CONSCIOUS EATING OP-ED: Nutritional yeast - how a cascade of golden, edible flakes can bring joy

CONSCIOUS EATING OP-ED: Nutritional yeast – how a cascade of golden, edible flakes can bring joy

In fact, the golden flakes in all likelihood exaggerate the true color of nutritional yeast – a deactivated yeast, in which “yeast cells are killed during processing and inactivated in the final product” – but more on that later. It’s more like a soft brown, even a nice beige (it’s most like the original ProNutro that my mom embraced like manna when we were kids). But it still looks golden as you watch this plant-based staple of life tumble onto your plate, holding the promise of adding umami flavor to everything below.

Umami you say? Yes. Again, ask nutritional yeast lovers what they like about it and they’ll tell you it tastes slightly nutty, a bit cheesy, and has the ability to deepen the savory flavor of almost all foods. Plus, it has a slight crunch, and if you’re anything like me, you know that crunch in food adds a subtle, irresistible layer of pleasure to anything eaten.

If you think the umami goodness of nutritional yeast means it contains monosodium glutamate which, after decades of happily delving into it, we now give a very wide berth to, let me stop you there. nutritional yeast Is contain glutamate – the main component of many proteins and peptides – but not the type to which a sodium atom has been added. So you can think of it as MSG without the health side effects that some people experience when consuming the flavor enhancer.

In fact, nutritional yeast somehow increases the saltiness of whatever you shake it on, but luckily it contains almost no salt. The label on the bag I have in my cupboard says it contains protein (a fairly dense amount at 46.6g per 100g) as well as vitamins B1, B2 and B6 and folic acid. Many brands are also fortified with B12, making it easier to take this essential supplement. And not just for vegans, but for most humans, because the fact is that in the age of factory farming, cattle no longer get their B12 and B12-producing bacteria from clods around grass roots that they would normally pull out when grazing. , which means that even the non-vegans among you should take supplements.

But what exactly is nutritional yeast? As the name suggests, it is a type of yeast – itself one of mankind’s oldest ingredients, used to make sourdough bread in ancient Egypt in 1500 -1300 BCE. and China some 700 years later, and which is still an integral part of our daily lives.

Nutritional yeast is made from a single-celled organism – a fungus, like mushrooms – called Saccharomyces cerevisiae, which is a far cry from his nickname “nooch”. It is grown on beet and sugar cane molasses (sounds a bit strange, but they are the ones that provide the glucose it needs to grow), then harvested, washed and heat-dried, which inactivates it ( it is therefore not useful to use it as a means of plumping up your breads).

Ready to start using this wonderful substance?

You will be happy to know that it is extremely easy to incorporate nutritional yeast into your life. Vegan chefs and nutritionists frequently include it in recipes, like this one mouth watering for plant-based King Chicken from Cape Town-based The Green Dietician. At home, we never do without it, sprinkling soups, salads, pasta and savory pastries. It also makes a great topping for popcorn when we watch movies at home, always reminding us of those topping-heavy canisters we’d head to with our canned popcorn before settling into our seats at the cinema at Hyde Park Corner. Mall.

A packet of nutritional yeast. Image: Tony Webster/Flickr

My son is a field guide in Pafuri where – without exaggeration – he is one of the few vegans several hundred kilometers away. He tells me he always makes sure he has at least two bags in his room, stocking up when he’s in Joburg between his six-week stays at the game lodge. Her favorite snack? Take a slice of bread, toast it well, brush it with vegan butter and top it with strips of nooch and generous grinds of black pepper. Eaten this way it was a great alternative during the great pot shortage of early 2022 (which I’m ashamed to say saw me buying as many oversized pots as I could afford when I fell on a reservation at the Food Lover’s Market in January).

I was curious if nutritional yeast brings as many little joys to my vegan friends as it does to me.

Musician Laurie Levin sends me a voice note: “I have nutritional yeast in my cupboard, and I love it because it’s high in protein and packed with vitamin B12, which is pretty hard to get as a vegan,” she says. “It has a bit of that umami flavor and is slightly crunchy, so I use it on pasta and salads. It adds that texture to anything you eat, making it more substantial. It also gives you that cheesy kick that you would get from dairy cheese.

Amy Grewar, who is the director of The Center, a mindful event and space for holistic practitioners in Noordhoek, tells me, “I love nooch! I put it in my homemade pesto, which is delicious, and in as many pasta dishes as possible. It gives a little extra umami boost and it’s just wonderful! »

One caveat: nooch is processed, so if you’re committed to eating pure whole foods, you could try doing something similar with sprouted seeds. chickpeas and miso – and there is also a substitution using yellow moong dal which is perfect if you are on a budget. But for those of you who want to try nutritional yeast with minimal effort, you’ll find a number of different brands at your local health store or outlets like Clicks or Dischem. Keep on going. Give it a pinch. DM/ ML/ OBP

Ed’s Note: This article is an Op-Ed and examines one person’s joy in adding nutritional yeast to food. Nutritional yeast may have potential side effects – please consult your healthcare professional before adding it to your own diet.

In case you missed it, also read On sharing the joy that being a vegan brings me

On sharing the joy that being a vegan brings me

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