The Differences Between Brewers Yeast and Nutritional Yeast

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There is brewers yeast and nutritional yeast. They each have unique nutritional values; here are those differences.

There is brewers yeast and nutritional yeast. They are close but not exactly the same. They each have unique nutritional values; here are those differences.

Brewers yeast is a one-celled fungus, and used in brewing of beer. Brewers yeast is actually a by-product of the brewing process. Nutritional yeast is grown on molasses as a nutritional supplement. Neither are the same types of yeast as you use baking bread for example. Brewers yeast and nutritional yeast are not alive; they are deactivated. Brewers yeast has a more bitter taste than nutritional yeast. Many people say that nutritional yeast has a cheese flavor and like to add it to popcorn and pasta sauces.

Vitamin B

The most popular health benefit of brewers yeast is that it is high in almost all of the B vitamins, I say almost because contrary to popular belief, brewers nor nutritional yeast have vitamin B-12 in them unless it is added.

The B-complex vitamins are very important for our nervous systems and our mental health. B vitamins can be depleted from our bodies if we drink too much alcohol or we are in stressful situations. A deficiency in any of the B vitamins can lead to feeling stressed, depressed or anxious. It is thought that an increase in vitamin B-complex can relieve feelings of depression and anxiousness or panic attacks. Vitamin B-5 is needed for the adrenal glands and other hormonal production. The yellow color of both brewers yeast and nutritional yeast is from the riboflavin, vitamin B2. Vitamin B2 is important for the use of oxygen and the metabolism of fatty acids, carbohydrates and amino acids. Riboflavin is needed for the vitamin B6 to function properly.

There is some evidence that increasing your vitamin B-6 will help with carpal tunnel syndrome pain in your wrist and hands. Vitamin B1 is needed for proper carbohydrate conversion into glucose and converting glucose into energy. Any deficiency in the B vitamins can lead to lethargic feelings and no energy. The B vitamins are necessary for healthy hair, skin and nails. Any lack of the B vitamins can lead to weak or splitting nails, poor hair condition and skin that lacks a healthy look and feel to it.

Needless to say, whether or not you are a vegetarian, you can probably benefit from extra vitamin B-complex. The B vitamins are water-soluble, so you lose it through urine and it needs to be replenished each day. Adding some nutritional or brewers yeast to your daily diet is a great source of all of the B vitamins.


Scientific studies confirm that too much protein from animal food sources is too high in cholesterol and taxes the kidneys. Getting enough protein from plant food isn’t easy and vegetarians worry if they are getting enough protein in their daily diet since they avoid animal foods. Nutritional and brewers yeast are great sources of protein. Protein is made up of amino acids, and nutritional yeast has 18 amino acids including all of the essential amino acids. The protein in both nutritional and brewers yeast is 50% of calories, 8 to 9 grams of protein per 1 tablespoon.


Brewers yeast is high in the important mineral, chromium. Brewers yeast has the natural form of chromium, known as glucose tolerance food (GTF). Nutritional yeast is low in chromium. If you are going to take brewers yeast for the chromium benefits, keep in mind that the amount of chromium can vary from batch to batch and each time you buy it. Dr. Jennifer Brett N.D., naturopathic doctor at the Wilton Naturopathic Center in Stratford, Connecticut states that she has prescribed brewers yeast to patients with a personal history of diabetes or hypoglycemia and has found that these patients have a much better long-term control of their symptoms with the brewers yeast than with a chromium supplement. Dr Brett says, “It’s possible that the nutrient is more bioavailable from the yeast, and therefore more effective,".

Other Nutrients

Brewers yeast has a good amount of selenium while nutritional yeast has none. Both have a good amount of the heart healthy mineral magnesium. Brewers yeast has a good amount of potassium while nutritional yeast has very little. Both have a good amount of fiber, which is beneficial for a healthy digestive system. Brewers yeast also contains glucan, which is a type of fiber is important to the immune system.

Fortified or Unfortified

There has recently been confusion if nutritional yeast has naturally occurring B vitamins or is it added. One companies web page, Red Star, writes that during the pasteurization process when the nutritional yeast is heated, that is when the vitamins are added to bring the yeast up to meet the requirements [1]. There is fortified and unfortified nutritional yeast. Both do have B vitamins, if you see very high amounts of the B vitamins, than you can assume it is fortified, otherwise both yeast’s have a good amount of B vitamins, just not the 300 to 800 percent that the fortified have.

Bottom Line

Brewers yeast has always been a good source of the very important B vitamins and chromium. If your main interest is the chromium, you should choose brewers yeast as a good source of chromium. If your main interest is B vitamins, you could choose either, but it does appear that the nutritional yeast has more of the B vitamins. Both of these yeast’s will give you a good source of non-animal protein.

Try a small amount of either yeast first to see how it affects you, it can cause bloating and gas in some people. Some people say that it gives them headaches and joint aches, which they believe is because of amino acid glutamate, which could be converted to MSG. But do not confuse brewers yeast or nutritional yeast with unhealthy yeast extract found in many processed foods.

Drug interaction warning

Since chromium could affect blood glucose and insulin levels, people with diabetes or hypoglycemia should talk to your doctor before taking brewers yeast or a chromium supplement.

There can be an interaction if you take Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors (MAOIs): Brewer's yeast contains a large amount of tyramine, a substance that can interact with MAOIs and cause a hypertensive crisis. The list of MAOI drugs include: Phenelzine (Nardil), Tranylcypromine (Parnate), Selegiline (Ensam, Eldepryl), Isocarboxazid (Marplan). Also avoid if you take the pain killer Demerol [2].

Do not take brewers or nutritional yeast if you have gout, high levels of uric acid, kidney stones, Candida, yeast infections or an allergy to mold or penicillin.

© 2009 Sam Montana

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[1] Red Star web page

[2] University of Maryland paper on brewers yeast


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