Foods You Never Knew You Liked: Nutritional Yeast

This week’s feature food is not exactly a food, but might be more accurately described as a seasoning.  Nutritional- or, sometimes referred to as ‘brewer’s’- yeast is a staple for most vegetarian and vegan kitchens, and is about to become one of yours, too.

I was first introduced to this gem by a veg friend who used it on popcorn and in stir-fry.  She told me that she used it to boost her protein and B-vitamin levels.  She was right, too- not only is nutritional yeast very high in protein, but it contains amazing amounts of B-vitamins, particularly the sought-after B12.  It also contains a healthy dose of fiber- and, let’s be honest, we can all use a little more fiber in our diet!  Boasting all of these wonderful benefits, I had to give it a shot.

I bought a small bag of the off-yellow flakes from the bulk section at Whole Foods to give it a whirl, and soon found myself putting it on everything.  Seriously, this stuff is delicious.  I don’t know what it is about the taste, but I think that a sprinkle of nutritional yeast makes everything taste like heaven.  My favorite use for the seasoning is on my eggs in the morning, with a little sprinkle of grey rock salt and fresh pepper.  I have even been known to take a tiny Tupperware container of it with me when I travel or visit friends for a day or so.  I have a serious love affair!  Here are some other ideas for your new best friend:

Sprinkle on popcorn or pizza

Mix into green juice, smoothies, or a tomato juice drink

Fold into flour and breadcrumbs for a tasty breading

Toss whole grain noodles with olive oil and yeast

Stir into gravies and sauces

Puree with nuts and a little water to make a raw, vegan ‘cheese’

Sprinkle some on brown rice

Season eggs in the morning

The possibilities are endless, really.  Send me your creations!  You can buy nutritional yeast at your local health food store- if you’re lucky, maybe you can get the shaker container that Red Star and Bragg’s make!  Yum!

Foods You Never Knew You Liked: Coconut Water

A few nights ago, we were blessed to stay with a family in Charlotte, NC on our way to a tour stop in West Virginia. After dinner we went into their basement to watch a movie, where I discovered a health nut treasure trove: a refrigerator full of coconut water! It reminds me of living in South Florida and getting fresh coconuts from a ethnic grocery on Saturday afternoons. Needless to say, I had some in the morning after my run and, to my delight, the family sent me packing with four huge bottles to take on the road with me.

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When we got in the van, I was surprised to find that I was actually the only one excited about our new stash of hydration! Apparently several people in our crew were weirded out by the coconut water, or had taken a small a taste at breakfast and not been a fan. I am still working on making converts, but I wanted to share a bit about the benefits of coconut water with you all, and maybe you’ll try it, too!

Coconut water has been affectionately called “natures sports drink”- with more potassium than a banana and more electrolytes than Gatorade, it is the perfect, all natural companion to your workout. One serving also has 170% of you daily Vitamin C, which gives the immune system a great boost. It also comes in a Tetrapak, a new form of packaging that is completely recyclable- something to be proud of!

As for the taste- lets just say, for most people, it’s an acquired one. It is mostly sweet, not too coconutty, with a bit of a salty tinge to it. It takes some getting used to, but once you do, you’ll be hooked! Your body knows what is good for it- it’s not uncommon to start craving coconut water, even if you didn’t like it at first.

One of the great ways to use coconut water is mixing it with something else- another fruit juice, or- my favorite- as a smoothie base. The favors blend perfectly in with green smoothies and fruit smoothies, and give you a burst of healthy energy. As I mentioned before, I love it after(and during) a workout, and also during long car rides, as it is much better for your body than coffee, but has similar sustaining effects.

Here are some great brands you can find at your local grocery store:

Vita Coco
Zico
Naked

Many of them come in yummy favors, like pineapple, mango, even chocolate!

Have you tried coconut water before? How do you use it? Let me know!