Ask A Dietitian

I've been hearing more and more about using nutritional yeast in my cooking. What is nutritional yeast and what are the benefits?

Nutritional yeast, commonly referred to as “nooch,” is an inactive form of yeast. The yeast is grown on molasses, then dried and heated to deactivate. Because it’s inactive, this yeast cannot be used for leavening the same way brewer’s yeast is used. Instead, nooch is used for flavoring and adding additional nutrition to foods, especially in vegan cooking. Because nooch tastes a lot like cheese, it’s a great healthy or vegan alternative to dairy cheese. In fact, if you search the Internet for “vegan cheese sauce,” you’ll most likely come up with a recipe that includes nutritional yeast.

Nutritional yeast is a good source of fiber and protein, and contains some iron. It’s also low in calories (60 calories per ¼ cup) and contains almost no fat. An additional benefit, especially for vegans, is that nooch is high in vitamin B12, a nutrient that is typically only found in animal products.

If you’re looking to try nooch, it can be found in the bulk section of the Co-op. The easiest way to use it is to sprinkle it on anything you would sprinkle cheese on—popcorn, pasta, salads, roasted vegetables, chips, and more. If you want a bit more of a challenge, try making your own vegan cheese sauce, dips, or cheesecake using nutritional yeast.

Winter is so dark on the Palouse, but I know that Vitamin D is really important. Are there ways to get enough Vitamin D from foods since sunshine is so limited?

Compared to other vitamins, vitamin D is fairly scarce in the foods we typically eat. One of the best sources is fish. A 3-ounce salmon fillet, for example, will provide you with about 75 percent of the Recommended Dietary Allowance for vitamin D. Other fish, such as tuna, don’t contain as much vitamin D (about 1/3 the amount in salmon), but can still be a good source. However, as fish does contain mercury, it’s not wise to be using fish as your sole source of vitamin D.

Luckily, there are several other foods, such as milk, yogurt, eggs, and orange juice that are either fortified with or already contain vitamin D. If you’re vegan, don’t fret. Many plant-based milks and ready-to- eat cereals are fortified with vitamin D (as well as calcium). Although less common, you can also find some brands of tofu or meat substitutes that are fortified with vitamin D. To see if a food product contains vitamin D, look for vitamin D at the bottom of the nutrition facts panel.