Vegemite is a popular, savory spread made from leftover brewer’s yeast. It has a rich, salty taste and is a symbol of Australia’s national identity (1).
With over 22 million jars of Vegemite sold each year, Australians just can’t seem to get enough. Some doctors and dietitians even recommend it as a source of B vitamins (2). Yet, outside of Australia, many people wonder what Vegemite is good for.
This article explains what Vegemite is, its uses, health benefits and more.
WHAT IS VEGEMITE?
Vegemite is a thick, black, salty spread made from leftover brewer’s yeast.
The yeast is combined with salt, malt extract, the B vitamins thiamine, niacin, riboflavin and folate, as well as vegetable extract, giving Vegemite the unique flavor that Australians love so much (1).
In 1922, Cyril Percy Callister developed Vegemite in Melbourne, Australia, with the intention of providing Australians with a local alternative to the British Marmite.
Vegemite’s popularity soared during World War II. It was promoted as a health food for children after the British Medical Association endorsed it as a rich source of B vitamins (3). Though the endorsement as a health food stands even today, many people now eat Vegemite simply for its taste.
It’s commonly spread onto sandwiches, toast and crackers. Some bakeries in Australia also use it as a filling in pastries and other baked goods.
VEGEMITE IS NUTRITIOUS
Vegemite has a distinct flavor that people either love or hate. Yet, its taste isn’t the only reason people eat it. It’s also incredibly nutritious. One teaspoon (5-gram) serving of standard Vegemite provides (4):
- Calories: 11
- Protein: 1.3 grams
- Fat: Less than 1 gram
- Carbs: Less than 1 gram
- Vitamin B1 (thiamine): 50 percent of the RDI
- Vitamin B9 (folate): 50 percent of the RDI
- Vitamin B2 (riboflavin): 25 percent of the RDI
- Vitamin B3 (niacin): 25 percent of the RDI
- Sodium: 7 percent of the RDI
Aside from the original version, Vegemite comes in many other flavors, such as Cheesybite, Reduced Salt and Blend 17. These different types also vary in their nutrient profiles. For instance, Reduced Salt Vegemite provides less sodium, yet also one-fourth of your daily vitamin B6 and vitamin B12 needs (4).
THE B VITAMINS IN VEGEMITE MAY HAVE POWERFUL HEALTH BENEFITS
Vegemite is an excellent source of B vitamins, which are essential for optimal health and linked to various health benefits (5).
May Boost Brain Health
B vitamins are very important for optimal brain health. Low blood levels of B vitamins have been linked to poor brain function and nerve damage.
For instance, low vitamin B12 levels have been associated with poor learning and memory. In addition, people with a vitamin B1 deficiency may suffer from poor memory, learning difficulties, delirium and even brain damage (6, 7).
Conversely, higher intakes of B vitamins, such as B2, B6 and B9, have been linked to better learning and memory performance, especially among people with mental impairment (8).
That said, it’s unclear if B vitamins can boost your brain health if you’re not deficient.
May Reduce Fatigue
Fatigue is a common problem that affects millions of people worldwide. One underlying cause of fatigue is a deficiency in one or more B vitamins.
Since B vitamins play an essential role in converting your food into fuel, it’s no wonder that fatigue and low energy are common symptoms of B vitamin deficiency (9).
On the other hand, correcting a B vitamin deficiency can improve your energy levels (10).
May Help Reduce Anxiety and Stress
Higher intakes of B vitamins have been linked to lower levels of stress and anxiety.
One study found that participants who regularly consumed yeast-based spreads like Vegemite experienced fewer symptoms of anxiety and stress. This is believed to be due to the vitamin B content of these spreads (11).
Several B vitamins are used to produce hormones that regulate mood, such as serotonin. What’s more, deficiency in several B vitamins has been linked to stress, anxiety and depression.
May Help Lower Heart Disease Risk Factors
Heart disease is responsible for one in every three deaths in the world (12).
Vitamin B3, which is present in Vegemite, may reduce heart disease risk factors like high triglycerides and “bad” LDL cholesterol in adults, particularly those with elevated levels.
First, a review of studies found vitamin B3 may lower triglyceride levels by 20–50 percent (13). Second, research has shown that vitamin B3 may lower LDL levels by 5–20 percent (14). Last, vitamin B3 may raise “good” HDL cholesterol levels by up to 35 percent (13, 15).
That said, vitamin B3 is not used as a standard treatment for heart disease, as high doses have been linked to uncomfortable side effects (16).
VEGEMITE IS LOW IN CALORIES
Compared to many spreads on the market, Vegemite is incredibly low in calories. In fact, a single teaspoon (5 grams) contains just 11 calories.
This is unsurprising since it only has 1.3 grams of protein and virtually no fat or sugar.
Vegemite lovers have no reason to worry about this spread affecting their waistlines. People trying to lose weight may find Vegemite a great low-calorie way to add flavor to their dishes.
In addition, because it contains almost no sugar, Vegemite won’t affect your blood sugar levels.
HOW TO EAT VEGEMITE
Not only is Vegemite flavorful, it’s also highly versatile and easy to add to your diet. While it’s promoted as a health food, many Aussies simply eat Vegemite for its taste.
The most common way to enjoy Vegemite is to spread a tiny amount onto a slice of bread. It can also add a salty kick to home-made pizzas, burgers, soups and casseroles.
HOW DOES IT COMPARE TO ALTERNATIVES?
Aside from Vegemite, Marmite and Promite are two other popular yeast-based spreads. Marmite is a British brewer’s yeast extract spread that was developed in 1902. Compared to Vegemite, Marmite contains (17):
- 30 percent less vitamin B1 (thiamine)
- 20 percent less vitamin B2 (riboflavin)
- 28 percent more vitamin B3 (niacin)
- 38 percent less vitamin B9 (folate)
In addition, Marmite provides 60 percent of an adult’s daily needs for vitamin B12 (cobalamin), which is only found in Reduced Salt Vegemite, not the original version.
Taste-wise, people find that Marmite has a richer and saltier taste than Vegemite.
Promite is another yeast-based spread that is also produced in Australia. Like Vegemite, it’s made from leftover brewer’s yeast and vegetable extract. On the other hand, Promite contains more sugar than Vegemite, giving it a sweeter taste.
Promite also differs nutritionally, as in 2013 its manufacturer removed vitamins B1, B2 and B3, as well as two flavor enhancers. According to Masterfoods’ customer care, this helped customers sensitive to these vitamins without affecting Promite’s taste or texture.
ANY HEALTH CONCERNS?
Vegemite is a healthy spread with very few health concerns.
However, some people worry that Vegemite contains too much sodium. A single teaspoon (5 grams) of Vegemite provides 5 percent of your daily sodium needs.
Sodium, which is largely found in salt, has gained a bad reputation, as it has been linked to heart conditions, high blood pressure and stomach cancers (18, 19).
However, sodium affects people differently. People who are most at risk of heart-related issues due to sodium intake are people with high blood pressure or salt sensitivity (20, 21).
Nonetheless, you can enjoy the taste of Vegemite even if you are concerned about its sodium content by choosing the Reduced Salt alternative. This option also provides a wider variety of B vitamins, making it a healthier choice than the original version.
Moreover, people typically use only a thin scrape of Vegemite due to its incredibly rich and salty flavor. This means they often consume less than the suggested teaspoon (5-gram) serving size.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Vegemite is an Australian spread made from leftover brewer’s yeast, salt, malt and vegetable extract. It’s an excellent source of vitamins B1, B2, B3 and B9. The Reduced Salt version even contains vitamins B6 and B12. These vitamins may support brain health and reduce fatigue, anxiety, stress and heart disease risk.
All told, Vegemite is a great option with few health concerns. It has a distinct, rich, salty taste that many Australians love and is easy to add to your diet.