The Deal with Yeast
I’ve seen a bunch of questions and comments on the site about yeast – whether or not it’s good for you, how often you should eat it, etc. Some of the recipes out there in the vegan world have yeast in them, but I don’t use yeast in my recipes in The Kind Diet. For most recipes that call for it, you can try omitting it. They are often just as good without it.
I asked my friend, the amazing Christina Pirello, who is a macrobiotic chef, author, and all around rockstar, to help me get to the bottom of the deal with yeast. She cured her terminal leukemia with a macro diet. I’ve written about Christina in my book, and a couple of her recipes are in there too.
Here are my thoughts on yeast:
Nutritional yeast is super yum and has a cheesy taste. Lots of vegans get excited about it because they feel it is a good source of b-12, but superheroes and the macro community feel like it’s a bad guy, so I avoid it.
When I first went Macro I had low signs of Candida. Yeast can create more yeast in the body if you are struggling with Candida like I was, so I started to avoid it. I feel so much better without yeast in my life. If I have bread, I get the yeast-free kind. French Meadow makes great yeast-free breads. And most sourdough breads are made without yeast. Just be sure to check the label.
I don’t get all psycho about yeast though. If something has yeast in it, I try my best to avoid it, but for instance, if I was at a party and someone made something to eat with yeast and it looked amazing, I would definitely eat it. If you are a flirt or a full-on vegan, enjoy the yeast, but if you want superhero status, be mindful to limit your intake.
You don’t have to eat yeast just because you need b-12 (see page 76 of The Kind Diet to learn why you need b-12). You can take a b-12 supplement once or twice a week, which will get the job done.
Here is what Christina has to say about it:
In macrobiotics, it can be recommended to avoid yeast because a lot of people are ill and need to strengthen their digestive system. It is believed that yeast can inhibit digestion, because it can create expansion in the digestive tract at a time when people need to strengthen digestion. That said, there is nothing wrong with yeast if you are healthy and strong and well… no reason not to use it. I use it in small amounts in some of the breads I bake to create lightness… usually in combination with a sourdough starter so I get the best of both worlds… the fermented benefit of sourdough but the lightness of yeast, plus sourdough allows me to use less yeast. But in truth, there is no problem with yeast if your health and digestion is strong.
I think that like most other ‘issues’ in macrobiotics, all the concerns and no-no’s have been handed down to healthy people from a diet that was designed to help ill people regain their health. If you are healthy and well and eating a diet of unprocessed, seasonal, organic (where you can) whole food, prepared elegantly and simply in accordance to what you need in your life, then there are very few limits you need to worry about. Sugar is one of them, since we eat so much of it… but yeasted breads on occasion, nutritional yeast, no worries. In excess, yeast can weaken and compromise digestion, but you would need to eat a lot of it.
Regarding b-12: There are no vegetable sources of b-12… not miso, tempeh, pickles, nada… no matter what counselors say. The b-12 that exists in miso, tempeh, etc. is called b-12 analog, and is not usable by the body. So to get proper amounts of b-12, you must supplement, because you would need a lot of nutritional yeast to get what you need, and I think that can cause more health issues in the intestines…in large quantities…than regular yeast. The only really strong sources of b-12 are animal products and sub lingual supplements and shots.
But before you start thinking about eating meat again because you’re worried about B-12 deficiencies, re-read Chapter 2 of The Kind Diet, which is all about how nasty meat is for you, and all of the health problems that eating meat causes. Just because meat has B-12 in it, doesn’t mean that being vegan isn’t natural for humans. Before the commercialization of agriculture, we could get plenty of B-12 from the soil and water on the veggies that we would pull from our gardens. See page 76 in The Kind Diet to learn more about that.
A big thank you to Christina for that info. Here are my closing thoughts on the subject:
I am still going to buy yeast-free bread, and try to avoid products that involve yeast, but I will be more forgiving with it, and will try yummy recipes once in a while that have yeast in them (like the recipe I’m going to post later today!). I can’t wait to try it, and can’t wait to share it with all of you. So from now on I will be more relaxed about yeast than I used to be” but it will still be sort of a treat for me, not an everyday food.
What are your thoughts on the yeast issue?