Is Nutritional Yeast a Good Selenium Supplement?

By on December 20, 2014
sari foods nutritional yeast

Ever since I was young, I have been into health and eating healthy foods. I went to health food stores and read the booklets and research on different health foods, and one of the health foods that I ate was Brewer’s Yeast. I dutifully added the yeast to foods despite the fact that it tastes horrible. And maybe it was because of my experiences with Brewer’s yeast that I had never heard of nutritional yeast, or at least I may have thought that it is the same thing as Brewer’s Yeast. Then I saw an ad for nutritional yeast stating that it tastes like cheese. Hmm, cheese? The yeast I remember tasted nothing like cheese, so I thought that I’d give it a try, and I was glad that I did. Nutritional yeast is nothing like Brewer’s Yeast and it does, indeed, have a nutty, slightly cheesy flavor that was far more pleasant than I expected.

Nutritional Yeast as a Selenium Supplement

Nutritional yeast is purported to a highly nutrient dense food packed full of vitamins, minerals and amino acids, but the main reason I was interested in trying out nutritional yeast is that it is one of the few foods that is high in selenium. Selenium is so important that the Facts About Selenium as a super nutrient will surprise you. With it’s many benefits for detoxification, the Immune System and more, it’s an essential but often overlooked nutrient that is hard to get naturally in foods. However, many nutritional yeasts fortify their yeasts to make the nutritional content of some vitamins and minerals even higher, thus adding non-natural sources of selenium which might be inferior to the naturally occurring selenomethionine form.

I was generously given a package of Sari Foods Nutritional Yeast from the manufacturer to try and review. This yeast is not fortified, but naturally contains about 18 mcg of selenium per serving, which I calculated based on their claim that it contains RDA of 55 mcg per day for adults and the Sari Foods label stating that it has 35% of the RDA of selenium per serving. Compare this to the selenium content of Brazil nuts, the highest food source of selenium, which contain about 25 mcg per nut of a bioavailable form of selenium called selenomethionine (1)(3). While 18 mcg is definitely comparable to the 25 mcg in Brazil Nuts, a serving of the Sari Foods Nutritional Yeast is 2 Tablespoons. It’s certainly easy to eat 3 or 4 brazil nuts to get a significant amount of selenium, but I’d find it difficult to use 3 or 4 servings of nutritional yeast, which would be the equivalent of 6 to 8 heaping tablespoons, to get the same daily protection from selenium as a couple of Brazil nuts.

The downside of Brazil nuts, that gives an advantage to nutritional yeast as a good source of food-based selenium, is that Brazil Nuts tend to contain a high rate of the carcinogenic substance from molds called aflatoxin(2). Aflatoxin is present in many nuts, particularly peanuts and Brazil nuts, as well as coffee and some other foods. It a toxin that is best avoided by everyone, and some people who are extremely sensitive to it can feel miserable with even a small exposure. Brazil nuts and other nuts can be processed to remove aflatoxins by first soaking them in water that contains a bit of powdered vitamin C and salt, then cooking them at low temperature until they are fully dried. However, most people do not perform this step, or those who would rather not take the chance of aflatoxin exposure can add the nutrient-dense superfood nutritional yeast, to their diet. It just might be an excellent way to meet your nutritional needs that we often can’t get due to poor quality soils, too many processed food products, and grain-fed animal products. It’s also vegan and does not contribute to the growth of candida.

How does it taste?

I first tried the nutritional yeast by itself, and it really doesn’t taste bad. It’s not something that you can just eat, since it’s in powder form, and needs to be added to foods, or at least mixed with water before using. Next, I tried it in our favorite vegetable side dish, a super easy cauliflower puree. Normally I make it with organic sour cream and raw grass-fed cheddar cheese, but instead I replaced the cheese and sour cream with the yeast. Joshua Tucker of the TendonitisExpert website declared it the ‘Best Vegetable Ever’!

Best Ever Nutritional Yeast Cauliflower Puree

  • One small head of Califlower
  • 2 to 3 heaping teaspoons of Sari Foods Nutritional Yeast
  • One heaping teaspoon of smoked paprika
  • Pinch of cayenne pepper
  • Two Tablespoons of organic grass-fed butter or ghee
  • Heavy cream for consistency
  • Salt to taste

1. Cut up the cauliflower into florets and steam in steamer until tender.
2. While cauliflower is steaming, put all ingredients except cream and salt into a blender.
3. Place hot cauliflower into blender.
4. Blend intermittently on the pulse setting until cauliflower is blended. You may need to occasionally use a pestle or wooden spoon to push cauliflower down into the blender blades while the blender is stopped. It should be that thick.
5. Consistency should be somewhere from rice, mashed potato or baby food consistency, depending upon your preference.
6. Aim for rice consistency by blending the shortest amount of time with the smallest amount of cream possible (even none) until it is the consistency of rice, then taste. If it’s too thick or too ‘ricey’ for your taste, continue to add cream and blend until the desired consistency is achieved.
7. Add salt to taste then stir, but do not blend after adding salt, in order to maintain the consistency you prefer.

It’s Umami

Those with a more sensitive palate than I do have declared nutritional yeast to have have an ‘umami’ flavor, which loosely translates to ‘meaty/savory/rich’, and is a flavor that helps to give satiety, and might be an especially great addition to vegetarian diets that often are short on umami. I don’t have a sensitive or trained enough palate to judge this, but there is at least one restaurant that adds it to sauces and soups, both to help add thickness without flour, and to add umami. I also added the yeast to a few other foods with good results. I made a ‘cheese sauce’ and poured it over steamed broccoli. I liked it, but Joshua didn’t. I also made baked kale chips with nutritional yeast and salt. They were a big hit with the both of us and Joshua asked me to continue making them to have around the house as healthy munchies. I think that it could be a nice addition to a nutrient dense diet if one experiments with it, and it could be especially easy to incorporate into soups and stews. I’m going to give this a try with my Essential Bone Broth for a super nutrient-dense umami-filled drink the next time I make a batch. I’ll let you know how it turns out. If you’d like to try nutritional yeast as an enjoyable superfood supplement, go to Amazon and try Sari Foods Nutritional Yeast.


(1) Brazil nuts: an effective way to improve selenium status
(2) Aflatoxin production by Aspergillus flavus in Brazil nuts
(3) Nutritional Selenium Supplements: Product Types, Quality, and Safety

About Kerri Knox, RN

The author is a Registered Nurse and Functional Medicine Practitioner. With 20 years of experience in health care, she has the unique perspective of being solidly grounded in both Conventional Medicine and Alternative Medicine. She can help you to to find and repair the underlying causes of chronic illness, while empowering you to take charge of your own health. She is the owner and author of this blog and website.

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