Is Nutritional Yeast Actually Better For You Than Cheese?

Nutritional yeast is a well-known alternative to cheese because it has a strong, almost nutty flavor. It is popular among vegans as well as those who wish to eliminate animal fat from their diet, but is it any better for you than cheese?

For many people, it is. Cayleih Mackay Nunn, registered dietitian with the University of California at San Diego Health Nutrition Services, said nutritional yeast, otherwise known as "nooch," is a good source of complete B vitamins. In addition, it has fewer calories than some cheeses. Nutritional yeast has about 40 calories per two tablespoons while the same amount of cheddar cheese has almost double that amount (via MyFitnessPal).

In addition to B vitamins, nutritional yeast also provides a decent amount of protein. Most plant-based proteins do not contain all of the amino acids the body needs, but nutritional yeast is a complete protein, making it an easy option. Two tablespoons provides 8 grams of protein (via WebMd) while Parmesan only provides 2.8 grams of protein (via Chatelaine). Moreover, the nutritional yeast flakes have no fat, sodium, or cholesterol.

Side effects of nutritional yeast

While most people should be able to tolerate nutritional yeast without any issues, there are some side effects to consider. Because it contains about 5 grams of fiber, it can cause gastrointestinal issues if you eat too much too quickly. Add it slowly to your diet to avoid cramps, bloating, and other abdominal issues (via Healthline). In addition, people who are sensitive to yeast should avoid it. According to WebMd, nutritional yeast can exacerbate symptoms of inflammatory bowel conditions such as Crohn's Disease.

People taking monoamine oxidase inhibitors should avoid eating nutritional yeast because it contains tyramine, which can cause an increase in high blood pressure, (via Mayo Clinic). People taking medication to treat diabetes should also avoid consuming it. While rare, tyramine might also trigger migraines.

If you consume a lot of nutritional yeast in one sitting, your face might flush. Nutritional yeast contains 38 milligrams of niacin, which is more than double the recommended dose for adults. However, flushing is rarely serious, and it goes away after a couple of hours.