To be fair, ‘Nooch’ sounds more like a nickname you’d give your pet hamster than a vegan food trend.
Actually, nooch is simply short for nutritional yeast.
But why is nooch loved by health-conscious vegans and non-vegans alike? Here’s everything you need to know about this increasingly popular pantry staple.
- What Is Nooch and What Does It Taste Like?
- Is Nooch a Superfood?
- What is Nooch Used For?
- Nooch and the MSG Myth
- Where Can You Buy Nooch?
What Is Nooch and What Does It Taste Like?
Although most people are only discovering it now, nooch has been a vegan pantry staple ever since it was commercialized in the 1950s. The nutritional benefits of yeast are known since 1916, when the chemist Artherton Seidell published an article claiming that brewer’s yeast could treat “nutritional deficiency diseases” (1) .
With its pale yellow, flakey appearance, nutritional yeast looks very similar to conventional fish food. Just that it (arguably) tastes much better.
Not to be confused with baker’s yeast, nutritional yeast is the deactivated form of the same yeast strain (saccharomyces cerevisiae) used for baking, brewing, and wine making . Nooch is produced by cultivating yeast on the basis sugar and water. Once it’s mature, the yeast is exposed to heat, pasteurized, and dried. This process kills the bacteria, stripping the yeast from its leavening ability and making it safe for human consumption.
Despite its unappetizing name, nutritional yeast is gaining popularity among vegan foodies for its slightly salty, umami-rich taste. Nooch’s distinct savory flavor is best described as nutty and a bit cheesy (which makes it a popular vegan Parmesan substitute).
Is Nooch a Superfood?
Nooch’s nutritional profile attracts health-gurus and vegan food bloggers alike. With the countless health benefits nutritional yeast can supposedly offer, the condiment’s sky-rocketing popularity is no mystery.
But does nooch really qualify as a superfood?
While the term ‘superfood’ is misleading and primarily used for marketing purposes, nooch is indeed very healthy. The facts speak for themselves! Nutritional yeast is:
- incredibly high in protein (with 45g of protein per 100g, it contains more than chicken breast, steak, or tofu),
- a fantastic source of B vitamins (including B1, B2, B3, and B6. Some brands are also fortified with B12) (2),
- rich in anti-oxidants and phosphorous,
- packed with fibers (such as beta glucan) that promote gut-health and regulate blood sugar levels,
- loaded with important minerals such as magnesium, manganese, and copper.
What is Nooch Used For?
Nooch is typically used as a condiment or topping .
With its nutty aroma that’s similar to Parmesan cheese, nutritional yeast can be sprinkled over any savory dish for an extra punch of flavor.
Nutritional yeast is also popular among vegans as a cheese substitute in sauces, casseroles, and breading.
If you want to give nutritional yeast a try yourself, here are some drool-worthy nooch recipes (all vegan!):
- Mint Chip Ice Cream
- No-cheese Parmesan
- Pinwheel-style cheesy rolls
- Noochy popcorn
- Creamy nutritional yeast dressing
- Vanilla Pudding
Nooch and the MSG Myth
Critics accuse nutritional yeast of containing monosodium glutamate (MSG), a substance which gets plenty of bad press for supposedly having neurotoxic effects.
Let’s take a closer look at whether this criticism is grounded in any science.
Nutritional yeast has a glutamic acid content of 6% to 11%. Glutamic acid is a naturally occurring amino acid that the human body can synthesize by itself. It can be found in vegetables, soy sauce, and animal-based foods (including meats, poultry, eggs, and dairy products).
Glutamic acid is responsible for umami, one of the five basic tastes. Because Monosodium glutamate (a flavor enhancer traditionally commonly associated with Asian cuisines) is the sodium version of glutamic acid, critics worry that nooch is just as unhealthy as MSG supposedly is.
MSG is one of the most extensively studied food ingredients. Yet despite MSG’s bad reputation, the WHO placed it in the safest category for food additives (3).
As it turns out, the bad press around MSG is unwarranted. The scientific consensus is clear: MSG is perfectly safe for the vast majority of people.
This video from the SciShow breaks down the science behind the culinary upsides of MSG and gives insight into the racist origins of the MSG-myth:
Where Can You Buy Nooch?
Finding nooch in the grocery store is easier said than done.
Nutritional yeast can usually be found in the health food aisle of your local grocery store. Alternatively, the spices section or bulk-food section of supermarkets are the second-best places to look for nooch.
In general, most organic grocery and health food stores offer the nutritious yellow flakes.
But if all else fails, online shops are the way to go (especially when it comes to buying nooch in bulk).
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