How a Cheesy Vegan Seasoning Can Increase Sustainability in a Insulin Resistant Diet

Have you ever heard of nutritional yeast? It is a vegan, cheesy seasoning and actually has so many health benefits, especially for those with insulin resistance. I've been a big fan of nutritional yeast for a while, and in this post I'm going to share what it is, the best quality brands, how it can fit in your life, and some of the benefits of nutritional yeast.

What Is Nutritional Yeast?

So if you don't know what nutritional yeast is, it’s a powdery, cheesy looking food that you can basically get anywhere. It's become a go-to in vegan diets for replacing dairy. You may have also heard of it referred to on social media as “nooch.”

A big question I get asked a lot is like what even is nutritional yeast. Basically, it's a yeast. It's called Saccharomyces cerevisiae. It's a big word, but essentially it's a yeast that grows on sugar cane and beet molasses. What's so cool about it is they actually also fortify it with vitamins and minerals. And so it's almost like a little multivitamin when you eat it, but it also adds loads of flavor to your food.

What are the Benefits of Nutritional Yeast?

Some of the really big nutrition players in nutritional yeast are B vitamins, protein, and fiber, which I’ll go into more depth in a bit. But first why would you even want to incorporate it into your day-to-day life? I have found that nutritional yeast is such a key player in my client's life! About 30 million Americans have lactose intolerance now, and that's not even including the people that have allergies towards dairy (which, dairy is one of the main eight allergens to watch out for). And quite a few of my clients with insulin resistance also do not tolerate dairy. There are no conclusive studies to show that nutritional yeast improves glucose control, however there are some small studies in mice that show that the chromium that's within the nutritional yeast helps improve glucose control. So how it is a key player in insulin resistance is it provides a healthier substitution. Whenever I have clients who are lactose intolerant or have a sensitivity to dairy, I recommend nutritional yeast. I believe that to stay away from dairy long-term, it's important to find dairy substitutes.

In my own life nutritional yeast is important because I do not tolerate dairy well, and I swear that dairy gives me brain fog. I'm in the process of getting tested right now to see if I have a true dairy allergy, but I know that dairy and I do not get along. So on pizza night, I can actually order pizza without cheese and then I make my own” parmesan cheese” using nutritional yeast, which I can sprinkle on top and it still tastes like a cheesy pizza.

If you do have an issue with dairy and you're still consuming it, your body can start producing excess inflammation because you're having digestive issues with that food. When you have excess inflammation, your blood sugar goes up and then your body has to secrete insulin. So, continuing to eat foods that cause inflammation is not really helping your insulin resistance. But most of us love cheese and it can be so hard to give up, so again, that’s why it’s important to find a substitute that works with our body and satisfies that craving. You have to find ways to make yourself feel like you can order pizza at a pizza shop instead of feeling like you can’t eat out. It's all about being creative, thinking out of the box, and creating sustainable habits.

Next, let’s talk about brands. Since a lot of nutritional yeasts are fortified with vitamins and minerals, the brand you choose is very important. Just like supplements, you want to have the best quality ones because some of them may have synthetics in them and others won’t. I highly recommend when buying nutritional yeast to make sure you're buying a good quality.

The top five nutritional yeast brands based on quality that I recommend are:

As previously mentioned, nutritional yeast is loaded with vitamins and minerals. It actually boosts energy because of the B12. Three tablespoons of nutritional yeast a day is a thousand percent your daily value of B12! B12 is a key player in energy, so it can actually help improve energy. It can also support your immune system.

The strain of yeast, that Saccharomyces cerevisiae that I was talking about, supports reducing inflammation, and it actually also can help treat diarrhea. It helps hair, skin and nails because it's packed with amino acids - it actually has all nine essential amino acids, which in a vegan or a vegetarian diet, it's really difficult to get in all nine essential amino acids at once. You can do combinations of food to get all of the nine, but this makes it a really unique food for vegans, because they're able to get all those essential amino acids in one. It also improves glucose sensitivity in some cases, and in some research it’s shown to be good for pregnancy because it's fortified with folic acid. And from what I’ve found, it should be safe to eat during pregnancy, , but always check with your doctor if you're pregnant to make sure.

How to Use Nutritional Yeast

Now that we know how amazing nutritional yeast is, how can we use it? Number one is to sprinkle it on popcorn instead of butter or salt. You can mix it into a risotto instead of parmesan cheese. Or you can make the Minimalist Baker’s incredible Parmesan cheese recipe! It's so simple with only four ingredients- cashews, garlic powder, salt, and nutritional yeast. I'll often make a big batch and then I freeze it so it lasts me like a whole month.

Check out my super simple dairy-free parmesan cheese recipe here!

If you're making a vegan alternative to cheese sauce, you can use nutritional yeast as well to give it a cheesy flavor. For example, I've used nutritional yeast and cashew to make a creamy alfredo sauce. You can also stir it into creamy soups for added nutrients, add it to scrambled eggs or tofu scramble in the morning, or add it to a seasoning mix for roasted nuts. The possibilities are endless, but my favorite way to use it is for creamy, cheesy-flavored things without the dairy. Again, it’s about finding substitutes when you eliminate foods, because that's what is going to give you that long term sustainability.

Are you ready to try nutritional yeast! Let me know if you try and how you use it, and tag me on Instagram at @emilycorneliusnutrition.


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