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Is Nutritional Yeast Safe During Pregnancy?

author image Jill Corleone, RDN, LD
Jill Corleone is a registered dietitian and health coach who has been writing and lecturing on diet and health for more than 15 years. Her work has been featured on the Huffington Post, Diabetes Self-Management and in the book "Noninvasive Mechanical Ventilation," edited by John R. Bach, M.D. Corleone holds a Bachelor of Science in nutrition.
Is Nutritional Yeast Safe During Pregnancy?
A plate of molasses sits on a white table. Photo Credit BWFolsom/iStock/Getty Images

What you eat, or don't eat, is an important part of your healthy pregnancy. You may already know you need to limit your intake of fish due to its mercury content and to avoid soft cheeses such as feta or brie to reduce your risk of food-borne illness. Other foods can also raise concerns, however. Nutritional yeast is a type of fungus grown on foods such as molasses, and this may make you wary about eating it during pregnancy. Not only is nutritional yeast safe to eat when you're pregnant, but it's also a source of nutrients that help support a healthy pregnancy. Consult your doctor before adding nutritional yeast to your diet.

About Nutritional Yeast

Nutritional yeast has a nutty, cheesy taste and is often referred to as vegan cheese. It's a close relative to the yeast used to make beer but due to its processing is not a good yeast for bread making. As the name implies, the yeast is rich in nutrients. Sprinkling some of the yeast in your soup, salad or pasta can boost your folate, vitamin B-12 and iron intake -- all important nutrients for pregnant women.

Rich in Folate

One tablespoon of nutritional yeast contains 1,059 micrograms of folate. Pregnant women need 400 to 800 micrograms of folate daily -- the synthetic version is called folic acid. So one tablespoon of the cheesy yeast meets more than 100 percent of your daily needs. Getting adequate intakes of folate during pregnancy may help prevent major birth defects, such as spina bifida. While you can't get too much folate from foods that naturally contain it, says WomensHealth.gov, you don't want to consume more than 1,000 micrograms a day unless approved by your doctor. High intakes may mask a vitamin B-12 deficiency.

Vitamin B-12 for Pregnant Vegans

One of the standouts of nutritional yeast is its vitamin B-12 content. Animal foods, such as meats and dairy products, are the primary source of vitamin B-12 in the diet, making it difficult for pregnant women who follow a vegan diet to meet their daily needs. Vitamin B-12 is necessary for the healthy development of the growing baby, and pregnant women need 2.6 micrograms a day. One tablespoon of nutritional yeast contains 0.1 microgram.

Get Some Iron

Your daily iron needs dramatically increase during pregnancy, from 18 milligrams a day to 30 milligrams a day, and iron deficiency anemia is common in pregnant women, according to the Vegetarian Resource Group. Even foods with small amounts of iron, such as nutritional yeast, can help you meet your daily iron quota. One tablespoon of nutritional yeast contains 1.0 milligram of iron.

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