Parmesan cheese is one of a few kinds of cheese that can give you a variety of taste: umami, saltiness, and, of course, cheesiness. It is a great natural flavoring you can add to nearly any savory dish you can think of: soups, stews, salads, and other baked goodies. You can even add it to some of your favorite pastries, other types of desserts, and even some energy snacks.
Because this one ingredient can give you different flavors, parmesan cheese is one of the main staples in many home and commercial pantries today.
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Parmesan Cheese Substitute: Vegan Version
Since parmesan cheese is a dairy product, it is something that vegans and individuals with lactose intolerance can’t eat.
For people who can’t eat parmesan cheese, nutritional yeast has been their favorite substitute. Also known as nooch, nutritional yeast has a distinct nutty, umami, and cheesy flavor.
Nutritional yeast is a type of dehydrated yeast product.
The yeast comes from the Saccharomyces cerevisiae strain, the same type of yeast that is used for brewing beer and baking bread.
Whey, molasses, and sugar beets are the most common sources of yeast for this type of additive. The yeast is harvested, washed, heated to dry, then crumbled or pulverized into powder form, ready for sprinkling.
Dangers of Nutritional Yeast
There are some negative effects of frequent nutritional yeast consumption. Although nutritional yeast is an excellent alternative to parmesan cheese, unfortunately, it is not the healthiest or safest substitute due to the following reasons:
1. It has mold toxins
Since yeast is a type of fungi, it may contain mold toxins.
When you consume too much yeast, a yeast-like fungus called Candida albicans may grow in your body. This will affect the fungal biome of your gut.
An imbalance in the gut microbiome leads to fatigue and brain fog due to cellular damage. This imbalance can also cause systemic inflammation as well.
Additionally, because of this imbalance, your body won’t effectively absorb various essential vitamins including vitamins K and B12 from your food. Because of this, you may suffer from certain nutrient deficiencies.
Finally, the toxins from yeast may heighten your sugar cravings. As such, you may soon find yourself consuming more sugary foods and drinks. And this will do nothing good for your weight loss goals and overall health.
2. It contains MSG
Although monosodium glutamate or MSG is seldom intentionally added to nutritional yeast, the manufacturing process causes it to have this unhealthy ingredient.
During the production process, glutamic acid may be freed from the yeast’s protein content. When released, it becomes an excitotoxin.
Excitotoxins obstruct normal brain functioning by over-stimulating neuron receptors in the hypothalamus. They cause the death of neurons as well.
Prolonged ingestion of MSG can cause side effects similar to the extended intake of neurological drugs. There are also a number of adverse reactions caused by MSG including migraine attacks, cardiac and respiratory issues.
Additionally, studies also show that prolonged ingestion of excitotoxins can cause long-term, serious neurodegenerative diseases including Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease.
3. It can cause gastrointestinal and digestive issues
People with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), such as Crohn’s disease, are typically intolerant to nutritional yeast.
This was proven in one study which showed that feeding mice brewer’s yeast aggravates symptoms of IBD. These symptoms include severe diarrhea, weight loss, and fatigue.
Although brewer’s yeast is a different product than nutritional yeast, both of them are made from the same species of yeast. Other studies also show that individuals with Crohn’s disease may be more sensitive to or intolerant of nutritional yeast.
It is also worth noting here that nutritional yeast is loaded with fiber. Twenty-one grams or two tablespoons of nutritional yeast flakes can give you about five grams of dietary fiber. This is approximately 20 percent of the recommended daily intake.
Although fiber is good for digestive health, suddenly and quickly increasing your fiber intake can lead to certain issues including abdominal cramps and even diarrhea. This is something that you will certainly experience if you are not used to eating high fiber foods.
Because of this, it is best to use nutritional yeast gradually at first and modify servings as your body adapts to the higher fiber consumption.
Nutritional Yeast Alternatives
Nutritional yeast is considered the best option for parmesan cheese and other types of cheese. But with the possible side effects and dangers of nutritional yeast when used frequently, you will do well to look for healthier alternatives.
Some potential options are raw dairy and organic, grass-fed cheese and yogurt. You can also add grass-fed butter or ghee to your meals. If you’re craving for something really creamy, use coconut milk and MCT oil as well.
And if one of your reasons for adding nooch to your dishes is its nutrient content, you can still get the essential vitamins and minerals you need from the different natural and quick energy foods you can make or buy.
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Dave Asprey is the creator of the widely popular Bulletproof Coffee, host of the #1 health podcast, Bulletproof Radio, and author of the New York Times bestselling book, “The Bulletproof Diet.” Through his work, the Silicon Valley investor and technology entrepreneur provides information, techniques and keys to taking control of and improving your biochemistry, your body and your mind so they work in unison, helping you execute at levels far beyond what you’d expect, without burning out, getting sick, or allowing stress to control your decisions.
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