Nutritional yeast is perhaps one of the most life-changing foods for plant-based eaters. These affordable, easy-to-use flakes can be sprinkled on anything to produce an authentic cheese flavor without the need for any processed vegan cheese alternatives. It might not melt the same way on a pizza, but it will produce a cheese flavor so amazing, you won’t even care. Its commonly used in everything from salads, to wraps, sandwiches, sauces, dressings, burgers, sprinkled on fries before baking, mixed into salsa for a vegan queso dip, sprinkled on roasted veggies, used in hummus, and just about any other way you can think of.
But nutritional yeast isn’t just beneficial for flavoring your food. While it’s definitely an all-star in that department, it’s also one incredibly healthy food for anyone, especially those on a plant-based diet or those with testy blood sugar levels.
First though: What are the requirements for healthy blood sugar levels? Eating enough fresh food, low-glycemic foods, eating regular meals, getting adequate anti-inflammatory proteins in the diet, and consuming a little fat throughout the day are all crucial for taking care of your blood sugar.
These are the main principles that will help prevent those blood sugar swings, intense sugar cravings, and prevent symptoms associated with blood sugar imbalances such as moodiness, anxiety, fatigue, and headaches. However, you also need to focus on specific nutrients to take care of your blood sugar too.
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Most nutrients needed for healthy blood sugar levels are found abundantly in normal, everyday plant-based ingredients. A few others, such as nutritional yeast, also happen to contain the right nutrients, all in just a couple of tablespoon servings.
Check out what nutritional yeast can do for you besides satisfying those cheesy cravings:
1. Complete Protein Source
Amino acids are said to be the building blocks of life; they form proteins in our body that support nearly every single aspect of our mental health and metabolism. Amino acids also help work with blood glucose levels to prevent blood sugar swings and can help the carbohydrates we eat digest more slowly when we combine protein with carbohydrates in a meal. Nutritional yeast is not only a great source of amino acids, but also a complete protein source. It contains all the essential amino acids that the body can not produce on its own, along with all the amino acids that the body can produce on its own. Nutritional yeast boasts a whopping 8 grams of protein in 2 tablespoons, which is the same amount found in 1/2 cup of most types of beans and legumes! It’s also only 45 calories per 2 tablespoons, making it one of the lowest-calorie sources of protein out there.
Fiber is another helpful nutrient that slows down the absorption of natural sugars from our food into the bloodstream. In the meantime, it also sweeps out harmful fats and cholesterol, along with toxins in our bloodstream that keep our hearts healthy too. Nutritional yeast contains 4 grams of fiber in just 2 tablespoons, which is equivalent to 1/3 cup oatmeal, 1/2 cup broccoli, and 1 1/4 cup cooked kale. Not too shabby, right? You should be sure to still eat your vegetables too, of course, since we need between a minimum of 25-30 grams a day to stay healthy.
Nutritional yeast is a good source of several minerals that also contribute to healthy blood sugar, including magnesium and zinc. Magnesium is particularly one of the most important minerals for your blood sugar of all. This powerhouse nutrient is involved in almost 400 different reactions in the body and is crucial to maintaining good heart, metabolic, mental, bone, and digestive health. Some of the best sources include: beans, grains, greens, legumes, and some other foods like cacao and coffee beans, almonds, cashews, along with coconut, avocados, and some fruits and vegetables. Nutritional yeast contains 24 milligrams of magnesium which is decent for such a small serving, but zinc is the real mineral star found in nutritional yeast. Zinc optimizes the metabolic performance of carbohydrates in the body to use them for fuel. This is incredibly important for not only your blood sugar, but also your overall energy, immune health, and weight. Nutritional yeast contains 20 percent of your daily zinc needs, boasting 3 milligrams in just 2 tablespoons.
4. B Vitamins
B vitamins not only help our bodies use carbohydrates for energy, but they also help prevent blood sugar swings as a result. One of the most well-known benefits of nutritional yeast is its wealthy stores of B vitamins. Two tablespoons of nutritional yeast contain: 9.6 milligrams of Thiamin (640 percent), 9.7 milligrams of Riboflavin (570 percent), 56 milligrams of Niacin (280 percent), 9.6 milligrams of Vitamin B6 (480 percent), 240 micrograms of Folate (60 percent), 1 milligram of Pantheonic Acid (10 percent), and 7.8 micrograms of Vitamin B12 (130 percent). This should come as no surprise, since all soil-based yeasts (versus air-born yeasts) are rich sources of natural B vitamins since they are grown on B-rich bacteria within the soil (such as Vitamin B12). Please be warned, however, you should not look to obtain your Vitamin B12 from nutritional yeast alone. Everyone should be taking a sublingual or liquid form of vitamin B12, which your body absorbs more easily since these enter the bloodstream directly and don’t have to go through digestion first. However, it’s a smart choice to eat as many other B vitamins as you can instead of relying on lots of supplements to give you what you need. See more sources of food-based B vitamins here if you’d like to see just how easy that really is!
5. Low Glycemic
Finally, nutritional yeast contains no added sugars and is a very low carbohydrate food. It contains 5 grams of carbs, 4 of which are fiber (which has no negative impact on blood sugar levels and leaves the body undigested). Low glycemic foods are important to manage blood sugar since the body can only use so much of one nutrient at any given time. What it can’t use ends up remaining in the bloodstream and cause the pancreas to produce too much insulin as result to try and get rid of those glucose stores. This is essentially what leads to blood highs and lows, though skipping meals, and eating unhealthy foods can also cause these issues. To best manage your blood sugar, eat a variety of whole food, fiber-rich, plant-based foods and leave processed foods out of the equation as much as possible.
How to Choose the Best Type of Nutritional Yeast
Nutritional yeast makes an excellent addition to this type of diet, and should never be seen as just a simple condiment. Be sure when you purchase nutritional yeast that you purchase a high-quality brand to get the most nutrients since some off-brand names may use a blend of yeasts instead of pure nutritional yeast. Some of the best brands include Bragg’s, Now, Bob’s Red Mill, Red Star, Frontier Naturals/Organics, and Kal brand. All of these will provide the benefits listed above and are all easy to find in stores and online.
What’s your favorite way to eat nutritional yeast?
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