Is Eating Yeast Bad for You?

Baking ingredients / cooking food bread pastry or cake
Is Eating Yeast Bad for You? (Image: Arx0nt/iStock/GettyImages)

While yeast served on its own probably isn't a staple in your diet, you likely eat at least one of the three common dietary types: baker's yeast, brewer's yeast and nutritional yeast. Some people consume yeast as a dietary supplement, add it to recipes and, of course, use it in baking. There is no evidence to suggest that dietary yeast is bad for healthy adults — in fact, it has some nutritional benefits.

Tip

Yeast is a common ingredient used in baking and is typically not harmful for otherwise healthy adults.

Most Common Yeast

Derived from a fungi called Saccharomyces cerevisiae, brewer's yeast is the most common type used as a dietary supplement. It's also used to make beer. Brewer's yeast is particularly rich in the B vitamins thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid, pyridoxine, folate and biotin. B vitamins help your body convert carbohydrates, fats and protein to energy. Brewer's yeast is also high in the minerals chromium and selenium. Chromium plays a role in helping the body maintain a healthy blood sugar level, while selenium plays a role in thyroid hormone production.

Benefits of Yeast in Bread

Baker's yeast is the same species but a different strain than brewer's yeast. Even though this strain of yeast contains some nutrients, it's not particularly rich nutritionally and thus is not used as a dietary supplement. Instead, it's used as a leavening agent to make dough rise in baking. It contains some trace minerals and is rich in folate. Yeast works by consuming sugar in the dough and excreting carbon dioxide and ethanol, causing air bubbles to form in the dough. This process is known as fermentation.

Nutritional Yeast for Flavor

Nutritional yeast is sold in various forms, such as flakes, powders and liquids, and it adds a cheesy flavor and nutritional value to your meals. Nutritional yeast contains B-complex vitamins and selenium. Unlike brewer's yeast, it is sometimes fortified with B12. Eating yeast with this nutrient makes it especially beneficial to vegans, since B12 only occurs naturally in animal-derived foods, like meat, that aren't allowed on a vegan diet.

Brewer's Yeast Supplement

Brewer's yeast contains good bacteria that helps maintain gut health. Wesley Healthcare, suggests that adults can benefit from taking a brewer's yeast supplement, 1 to 2 tablespoons per day. According to a study published in 2013 by the Iranian Journal of Public Health, taking 1,800 milligrams per day of brewer's yeast can help to reduce blood pressure in people with Type 2 diabetes, in addition to regular medical interventions. Discuss supplements with your health care professional to avoid having too much yeast in your body.

A Word of Caution

Brewer's yeast may interact with certain medications, so talk to your doctor before supplementing. Avoid taking yeast supplements if you're prone to yeast infections or if you have a weakened immune system due to disease or medication. If you take medication to control your blood sugar while taking yeast supplements, your glucose level may drop below normal. Discuss potential brewer's yeast dangers with your health care provider, who may need to monitor you or adjust your medication.

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