Brewer’s yeast as a nutritional supplement is not a new craze. Rather, it is a reclamation of an old health craze. You see, the concept of vitamins and minerals is relatively new to humans. Only a little over 100 years ago the first scientist coined the term, and people have been excited about them ever since. Brewer’s yeast was among the first to get people thrilled to jump on a vitamin craze.
What Is Brewer’s Yeast?
Brewer’s yeast is also commonly called baker’s yeast or nutritional yeast and, although these are often used interchangeably, there are some differences between brewer’s yeast and nutritional yeast you should be aware about.
That being said, all three stem from one of three primary yeast strains. This one is called Saccharomyces cerevisiae. The difference between the three sub-strains lies in flavor and aroma. Otherwise, yeast is pretty much yeast.
When it comes to this living organism, yeast has one purpose: to find and consume sugar for energy. As a result of yeast doing what it has always done, it will then excrete water, alcohol, and carbon dioxide as waste products.
Thus, what is waste to yeast turns grape juice into wine, grain water into beer, and flour and water dough into light and fluffy bread.
Historically, brewers, winemakers, and bread bakers did not differentiate their yeast. They did not go to a market 1,000 years ago to buy yeast.
They crushed grapes, boiled grain, or kneaded dough, and then they waited.
Nature took its course in the form of wild, local yeasts being attracted to these sugary products, consuming the sugars inside, and “fermenting.”
However, once we started mass producing and commercializing yeast, we needed to sell it to specific markets.
The result was baker’s yeast, brewer’s yeast, wine yeast, and the several dozen sub-strains within each category.
Different strains of Saccharomyces cerevisiae will produce different flavors and aromas and higher levels of alcohol.
Today, we also give the name brewer’s yeast to the end result of the brewing process, the yeast that has already fermented beer and then been collected, formed into a paste, and sold on the market.
This marketing began in the early 1800s as a way of repackaging yeast to an entirely different population — one interested in vitamins.
Benefits of Brewer’s Yeast
Yeast is a nutrient packed living organism, similar, somewhat, to good bacteria. It is rich in B vitamins and protein and is known to help control diabetes, cholesterol, and weight gain. It has also been shown to improve the nervous system and promote healthy skin, nails, hair, and the liver.
But this is not strictly an issue of brewer’s yeast. These health benefits can be found across the strains of S. cerevisiae.
The one thing brewer’s yeast, as a product of fermentation, does have, is chromium, which helps control blood sugar and is being used to help people with diabetes control insulin levels.
Allergy to Brewer’s Yeast and Brewer’s Yeast Side Effects
At the same time, some people are allergic to yeast, not just brewer’s yeast but all yeast, and can see serious side effects like vomiting, diarrhea, dizziness, bloating, rashes, and trouble breathing.
Do note that yeast allergies are extremely rare, and you would likely know by now if you are allergic as yeast is in so many products we encounter in our daily lives.
Thus, if you are allergic to brewer’s yeast, you are allergic to all yeast and should avoid anything that may contain yeast.
What Is Brewer’s Yeast Found In?
If you are hoping to consume more or less yeast, either because you are seeking the vitamins you can gain access to or you are allergic, you can find yeast in:
- Fermented foods like kefir, yogurt, pickles, and meats
- Bread products
- Leavened cereal products
If you are solely seeking a complex B vitamin, you can add nutritional yeast to your diet. Some people like to sprinkle it on their popcorn, mashed potatoes, and other buttery foods. You can typically find nutritional yeast on your market shelf.
If you are looking specifically for brewer’s yeast because of the chromium, you can check your health food stores, where you can find it as a liquid, a tablet, or flakes.
Some breastfeeding women like to take brewer’s yeast to aid in breast milk production. In this case, you can also drink a non-alcoholic beer and get the same benefits. Other women like to make lactation protein balls, which are combinations of chocolate chips, oats, brewer’s yeast, and other ingredients to roll into balls and snack on.
For whatever reason you are seeking information about brewer’s yeast, know that today it is relatively easy to find and access, and that in most cases it is perfectly safe, and even healthy, to consume.
At the same time, note that it is often easier to get your B vitamins and protein from other sources.
It really is a matter of what your preferences are and what you’re willing to do to get, or avoid, brewer’s yeast.
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