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Is Vegemite Good For You, And Does It Have Any Health Benefits?

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Last Updated Jan 07, 2021

Is Vegemite Good For You, And Does It Have Any Health Benefits?

Contents

  1. What is Vegemite?
  2. Origin & History of Vegemite
    1. Meet the founders: Fred Walker & Cyril Callister
  3. Vegemite Consumption in Australia and the World
    1. Why is it so popular in Australia?
  4. What Makes It Different From Marmite?
  5. What's in Vegemite?
    1. How is it made?
    2. Nutritional content of vegemite
  6. Is Vegemite Healthy?
    1. Conditions vegemite may be good for
    2. Precautions about vegemite consumption
    3. Studies & research on vegemite

Let's be honest - you either love Vegemite or you loathe it - simple as that.

The earthy, yeasty, slightly salty spread is not for everyone - and certainly divides opinions, but it is as Australian as a koala. So much so that is also called black velvet by true aficionados.

Whether or not to include this savoury spread in your meals depends on your taste buds and dietary needs. You'd be well served to get advice from a naturopath about what you should and shouldn't be including in your diet. Vively Healthcare is helping people with persistent health conditions to identify the root cause of their condition and design a personalised holistic healthcare plan to treat the underlying cause. They're now offering a free no-obligation initial treatment plan designed for you by a naturopath online.

So if you haven't tried Vegemite yet, get yourself a bottle to work out if you are a yay or nay. Marmite - for anyone who has tasted Vegemite's British cousin - is pretty close in terms of taste and texture, though different enough to not get any lawyers involved.

For those fans who happily slather the black spread on their morning toast with glee, have you ever wondered what the health benefits – and possible risks – of Vegemite are? Let's take a look at what is in the black, red and yellow tubs - and if this yeast extract has any health benefits.

What is Vegemite?

Vegemite is a quintessential Australian food, much loved by generations of Aussies. The thick near-black paste is often spread on bread and can even be added to cooking like stews and soups for an extra flavour punch.

Origin & History of Vegemite

About 98% of Australian homes have Vegemite in their pantry, but the food brand didn't clinch its success overnight. The formulation of Vegemite began in the 1800s with Justus von Liebig, a German scientist who discovered that leftover brewer's yeast didn't have to go straight into the bin; it can be turned into something edible. A few years after his discovery, Marmite was born, a salty, sticky food spread made from the exact yeast extract developed by Liebig.

Marmite quickly gained popularity in the United Kingdom and eventually made its rounds in New Zealand and Australia. However, its supply to Australia was cut off during the war.

Meet the founders: Fred Walker & Cyril Callister

In 1922, which was a time of war, Australian businessman Fred Walker and chemist Cyril Callister teamed up to create a new variety of yeast-based spread to replace Marmite as its supply to Australia was cut off. Using the leftover yeast extracts from the beer production process in Carlton & United Breweries in Melbourne, Callister was able to produce a food paste which mimics the characteristics of Marmite, except for the addition of some vegetable extracts. In 1923, Vegemite came to be.

Vegemite didn't take off instantly, but when its owners thought of bundling it with some giveaways and including it in food packs rationed to Australian soldiers, the brand successfully captured people's hearts.

Vegemite Consumption in Australia and The World

Like Marmite, Vegemite was initially used as a sandwich spread by many households. But, it didn't take long for Australians to discover its many other uses thanks to cookbooks and recipes published in various magazines. As well as setting the perfect breakfast combo for Aussies, the spread also became a staple seasoning and ingredient for all kinds of dishes, pastries, desserts and sauces.

Statistical data shows that 23 million jars of Vegemite are sold every year, 30 of which are sold in Australia for every jar that is exported. In their 2019 report, Bega Cheese Ltd., which is Vegemite's parent company, said their total export sales reached $523 million. In the same year, the company launched gluten-free Vegemite.

Vegemite consumption in Australia & the World

Why is it so popular in Australia?

Vegemite is part of the Australian culture as practically everyone who was raised in the country grew up with this iconic brand. Before it became a breakfast staple and a favourite ingredient for various recipes, Vegemite filled up Australian soldiers during the war, plus its wholesome commercial jingle back in the 50s added to its popularity.

It's no doubt Australia's most trusted food brand, so much so that it has managed to get the country's celebrated athletes like Ash Barty to endorse it. 

What Makes It Different From Marmite?

If you want your toast or biscuit slathered with a viscous spread, get a jar of Vegemite. If you want it syrupy, go for Marmite. Besides the difference in texture and consistency, there is also a slight difference in taste. Although both spreads are salty, the latter has a tinge of sweetness to it while Vegemite has a rich, savoury flavour.  

Marmite may be the world's original food spread, but Vegemite has managed to outmanoeuvre its sales through constant innovation. The latter has reduced its sodium content from 10% to 8% to become more healthful. Also, the product's label explicitly states that it's packed with B vitamins and vegan certified, making it ideal for people who refuse the inclusion of animal products in their diet.

What's in Vegemite?

Vegemite is made from brewer's yeast extract, combined with vegetable extract, malt extract, and then infused with B vitamins, namely niacin, thiamine, folate and riboflavin. The label also states that it has natural caramel colour and flavours added to it.

How is it made?

Every jar is made with heaps of care. The factory workers in Vegemite's Melbourne headquarters would wash and sanitise their hands before operating the massive pieces of equipment that are responsible for churning out the delicious spread.

The process begins with several tonnes of yeast from breweries broken down, and then the yeast extracts are concentrated. The yeast concentration is then mixed with malt extract, salt, vegetable extracts from onion and celery, and B vitamins before being poured into 23 million jars and distributed across Australia and other parts of the globe.

Nutritional content of vegemite

Based on the ingredients indicated on its label, Vegemite is a good source of B vitamins, which support cell health, boost your metabolism and reduce your risk of tumours and heart diseases. They also strengthen the nervous system and support the functions of the red blood cells. Malt, on the other hand, contains fibre and potassium that promote a healthy gut.

Vitamin B1

Vitamin B1, which is also known as thiamine, is responsible for converting carbohydrates into glucose, which provides the body with energy. It's also a nerve booster as it plays the important role of maintaining the health of the cells within the nervous system. Pork, fish, beans, nuts and whole grains are good sources of this vitamin.

Folate

Folate is another type of B-vitamin that forms the building blocks of the body's DNA and RNA, regenerates red and white blood cells and speeds up metabolism. Pregnant women are encouraged to eat foods rich in folic acid to maintain good health and prevent birth defects. Folate can be obtained from green, leafy vegetables, yeast, legumes, beef liver, broccoli, asparagus, eggs and oranges.

Vitamin B12

Vitamin B12 is an essential vitamin that supports the functions of the heart and brain. It increases energy, enhances memory, prevents heart disease as well as nerve damage. Meat, fish, cereals and dairy products are packed with this powerful vitamin.

Niacin

Also known as vitamin B2, niacin helps increase your energy and maintain the health of your nervous system, digestive system and skin. It also lowers cholesterol levels and prevents heart disease. Milk, yeast, cereals, chicken, fish and beef provide generous quantities of niacin.

Riboflavin

Vitamin B2, or riboflavin, prevents oxidation which is responsible for cell degeneration. It works with other B vitamins to produce energy in the body and maintain healthy skin and vision. This important vitamin can be found in meat, cruciferous vegetables, dairy products, nuts, cereals, brewer's yeast, whole grain, eggs and green, leafy vegetables.

Is Vegemite Healthy?

Let's open the bright yellow lid and take a look inside.

Is vegemite healthy?

The paste is packed with B vitamins, containing a great big dollop of niacin, riboflavin and thiamine. It also has 50 percent of the recommended daily intake for folate. You'll also get a good dose of calcium, magnesium, potassium, iron and selenium. These vitamins are known to help keep the skin and eyes healthy, improve cell health, boost the digestive system and keep your nerves in check.

So while Vegemite is considered a healthy spread, it's what you eat in conjunction with it that could get you into trouble - especially if these are also high in sodium. Be wary of the bread you choose – white being the least nutritious – and avoid the butter if you can or choose an alternative like coconut spread or avocado.

Conditions vegemite may be good for

Because it's packed with B vitamins, a teaspoon of Vegemite each day can help support your metabolism, improve your memory and keep depression at bay. In fact, some medical journals show that moderate consumption of Vegemite can address the following conditions:

  • High blood pressure
  • Depression and anxiety
  • Fatigue
  • Stress
  • Alcohol dependence
  • Headaches and migraines
  • Heart disease
  • Neoplasm

Precautions about vegemite consumption

Too much of everything is bad for you, even Vegemite. Considering its salt content, mind the amount you spoon out of the jar. A thin layer goes a long way, so don't let its appearance entice you to eat too much lest your internal organs suffer. In fact, you only need a teaspoon of it on your toast and it'll taste like heaven. The same amount will do for your soup, pasta and other recipes.

Vegemite's sodium content   

One teaspoon, or 5 grams to be exact, of Vegemite contains 165mg of sodium. The Heart Foundation recommends that adults consume less than 5g (2,000-2,300mg) of salt a day—so you should really go easy on the Vegemite and spread it thinly to avoid falling foul of this guidance.

If you only eat it occasionally there should be no problem with enjoying Vegemite, though you do need to monitor your diet holistically. To counter the high salt content, the makers of Vegemite have also introduced a low-salt version, which is said to have 25% less sodium than the original recipe.

Is it safe for kids?

Vegemite may be included in your child's diet, so long as they consume it sparingly. It's also worth noting that it's a healthier option to sugar-laden spreads like peanut butter, which is the culprit of diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular disease, fatty liver disease and certain types of cancer. 

Studies & research on vegemite

Extensive research conducted on Vegemite shows that the food paste, along with similar yeast-based spreads, is worth having in your pantry as it offers numerous benefits. Medical journals, as well as researchers from several universities, have, in fact, found that the spread's B vitamins can help reduce anxiety and stress in people who consume at least a teaspoon of it per week.

In a comparative study which involved about 8,000,000 individuals, those who ate a piece of toast with a thin layer of Vegemite once a week exhibited higher levels of energy and reduced symptoms of depression and anxiety than individuals in the control group.    

So, go easy on the spread and you'll be one happy little Vegemite indeed!

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Originally published on Mar 03, 2018

FAQs About Vegemite

Is Vegemite vegan?

Vegemite was certified vegan by Vegan Australia in 2019. This Australian spread, which has a dark brownish colour and velvety texture, is made from brewer's yeast.

A single serving of Vegemite contains several vitamins and minerals, including B vitamins, thiamine, niacin, riboflavin, calcium, magnesium, iron, potassium and selenium. However, it was also found to contain 173mg of sodium, which is almost half of the recommended daily salt intake, so it would be best to enjoy it in moderation.

What is Vegemite made from?

Vegemite is a popular brand of spread in Australia which is made from brewer's yeast extract. It also contains various vitamins and minerals.

Can dogs eat Vegemite?

Vegemite is safe for human consumption, but you will want to think twice before mixing it in your dog's food as it contains high amounts of sodium. A dog can only have a maximum of 25g of salt a day, otherwise they could suffer from sodium poisoning if they couldn't wash it off by drinking plenty of water.

Is Vegemite gluten-free?

No. According to the FAQs section of Vegemite's website, their spread contains malt extract derived from barley. It also has yeast extract grown on barley and wheat. Gluten is found in both wheat and barley.

How should you eat Vegemite?

Vegemite is best served on toast or crackers. Other big fans of this Australian spread, which is a combination of salty and malty, add it to their casserole to make it more flavourful.

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