By Rachael Link, MS, RD
Just as its name might imply, brewer’s yeast is a tiny, single-celled fungus that is a staple ingredient in the brewing of beer.
Surprisingly, it also comes with a host of health benefits and has been used historically as a natural remedy for everything from insomnia to increasing the milk supply for breastfeeding.
Recent studies have also unearthed a slew of potential benefits of brewer’s yeast, showing that it may prevent diarrhea, aid in digestion and even enhance the health of your immune system.
Not only that, but each tablespoon crams in tons of vitamins, minerals, protein and fiber, making it a simple way to supplement your diet with the nutrients you need.
Brewer’s yeast is very nutrient-dense and packs plenty of fiber, selenium and B vitamins into each serving.
Two tablespoons (30 grams) of brewer’s yeast contains approximately (1):
- 116 calories
- 16 grams protein
- 0 grams fat
- 6 grams fiber
- 13 grams carbohydrate
- 63 micrograms selenium (90 percent DV)
- 1.5 milligrams riboflavin (90 percent DV)
- 1.2 milligrams thiamine (80 percent DV)
- 10 milligrams niacin (50 percent DV)
- 1 milligram copper (50 percent DV)
- 0.8 milligrams vitamin B6 (40 percent DV)
- 633 milligrams potassium (18 percent DV)
- 60 micrograms folate (15 percent DV)
8 Brewer’s Yeast Benefits
1. Improves Blood Sugar
Incorporating a few scoops of brewer’s yeast into your diet could help balance your blood sugar levels. In fact, there’s a good amount of research that has looked at the blood sugar-lowering benefits of brewer’s yeast.
In one study, 84 adults with diabetes received either brewer’s yeast or a placebo for 12 weeks. Not only was brewer’s yeast found to significantly lower blood sugar levels compared to the placebo, but it also improved insulin sensitivity. (2)
When you eat carbohydrates, they are broken down into glucose, or sugar, in the bloodstream. Insulin is responsible for transporting this glucose from the blood to the tissues where it can be used as fuel. Increasing insulin sensitivity allows insulin to work more effectively and keeps blood sugar levels from spiking.
The benefits of brewer’s yeast on blood sugar may boil down to its chromium content. Chromium is a trace mineral that has been shown to improve insulin sensitivity and boost blood sugar control in those with diabetes. (3)
Brewer’s yeast also contains fiber, which can help slow the absorption of sugar in the blood and keep blood sugar levels steady.
2. Boosts Immunity
Whether you have a case of the sniffles or a full-blown respiratory infection, brewer’s yeast may be able to help. Some research has found that it could have immune-enhancing properties.
In one study, giving mice brewer’s yeast extract was found to decrease levels of some inflammatory markers and help normalize their immune response. (4)
Brewer’s yeast is also high in selenium, a mineral with potent antioxidant powers that could help enhance immune health. In fact, just two tablespoons of brewer’s yeast can meet 90 percent of your daily needs for selenium. (5)
A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that selenium deficiency caused a decline in immune function, which significantly improved when participants were supplemented with selenium. (6)
3. Enhances Eye Health
Brewer’s yeast is rich in some vitamins that may even be able to help keep your eyes healthy.
Adding brewer’s yeast to your diet can help you easily meet your needs for thiamine, for example. Lower levels of thiamine have been associated with eye conditions like glaucoma, a disorder caused by damage to the optic nerve, which can lead to blurred vision or even vision loss. (7)
Brewer’s yeast can also supply plenty of riboflavin, another vitamin that has been linked to a decreased risk of vision problems like keratoconus, a progressive thinning and protrusion of the cornea. (8)
Additionally, brewer’s yeast contains antioxidants, which are compounds that help protect against damage from the harmful free radicals that build up and cause chronic disease. Some research has found that antioxidants may also be effective in preventing eye disease and promoting vision health. (9)
4. Prevents Migraines
If you’ve ever suffered from a migraine, you’re probably all too familiar with how debilitating it can be. With symptoms like nausea, sensitivity to light and distorted vision, it can be hard to carry on with your daily activities when you have a migraine.
Brewer’s yeast may be beneficial in the prevention and treatment of migraines thanks to its high content of riboflavin.
In one study, participants suffering from migraines were treated with riboflavin capsules for six months. Not only did riboflavin decrease headache frequency, but participants also reduced their use of migraine medications by 64 percent. (10)
5. Protects Brain Health
Brewer’s yeast is loaded with several important B-vitamins, including riboflavin, thiamine, niacin, vitamin B6 and folate. These vitamins are essential to many aspects of health, but they are especially important when it comes to brain health.
Including brewer’s yeast as part of a healthy diet may help keep your brain healthy and prevent a deficiency in some of these important vitamins.
6. Treats Diarrhea
Many people use brewer’s yeast as a natural remedy for diarrhea. In fact, there are several studies that have shown that brewer’s yeast may be effective in reducing the risk of diarrhea caused by antibiotics.
Diarrhea is a common side effect of antibiotic use. This is because antibiotics alter the composition of your gut flora, which are beneficial strains of bacteria that help promote proper digestion and improve nutrient absorption.
Brewer’s yeast is a type of probiotic, which is a healthy strain of gut bacteria that can counteract the negative effects caused by antibiotics.
In one analysis comprised of 27 trials and over 5,000 patients, brewer’s yeast helped reduce diarrhea caused by antibiotics and was also beneficial in treating the diarrhea associated with conditions like irritable bowel syndrome and Crohn’s disease. (13)
7. Aids Digestion
Because brewer’s yeast is a probiotic and can help improve the gut flora composition, it may be able to improve digestive health as well.
Some research has found that probiotics like brewer’s yeast may aid in the treatment of some digestive disorders.
One analysis with 1,793 participants found that probiotics helped reduce pain and the severity of symptoms associated with irritable bowel syndrome. (14)
Probiotics can also prevent inflammation of the intestinal lining and block the adherence of dangerous pathogens to the gastrointestinal tract. (15)
8. Prevents Anemia
There are different types of anemia, including several that are caused by deficiencies in vitamins and minerals necessary for red blood cell production like iron and vitamin B12.
However, deficiencies in other vitamins and minerals can also contribute to the development of anemia. Riboflavin, for example, can affect the metabolism and absorption of iron and is essential to preventing iron-deficiency anemia.
Research shows that getting enough riboflavin may reduce your risk of anemia. In a 2014 study, a low intake of riboflavin was tied to a greater risk of anemia among 1,253 adults. (16)
Fortunately, just two tablespoons of brewer’s yeast can provide 90 percent of the riboflavin you need for the entire day to help prevent anemia. (17)
History & Interesting Facts
In addition to being chock-full of potent health benefits, brewer’s yeast has been used for centuries to make beer, wine, bread and more.
When brewing beer, the yeast is broken down by sugars to produce both alcohol and carbon dioxide. Other ingredients used to make beer include water, barley and hops.
Though they share a similar nutrition profile, brewer’s yeast is different than other types of yeast like nutritional yeast. This is because nutritional yeast is typically grown on cane sugar or sugar beets while brewer’s yeast is usually made on malted barley.
Additionally, both of these types of yeast are inactive, meaning they won’t help make bread rise like the active dry yeast used in baking.
Today, the use of brewer’s yeast has evolved and it’s also used as a natural remedy for a wide array of health problems. It is often used to help soothe skin conditions for dogs and cats, kill off fleas, promote lactation for mothers and even help you sleep. However, these are mostly anecdotal due to limited research. Given this, it’s best to avoid using brewer’s yeast if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.
How to Use Brewer’s Yeast
It’s quick, easy and convenient to add brewer’s yeast to your diet. The easiest way is by taking a brewer’s yeast capsule, which can provide all the benefits of brewer’s yeast in a concentrated dose.
Be sure to go with a reputable brand and look for a product with minimal added ingredients or fillers listed on the label to ensure you’re getting the best quality possible.
Most recommend taking up to 3,000 milligrams daily, typically split up into two or three doses. Start with a low amount and increase slowly to make sure you’re able to tolerate it with minimal side effects.
Brewer’s yeast is also available in powder form, which is perfect for adding to shakes, smoothies, soups, sauces or even baked goods.
The standard serving is 2 tablespoons, which can be eaten all at once or split up throughout the day.
If you’re looking for some other unique ways to use brewer’s yeast, here are some recipes you can try:
Possible Side Effects
Brewer’s yeast may cause some mild side effects, such as gas and bloating.
If you experience frequent yeast infections or have an allergy to yeast, you should avoid brewer’s yeast. Additionally, those who have Crohn’s disease may want to limit intake to avoid triggering symptoms.
Although brewer’s yeast is generally considered safe, it may interact with certain medications. Because brewer’s yeast may lower blood sugar levels, you may want to consult with your doctor if you’re taking anti-diabetes medications to prevent a dangerous dip in blood sugar levels.
Monoamine oxidase inhibitors, or MAOIs, are a type of medication used to treat depression. Brewer’s yeast is high in tyramine, which may react with MAOIs and cause a severe increase in blood pressure that could lead to a heart attack or stroke. If you’re taking an MAOI, you should talk to your doctor before using brewer’s yeast.
Similarly, using brewer’s yeast with certain pain medications like Demerol (meperidine) should be avoided as it can cause a dangerous spike in blood pressure.
Because there is a lack of clinical evidence ensuring the safety of using brewer’s yeast during pregnancy or breastfeeding, err on the side of caution and avoid using it.
If you follow a gluten-free diet, note that not all forms of brewer’s yeast supplements are gluten-free. Be sure to check that the product guarantees it’s gluten-free.
As with any supplement, it’s always best to talk to your doctor before starting and consider beginning with a smaller dose and increasing gradually to assess tolerance.
Brewer’s yeast is easy to use, widely available and boasts a variety of health benefits, from protecting the health of your brain to warding off migraines.
Not only that, but it also provides an added dose of fiber, protein, selenium and B-vitamins to help prevent deficiencies and keep you healthy.
Although it may not be compatible with certain medications or conditions, using brewer’s yeast to round out a healthy, well-balanced diet can be incredibly beneficial for most.
From the sound of it, you might think leaky gut only affects the digestive system, but in reality it can affect more. Because Leaky Gut is so common, and such an enigma, I’m offering a free webinar on all things leaky gut. Click here to learn more about the webinar.
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