Autolyzed Yeast: Fit For Food?

No doubt you read labels diligently in order to avoid unclean and unsafe ingredients.  And of course we must avoid leavening agents during the Feast of Unleavened Bread. But what is “autolyzed yeast extract”?

Listed among the ingredients of “natural” packaged foods, it seems harmless.  After all, it’s just yeast, right? Not exactly.  While it may have started out as “just yeast,” its stint in the “Frankenfood” laboratory has rendered it frightening.  As any good baker knows, salt and live yeast don’t mix. The salt destroys the yeast’s ability to raise dough. But scientifically speaking, salt doesn’t actually kill yeast.  When salt and yeast meet, a chemical process called “autolysis” happens. The yeast begins to digest itself with its own enzymes, creating an inactive yeast with a high concentration of proteins and a hearty beef-like flavor.  Self-digestion is disturbing enough, but the effects of autolyzed yeast are even more unsettling.  Used as a flavor enhancer, autolyzed yeast (like MSG) enhances the flavor of food by chemically altering human taste buds, making it easier for us to detect savory or meaty flavors.  It also stimulates brain cells to remember a taste and make you want more of a snack that would otherwise not be so addictive.  Because of its chemical similarity to MSG, autolyzed yeast can trigger similar allergic reactions including headaches, flushing, nausea, numbness or tingling, and chest pain.

 The bottom line:  Even products that claim to be “all natural” can contain ingredients that you don’t want to ingest.  Learn more about potentially harmful additives at

by: Lora Wilson

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Posted in Clean Foods, Kosher, and Nutrition, Come to the Garden.
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