Is Nutritional Yeast OK During Pregnancy? Safety and Benefits

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Written by Amy Kaczor RDN

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Nutritional yeast, or “nooch”, is a yellow flaky food product with a distinct cheesy and savory flavor. While it’s a wonderful source of nutrients, vitamins, and minerals, is nutritional yeast safe to consume during pregnancy? 

The scientific consensus is that nutritional yeast is safe to consume during pregnancy. Nutritional yeast is an excellent source of vitamin B12 (cobalamin) and vitamin B9 (folate), which are especially essential for vegetarian and vegan pregnant women, because they help prevent congenital disabilities in the developing baby.

With the yeast’s name touting “nutritional,” what exactly is so nutritious about it? So, let’s dive into the benefits of this yeast, especially during pregnancy. 

Is Nutritional Yeast Safe While Pregnant?

Nutritional yeast is that fantastic food product that some, especially vegetarians and vegans, swear by. It is packed with nutrition, but it is also quite popular due to its cheesy and nutty taste, much like cheddar or parmesan cheese. 

nutritional yeast flakes in a glass jar

The flaky topping is extremely versatile and is perfect for sprinkling on pasta, tofu, salads, and more! Use it as you would grated or shredded cheese, or even as you would use a seasoning.

There is no indication that nutritional yeast is unsafe for pregnant women. However, those with inflammatory bowel disease, such as ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease, should avoid nutritional yeast as it may cause an inflammatory immune response in the body (source: University of Massachusetts Medical School). 

Additionally, if you are prone to migraines, an essential amino acid (the building block of proteins) present in nutritional yeast called tyramine may trigger a headache or a migraine and should be avoided. 

Many sources recommend nutritional yeast for pregnant women due to its vast health benefits to the expectant mother and the developing baby. In addition, it is considered safe in moderation, up to multiple tablespoons daily.

However, it is essential to store your nutritional yeast in a dry, dark place in an airtight container to prevent bacterial growth. Nutritional yeast is typically found in the health food section of the grocery store and can even be purchased in bulk if stored safely. 

Is Nutritional Yeast Good for Pregnant Women? The Benefits

Nutritional yeast can bulk up even a simple bowl of pasta by adding protein, fiber, and a wide array of vitamins and minerals.

One of the main appeals of nutritional yeast is its significant amount of vitamin B12, also known as cobalamin. Typically, vitamin B12 is found in animal products, such as meat and fish, milk, and eggs. Therefore, vegetarians and vegans are often familiar with this yeast as a great source of vitamin B12 in their diet. 

Vitamin B12 functions in many body systems, including aiding in red blood cell production, nervous system functioning, cell metabolism, and DNA production (source: Mayo Clinic).

Specifically for pregnant women, vitamin B12 is thought to combine with the essential folic acid to prevent spinal and nervous system congenital disabilities, such as spina bifida, in the developing baby (source: American Pregnancy Association).

nutritional yeast in a bowl

In other words, vitamin B12 plays a huge role in the baby’s development. In addition, vitamin B12 helps with energy levels, mood, and even stress for the pregnant mother since the vitamin helps break down nutrients from food.

A two-teaspoon serving of nutritional yeast has 150 micrograms of vitamin B12 (source: United States Department of Agriculture FoodData Central). For comparison, the American Pregnancy Association recommends pregnant women consume 2.6 micrograms of vitamin B12 daily.

Besides vitamin B12, nutritional yeast also has fiber, protein, and other vitamins and minerals. One vitamin of note is folate, or vitamin B9, recommended for all women of childbearing age to prevent neural tube congenital disabilities (source: Centers for Disease Control).

The recommended daily intake from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) is 400 micrograms during reproductive years. For reference, a serving of nutritional yeast (two teaspoons, or 5 grams) contains 59% of the daily value recommendation for folate (source: USDA FoodData Central). 

Overall, nutritional yeast lives up to its name and is the perfect addition to your diet that is tasty and very nutritious. I hope you found this post helpful in deciding whether to incorporate nutritional yeast into your diet during your pregnancy.