor/blender and process until desired consistency. Add more nutritional yeast, garlic powder and salt to taste.
2. That’s it! It’s ready to sprinkle on soups, pastas, salads, pizza and more. Store in an airtight container in the fridge or pantry, and it will last up to a couple of months.
Jessica Baumgardner, aka Health Coach Philly, is a Certified Holistic Health Coach dedicated to helping women improve nutrition, reduce stress, lose weight, and increase their energy by developing personalized nutrition and lifestyle programs for them. After successfully using a holistic approach to prepare for her wedding in 2012, Jessica decided to share her knowledge of whole foods and healthy living with women to help them fulfill their own personal goals. Follow her on Instagram @jessbaumgardner or Facebook.