If You're Avoiding Gluten, It's Safe to Use Nutritional Yeast
If you're concerned about gluten for you or your family members, there's no need for you to stop using nutritional yeast. Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley and rye. The only connection between nutritional yeast and gluten is when you use the supplement to add protein and flavor to gluten-containing foods. You can use it like a condiment, adding a cheesy flavor and extra nutrients to your kids' gluten-free pasta and other dishes.
What Is Nutritional Yeast?
You might find nutritional yeast in the health food store, but it's actually the same type of yeast found in the baking section of your grocery store. However, nutritional yeast undergoes a drying process, which kills the yeast, making it ineffective for bread rising but creating a flaky powder with a distinct savory taste. The nutritional part comes from its protein and vitamin content. Nutritional yeast is a complete protein, which means it contains all the essential amino acids, similar to foods such as meat and eggs. Many brands of nutritional yeast contain added B vitamins, including thiamine, riboflavin and folic acid. Vegans, people who eat no animal foods, like nutritional yeast because it is a food source of vitamin B-12, which is only naturally found in foods from animals. Nutritional yeast is also a good source of fiber.
How to Use Nutritional Yeast
Savory and complex, use nutritional yeast to replace the salty condiments on your dinner table. In addition to veggie side dishes and pasta, sprinkle nutritional yeast on potatoes, salads and popcorn. It also adds a nutty cheesiness to omelets without cheese for those who need to avoid dairy. You can also use the yeast to add flavor to savory gluten-free breads and biscuits. It also adds a nutritional punch to casseroles, stews and soups while adding flavor.
Who Needs to Be Concerned With Gluten
Like fat and carbs, gluten has become a villain when it comes to what's OK and not OK to eat. While gluten is a bad guy for people with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity, most people can enjoy foods that contain the protein without any issues. Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder that affects the gastrointestinal, or GI, tract. When people with celiac disease eat foods with gluten, their immune system attacks their GI tract, causing damage that may lead to malnutrition.
Some people complain of GI upset, such as bloating and belly pain, when they eat foods that contain gluten. This is referred to as non-celiac gluten sensitivity. Though gluten sensitivity has become more prevalent, in most cases the positive effects of cutting gluten from the diet are a placebo effect and not a true intolerance or sensitivity to the protein. Both celiac disease and gluten sensitivity are diagnosed by a doctor. You should not cut gluten from your or your children's diet unless directed to do so by your doctor.
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Jill Corleone is a registered dietitian and health coach who has been writing and sharing her love of food, nutrition and health with anyone who'll listen for almost 20 years. Her work has been featured on the Huffington Post, Diabetes Self-Management and Working Mother.