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What is Brewer's Yeast?

Mary McMahon
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Brewer's yeast is a type of fungus formally known as Saccharomyces cervisiae. Along with other Saccharomyces species, brewer's yeast is used to brew beer and bake some breads, and can also be used as a nutritional supplement in an inactive form. Like other yeasts, brewer's yeast will ferment carbohydrates when it comes into contact with them, forming a froth of carbon dioxide which can ferment grains into beer and cause bread to rise. When used as a dietary supplement, brewer's yeast can provide the body with a number of essential vitamins and minerals including vitamin B. While this yeast can be used to bake bread, most bakers use baker's yeast specifically, a sweet and less bitter culture of Sacchraomyces.

Yeast is a living organism which forms colonies of single, simple cells classified as fungi. It grows readily as long as conditions are warm and moist, and while it eats food, it emits carbon dioxide and alcohol as byproducts, a process called fermentation. The properties of yeast were discovered thousands of years ago, in the form of floating wild yeasts, which are still used today for many artisan breads such as sourdough. Today, yeast is cultured for consistency and is readily available in a dried, ready to be activated form for making bread and beer.

A number of Saccharomyces species are used to brew beer, depending on whether it is a top or bottom fermenting beer. Some brewers use a different genus of yeast, especially for specialty beers like Belgian wheat beers. To brew beer, this yeast is added to hops and malted barley and allowed to ferment the hops and barley into alcohol, made bubbly by the carbon dioxide. The beer ferments for several weeks at varying temperatures, depending on the type of beer being made, and then is ready to bottle.

In addition to being used for beer, deactivated brewer's yeast is also used as a nutritional and flavor supplement, and is often found labeled as “nutritional yeast” in grocery stores. It is important to make sure that you purchase an inactive form of yeast for a nutritional supplement, because active yeast will flourish in your intestines, potentially causing health problems. Some consumers sprinkle the yeast on food simply because it tastes good, but many people, including vegetarians, also use this yeast to eat a balanced diet. It is extremely nutritionally rich, and contains protein, amino acids, vitamins, and minerals which can keep consumers healthy. Many folk remedies for poor skin include brewer's yeast, and some studies have suggested that consuming it can accelerate the healing time for cuts and similar injuries.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a The Health Board researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By anon1002751 — On Feb 08, 2020

"Active yeast will flourish in your intestines, potentially causing health problems". First part is true, second part is false. We get active yeast from many fruits that we eat without peeling, like grapes, figs, etc. Neither they or brewers' yeast will cause any health problems. We already host a huge number of colonies of microorganisms, which work together with our body. There are beneficial microorganisms and brewer's yeast is one of them. In the old days (and still some) people would drink beer as brewed, with active yeasts. Pasteurization of beer is very recent and only for prolonging shelf life of beer.

By anon992304 — On Aug 29, 2015

If you're hoping to gain nutritional benefits, nutritional yeast is what you should be taking and feeding to animals, not brewer's yeast. Bob's Red Mill makes a great one; it has B vitamins and niacin, and is often recommended to vegans and vegetarians.

It can be sprinkled on salads on mixed with pasta to make a dairy free "mac and cheese."

By anon924903 — On Jan 08, 2014

Has anyone ever tried brewers yeast on popcorn? Amazing!

By anon327407 — On Mar 27, 2013

I used regular brewers yeast for my dogs. A country vet told me about it. It did a wonderful job on fleas in Texas. I just bought the powdered kind and put the can on the floor for the dogs to take it themselves. (They loved it) They seem to take it when they need it; the can took a while to empty.

I don't recall whether it was active or not, but, it seemed to work with no side effects. I was ignorant about there being different kinds of brewers yeast. But for what it's worth, there were no additives in it, (ignorance is bliss) and it worked well, so check with a vet or natural food source. Walmart sells it from the warehouse. Best of luck.

By anon292464 — On Sep 20, 2012

I am also going to give brewers yeast a go. I've seen for myself the benefits with my broodmares. As it has mentioned, it's fantastic for increasing milk production, calming and also for curing sweet itch on horses. I love the shack idea with brewers yeast! How much should humans use? In horses, it's three to seven tablespoons.

By anon285289 — On Aug 15, 2012

What are brewers yeast tablets good for?

By anon284800 — On Aug 11, 2012

Can I use ground brewer's yeast tablets and apply it topically to my hair?

By anon233184 — On Dec 04, 2011

I used to take brewers yeast in my 20's, regularly in shakes. I can tell you that this is a super food; the results were amazing. I had such a feeling of well-being after taking this. I had so much energy and rarely needed to sleep much. It increased my ability to think quickly, I was in great shape, always felt fit, cholesterol under 100. After many years, I stopped taking it as life crept in and I didn't have time to make shakes and the taste is awful.

Well, here we are, many years later and I'm just starting to take it again. After one week, I feel it is making a difference. I feel much more alert, alternately, I feel so much more relaxed as I'm always stressed, and I believe it is allowing me to sleep restfully. So far, I feel much less hungry and while it is only a week, I do feel like I've dropped a few pounds because of it. I hope I can keep taking this. I think everyone's biological makeup is so different, and what is working well for one won't necessarily be the answer to what another body requires. But, I would highly recommend this more than any supplement I've ever taken. And I've taken a lot. Do not cook this yeast -- just mix it in a shake (I use a little milk, yogurt and berries / banana).

I also feel like my skin is smoother and the lines in my face are less noticeable (so maybe it does puff up the cheeks). The brewers yeast I'm taking has psyllium in it and it doesn't taste as bad as I had remembered (silver bottle purchased at GNC). Anyway, if you're thinking about it, and you're not on any meds, I, for one, recommend it highly. You need to be consistent with it and give it some time.

By anon181007 — On May 28, 2011

I just got my blood test results and apparently i am allergic to brewers yeast. What are the foods that i should avoid on a regular basis?

By anon175564 — On May 13, 2011

Supermarkets have it, health food stores, vitamin shops.

By anon166999 — On Apr 11, 2011

I'm living in qatar i would like to buy this medicine. where i can buy it? The local pharmacy does not sell it.

By anon163428 — On Mar 27, 2011

The problem with brewer's yeast? It's not protein, it's free amino acids. Well let's put things into perspective shall we? Brewers Yeast is high in minerals, B vitamins, and "protein". In addition to its many health claims, it is also one of the best sources of the highly coveted Beta Glucans! Needless to say, it is considered a super food even amongst holistic practitioners.

The problem is that it is also extremely high in glutamic acid. In fact, a single serving (2 tablespoons) has 1800 mg of glutamic acid. When glutamic acid is bound to other aminos (polypeptides)it is safe. But if it is in "free glutamate" form, it is considered a neurotoxin, just like monosodium glutamate, or MSG. So, if proteins are hydrolyzed (like "hydrolyzed soy protein" or "hydrolyzed vegetable protein"), or over processed, or over heated (cooked), the chemical bonds are broken forming free amino acids, and unfortunately, free glutamic acid(MSG)or "excitotoxins".

So the question becomes: how was the brewers yeast processed? Low heat pasteurization, hopefully! Trust me, it matters. Free glutamates present a serious health risk because they are hidden under many different names especially in processed food. Even tomatoes, mushrooms, and legumes are naturally high in the bound form (safe form), but overcooking these foods literally turns them toxic. Free glutamates are everywhere nowadays and are getting harder to avoid. Aspartame (nutrasweet) is also an excitotoxin that should be avoided at all costs. Read up on this issue. It's worth it. Best of luck.

By anon155374 — On Feb 23, 2011

My daughter is allergic to molds. Would this mean she shouldn't use brewer's yeast. We thought about giving it to help her gain weight as she has a medical condition that affects her nutrition and weight.

By anon148517 — On Feb 01, 2011

Do the following products contain Brewer's yeast:

red wine, white wine and Champagne?

By anon144201 — On Jan 19, 2011

can I make a healthy nutritional beer from brewers yeast?

By anon130479 — On Nov 28, 2010

Where do I buy this and how to use it? How to tell the difference between active and inactive brewers yeast?

By anon97207 — On Jul 19, 2010

Every morning I make myself a protein shake and I put in my protein powder, brewers yeast, lecithin and flaxseed. I use milk for the base and throw in fruit, usually a banana. Then I toss down all my other vitamins and drink a lot of water. I do this at 6 a.m. and really don't feel hungry until around 2 or 3 in the afternoon. And yes, it does keep away mosquitoes.

By RosaAzul — On Jun 17, 2010

I take it as pills, and I'm trying to gain a little weight with it because I'm thin. It helped me to gain a little weight. But i don't know if this kind of pill is strong because sometimes it makes me so tired and gives me a headache and i believe it's because of it, but i can handle it.

I think it is different from one body to another. but I'm happy with the result.

By anon89701 — On Jun 11, 2010

Does anyone know if brewers yeast helps with losing weight? Does it really matter when you take it?

By anon88776 — On Jun 07, 2010

does brewer yeast increase body weight?

By anon69633 — On Mar 09, 2010

I've read a lot about brewers yeast and its benefits upon weight loss if taken first thing in the morning and gaining weight and if taken after meals. Is this true? And can i use brewer yeast with appetite stopper pills?

By anon68669 — On Mar 03, 2010

Does Brewers yeast help to increase breast milk?

By anon63572 — On Feb 02, 2010

I heard that the brewer's yeast works to enlarge the cheeks. Is this true?

By anon52364 — On Nov 13, 2009

I have been giving my dogs and cats Brewers Yeast for 35 years now and have never had a problem with fleas, even though they go outside where we have sheep and a donkey. They love it.

Also, I have used walnuts and garlic for dermatitis and healed a stray dog with a horrible case.

I use Lewis Labs Brewers Yeast and sprinkle no more than 1/4 tsp twice a day. Too much too soon will cause stomach upset. Go easy at first. Good luck.

By anon48302 — On Oct 11, 2009

Brewers yeast can be purchased at any discount store in the vitamin section.

By anon48051 — On Oct 09, 2009

I have recently read that using brewers yeast powder made into a paste and applied topically to the head is supposed to help with hair loss. Although not a complete cure for baldness it is meant to help the hair regrow. Does anyone know if there is any truth in this?

By anon47025 — On Sep 30, 2009

Regarding 19, Dr. Oz recommends brewers yeast on popcorn. I have been looking for something that would taste good on pop corn. Where do you buy it and what kind do you buy?

By anon46961 — On Sep 30, 2009

can a person take brewers yeast if they have a yeast problem like candida or candidiasis? is it safe or will it make it worse?

By anon46605 — On Sep 27, 2009

Where can i buy brewers yeast? What about the Dr oz popcorn recipe? does it work and what is the recipe?

By anon46434 — On Sep 25, 2009

I just saw this on the Dr. Oz show for belly fat. is this the same brewers yeast and does it work! I need it and where to purchase it from. Help please! I saw him sprinkle it on popcorn.

By anon46173 — On Sep 23, 2009

So i want to give brewers yeast to my dogs. I read that it is available in two types: the type that comes from the beer making process and the type that's made from plants like sugar beets. Does anyone know which type to use or does it really matter?

By anon44632 — On Sep 09, 2009

Heard that brewers yeast taken daily stops mosquitos from biting. Is that true? If so how much would an adult take daily and is is OK for children to take also?

By thomasrob — On Sep 09, 2009

Does anyone have info on the best source of brewers yeast?

By anon42227 — On Aug 20, 2009

Actually, brewer's yeast is not the same as nutritional yeast. Brewer's yeast contains chromium (nutritional yeast is very low in chromium). Also, this article states that brewer's yeast is a good source of B vitamins - but it does not contain vitamin B12. This is important, since many vegans take yeast supplements in order to get B12. Nutritional yeast generally is fortified with B12.

By anon39284 — On Jul 31, 2009

Yes, brewers yeast tablets do keep ticks & fleas off your dog. I was giving my chow 6 tabs a day. He loved them & ate it like candy. I took them also as the ticks were bothering me on walks. It's cheap too. There is a product you can buy also with garlic & vit. added for dogs & cats.

By bhavaksh — On Jul 16, 2009

Where do I buy Brewers yeast and how do I use it?

By anon37001 — On Jul 16, 2009

Where do I buy this and how to use it?

How to tell the difference between active and inactive brewers yeast?

By anon36541 — On Jul 13, 2009

I heard somewhere that feeding your dog brewers yeast either sprinkled on his food or by tablets can rid your pet of fleas, has anyone else heard of this, and how much should i give my dog, who suffers horribly from dermatitis?

By anon35210 — On Jul 03, 2009

I am type 2 dibetic is it OK to take brewers yeast tablets?

By anon34389 — On Jun 22, 2009

How can I make brewer's yeast at home?

By anon27995 — On Mar 09, 2009

About brewer's yeast stopping sugar cravings, this could be partly true because it contains Chromium which aids blood sugar levels thus stopping cravings.

By anon18541 — On Sep 25, 2008

i went to the allergy doctor, i was told i have an allergy to brewer's yeast, what foods to i stay away from?

By anon18264 — On Sep 18, 2008

I read that 1 tablespoon of Brewer's Yeast, taken in warm water, once a day, will stop the sugar cravings. Is this true?

By anon6947 — On Jan 13, 2008

I have just read an post about feeding Daphnia (very small crustaceans) Brewers Yeast. The guy suggested adding HOT WATER to the yeast to de-activate it. This makes sense as when I am Home brewing adding the yeast to the Wort at to high a temperature (34 degree cel. and over) means the yeast DIES. I have also been told mixing it with Apple cider vinegar does the trick ... though it would then taste rather vinegary!

By anon4805 — On Nov 02, 2007

Where do I buy this and how to cook and eat?

How to tell the difference between active and inactive brewers yeast?

By anon4487 — On Oct 20, 2007

How Can I Eat It ? (cooked, raw ..) ?

By anon3778 — On Sep 16, 2007

I've heard that brewers yeast can increase milk supply in a nursing mom. Is this true and what are the side effects?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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