Yeast is a fungus. Bakers and beer brewers use some species of yeast in food production. Yeast is present in a number of popular foods and beverages, from candy to kombucha.
Another species of yeast, candida, naturally exists in the body but is known for causing imbalances that lead to a yeast infection. Typically other microorganisms like naturally-occurring bacteria keep it in check. However, antibiotic use or other lifestyle factors can allow candida to grow unchecked in the vagina, in the throat, on the skin, or in the gut. In rare cases, it can also affect internal organs.
Some people have a yeast allergy or intolerance. If you’re allergic to yeast, you may get hives or experience an anaphylactic reaction when consuming it. If you have an intolerance or sensitivity to it, yeast may cause digestive issues.
Many people with a yeast allergy are also allergic to other fungi like mold. If you have a fungi allergy, you may want to avoid eating foods with yeast, moldy foods, and foods that involve other fungi in their production.
Why You Should Eat Less Yeast
Only those with an allergy or intolerance to yeast should avoid it in their diets. Eating less yeast may also be part of a temporary elimination diet to diagnose food allergies or sensitivities. In this type of diet, you eliminate various foods from your diet for two to four weeks under the care of a doctor, nutritionist, or dietician.
Some yeast-free or low-yeast diets claim to help candida infections. However, there is no scientific evidence that a yeast-free candida diet helps candidiasis, the name for the condition associated with candida overgrowth.
Foods With Yeast
Leavened Baked Goods
Breads, muffins, croissants, biscuits, and other baked goods usually contain yeast. Bakers use it to make the products rise. Yeast can also add flavor to baked goods, depending on the type of yeast used.
Some cereals contain malt — fermented barley made with yeast — meaning anyone with a yeast allergy should avoid them. Malt may appear on ingredients lists as "malt syrup," or "malt extract."
Many types of candy also contain malt.. People with yeast allergies should read ingredient labels very carefully before eating candy.
Beer, Malt Liquor, and Hard Ciders
These alcoholic drinks are all fermented with yeast. Different strains of yeast lead to different flavor profiles. Yeast is still present in the finished product, meaning anyone with a yeast allergy needs to avoid them.
All types of alcohol have trace levels of yeast. Those with a more severe allergy may need to avoid all alcohol. Some people with a more moderate allergy may be able to drink small amounts of lower-yeast alcoholic products like vodka. You may need to work with an allergist to determine what types of alcohol you can drink and how much of them you should drink.
Kombucha is a fermented beverage made from sugar, tea, yeast, and bacteria. Some people mistakenly refer to it as "mushroom tea." However, the fungus used to brew kombucha is actually a yeast, not a mushroom.
Yeast is also found in soy sauce, a fermented soy and wheat product. You can buy this condiment off the shelf, but it’s also an ingredient in many popular products and dishes.
Some types of miso, a fermented product made from rice or soy, use yeast in the fermentation process.
Berries & Grapes
Yeast is not only added to foods, but it also grows in the wild. It is found in small amounts on berries and grapes. For some with a yeast allergy, this small amount is enough to cause an allergic reaction.
Some companies that seek to be more allergy-friendly have created yeast-free bread. Ener-g, Food For Life, and Hummlinger are brands that offer yeast-free options. You can also make yeast-free bread at home. Soda bread uses baking soda instead of yeast as a raising agent. Another idea is to use unleavened crispbreads, like matzah, Ryvita crackers, or rice cakes.
Some make the mistake of thinking that gluten-free also means yeast-free, but this is not necessarily true. Many gluten-free products have yeast in them. Read ingredient labels to make sure a product is yeast-free before you eat it if you have an allergy.
Tamari is made with little or no wheat, meaning it can be a gluten-free and yeast-free alternative to soy sauce.
As with yeast-free bread, some companies have also created yeast-free cereals. You can also make your own yeast-free granola at home.
Businesses have also made candy products for those with a yeast allergy. Making your own candies at home is another way to ensure they’re yeast-free.