Yeast Comes from Nature
Yeast is a microorganism classified as a member of the fungus family. Yeast has been an important component of spontaneous fermentation in food and beverage processing for millennia. Humans learned how to use yeast to make bread roughly five thousand years ago, without even understanding how yeast makes bread rise. It was only in 1857 that the fermentation process that allows the bread to rise and how it contributes to bread’s aromas and flavors was understood by the French scientist Louis Pasteur.
Yeast, an Edible and Safe Ingredient
Yeast, also known as “Baker’s Yeast” or “Brewer’s Yeast”, has an extensive history of use in our food. This microorganism whose scientific name is Saccharomyces cerevisiae is naturally rich in proteins, vitamins, and minerals and can be safely consumed. The safety of yeast is widely recognized, among others by the Food and Drug Administration in the United States.
Do you know the superpowers of wine yeasts, for example? The main yeast involved in alcoholic fermentation is Saccharomyces cerevisiae. It’s the same yeast that causes bread to ferment as well as beer and other fermented beverages. What is less widely recognized is that yeasts create natural aromatic compounds that may have an impact on the wine’s flavor. They release antioxidants during aging that help the wine stay longer and soften the tannins, which may be harsh. Even when they’re inactive (or dead), these yeasts have beneficial and safe properties.
Some strains of Saccharomyces cerevisiae are also relevant probiotics, which are not only safe but also provide health benefits by restoring the gut microbiota” by positively shaping the gut microbiota.
Yeast, a Natural Microscopic Factory
Yeast can transform sugars (like sugars provided by flour) into alcohol and carbon dioxide. The carbon dioxide causes the dough to rise, while the alcohol evaporates during baking. Furthermore, the fermentation of sugars from cereals and grapes by yeast is the basis for making beer and wine.
Yeast can use molecules from its environment (sugars, lipids, amino acids…) to produce all elements needed for its growth. Today yeast is produced at an industrial scale, but it is still a living microorganism from natural origins.
From Yeast to Yeast Extract, Safe and Natural
Yeast is not only a safe ingredient for use at home and in the food industry but is also a natural way to improve the taste of food and beverages with yeast extracts. As opposed to artificial flavoring, yeast extracts come from natural origins and are not considered food additives. Yeast extracts are blends of natural components that take advantage of the various minerals and proteins inherent in yeast. Additionally, they are used in food manufacturing as aromatic ingredients like herbs and spices.
Yeast, the Protein Alternative
There is a growing trend in vegan, vegetarian, and flexitarian diets, with more people looking to eat less or no meat. Meat alternatives are often seen as a step towards a healthier and more sustainable diet. Yeast is naturally rich in protein, making it perfect for meeting this challenge. In fact, the process of fermentation turns yeast cells into a revolutionary protein source. These yeast proteins have high nutritional quality and are highly digestible, making them a natural and safe way to replace animal proteins. Moreover, unlike some plant-based protein alternatives, yeast proteins are gluten-free.
The knowledge accumulated on yeast in the past twenty years has opened new doors for producing interesting products including those for healthcare and nutrition. Yeast has been a safe and widely used ingredient for centuries and will continue to evolve and be a fundamental source of protein, vitamins, and minerals to help us all stay healthy and happy long into the future!