Vegemite: Is It Good For You?

Vegemite is a nutritious and tasty natural food spread made by Kraft Foods. People everywhere enjoy this healthy and unusual product, though the brand originated in Australia. 

Produced since the early 1920s, Vegemite is created from leftover brewers’ yeast extract, a byproduct of beer manufacturing. Producers add various vegetable flavors and spices. The final product is a dark brown spread similar in texture to peanut butter. 

Vegemite’s flavor is a source of debate. It contains a high level of sodium, so it’s not surprising that some say the primary flavor is saltiness. Others describe Vegemite as bitter or savory. It is commonly spread on toast as a snack, but some chefs use it to flavor stocks and soups.

The spread can be found in just about every home “down under”. Some Australians even pack a jar of Vegemite in their luggage when they travel overseas, just to be on the safe side. 

Vegemite is a rich source of the B vitamins essential for optimal brain health.  

Nutrition Information

One 5 gram (approximately 1 teaspoon) serving of Vegemite contains: 

Vegemite is a good source of vitamins in the form of: 

Because of its high levels of B vitamins, Vegemite has been prescribed by doctors as a health supplement. One teaspoon provides 25 to 50 % of your daily recommended intake of the vitamins listed above. 

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Potential Health Benefits of Vegemite

The B vitamins in Vegemite are water-soluble, key components in metabolic processes that energize your body. 

Research has found many potential health benefits of vegemite:

Lower Risk of Birth Disabilities

The folate B vitamin in Vegemite can help prevent neural tube birth defects, including anencephaly (when a baby is born without parts of the brain and skull) and spina bifida (occurs when the spine and spinal cord don't form properly). This is why folate is a key ingredient in prenatal vitamins. 

Migraine Prevention

Vegemite contains a notable amount of vitamin B2 (riboflavin). Studies show riboflavin may help reduce the frequency of migraines in people who experience such headaches.

Reducing Cholesterol Levels

The niacin in Vegemite can help reduce “bad” LDL (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol, which can improve heart health. But it’s important to work with a doctor to determine how much to consume.  Too much niacin can be dangerous.

Alcohol Dependency Treatment

Vegemite contains thiamin (vitamin B1), which may help some people reduce their heavy drinking. Research shows that women suffering from an alcohol dependency, especially, may benefit from increased thiamin consumption.

Potential Risks of Vegemite

Vegemite is high in sodium — one teaspoon contains 5 % of your daily recommended value. This can negatively impact blood pressure and increase the risk of heart disease. 

Healthier Alternatives

If you’re concerned about sodium in Vegemite, you can get some of the same nutritional benefits by adding yeast flakes to your diet. Nutritional yeast contains a high level of B vitamins, without added salt.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on November 03, 2020

Sources

SOURCES: 

Arizona State University, The Embryo Project Encyclopedia: “Neural Tube Defects (NTD): Folic Acid & Pregnancy.”

Avondale College: “A sodium loaded trap? What should schools tell students about cheese?”

Harvard Health Publishing: “On call: Niacin for cholesterol.”

Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health: “Salt and Sodium.”

Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health: “Riboflavin - Vitamin B2”

Journal of Functional Foods: “Yeast based spreads reduce anxiety and stress.”

National Museum Australia: “Vegemite — an Australian take on a British product.”

Peer J: “Kerr, Edward D, and Benjamin L Schulz. “Vegemite Beer: yeast extract spreads as nutrient supplements to promote fermentation.”

UC San Diego Health: “Nutritional Yeast Flakes Rise to the Occasion.”

The University of Kansas Medical Center: “Study shows vitamin B1 may help women with drinking problems moderate their consumption.”

Vegemite: “Heritage.”

Vegemite: “Products.”

What’s Cooking America: “Vegemite History and Recipe.”

© 2020 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.

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