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A. Yes, a yeast spread such as Vegemite is a rich source of Thiamin or vitamin B1. In terms of your requirements, adults need 1.1 mg (women) and 1.2 mg (men) of Thiamin a day. Children need less depending on their body weight, e.g. a child aged 4 to 8 years needs 0.6mg which is just about half the adult amount.
What’s in Vegemite?
According to the Vegemite website, a 5 gram teaspoon (which is quite a thick spread on a slice of toast) supplies you with 0.55mg, which is equivalent to 50 per cent of the adult’s recommended intake. So you’re halfway there if you like a thick slather on your bread or toast.
|Ingredients: Yeast Extract, Salt, Mineral Salt (508), Malt Extract (From Barley), Natural Colour (150d)(Contains Preservative 220), Vegetable Extract, Niacin, Thiamine, Riboflavin, Folate.|
Watch the salt
My only concern is the highly salted taste of Vegemite and other similar spreads. The salt and low moisture content is what helps them keep well in your cupboard without refrigeration but also contributes to our already high salt intake. Remember that salt is sodium chloride – it’s the sodium part that’s the problem.
Yes, the manufacturer Kraft have taken steps to reduce the salt level gradually over past years so it has less salt now than 10 years ago but there’s a critical minimum they can’t drop below without affecting its taste appeal and shelf life.
So that same 5 gram teaspoon will leave you with 173mg of sodium when your maximum for the day is 2000mg. Not a lot but it’s coming from something small and concentrated and it perpetuates your liking for salty foods. Vegemite has no added sugar (compare the other ‘mites’ below) and total sugars are only 2 per cent.
Apparently Kraft have launched a salt-reduced Vegemite with 25 per cent less sodium (not a huge drop but better than nothing) plus added Vitamin B6 and B12. See here.
Vegemite also supplies three other B vitamins - riboflavin B2, niacin B3 and folate which all function to release the energy from the food you eat. It has virtually no fat and is made from spent brewer’s yeast which is a waste end-product from the brewing process, so a good way to re-use what would otherwise be thrown out. If you love it, I suggest you scrape it on thinly to minimise the salty flavour and look to whole grains, vegetables and lean meats for the rest of your B1.
Or for a quick history of Vegemite and why Aussies love it so much, you’ll enjoy this. Click here.
Don't like Vegemite?
If you don’t like Vegemite, here are 3 other easy ways to meet your recommended intake of B1 for the whole day. Have a:
Ham sandwich (with 50g ham on 2 slices wholemeal bread)
Bowl cereal (40g) plus 1 tablespoon (20g) wheatgerm
Bowl (50g) muesli with 1 or 2 tablespoons rice bran.
What about the other ‘mites’?
While Vegemite probably has the lion’s share of the Aussie market and has become a quintessential Aussie icon, there are five other similar products out there - Marmite, Promite, OzEmite, Aussiemite and Mightymite. All are yeast and or vegetable extracts and have their own claims to fame, so-to-speak.
Sanitarium claims that “Marmite is Australia’s original yeast spread”. It has 1.5 stars in the new Health Star Rating.
|Ingredients: Yeast, sugar, salt, mineral salt (potassium chloride), colour (caramel III), corn maltodextrin, mineral (iron), vitamins (niacin, thiamin, riboflavin, folate, B12), herbs, spices.|
It contains 166mg of sodium per 5g serve and like Vegemite a 5g serve will give you 0.55mg of vitamin B1, or half your daily requirement. It also contains B2, B3, folate and B12. Note that sugar is second on the ingredient list and total sugars make up 11.2 per cent. Read more about Marmite here.
Promite is made by MasterFoods and is a “a vegetable and yeast extract”.
|Ingredients: Vegetable Protein Extract, Sugar, Yeast Extract, Water, Colour (Caramel 150C), Salt, Cornflour, (from Wheat), Glucose Syrup (From Wheat), Onion, Emulsifier (Glycerol Monostearate), Thickener (Modified Cornstarch) Food Acid (Citric), Vegetable Gum (Carrageenan), Spice extract.|
It contains the same level of B1 as Vegemite and Marmite but more sodium (242mg). It also contains B2 and B3. Like Marmite, sugar is second on the ingredient list and total sugars are 18.5 per cent. Read more about Promite here.
According to the website, OzEmite is Australian Made, Australian Owned. (It is made by Dick Smith Foods).
|Ingredients: Yeast and Vegetable Extracts (41.8%), Maize Starch (1401), Maltodextrin, Water, Sugar, Yeast, Natural Caramel Colour (150a), Natural Colour (153), Food Acid (330), Niacin, Thiamine, Riboflavin, Folate.|
Like Vegemite and Marmite, it contains .55mg of B1 per 5g serve. Sodium is 150mg per serve and sugar is the 6th listed ingredient with total sugars being 14.6 per cent. Read more about OzEmite here.
AussieMite, according to its website, is “rich in vitamin B, B12 and folic acid”; is “ gluten-free and endorsed by Coeliac Australia.” It is also “Vegan friendly, no added salt, nuts, artificial colours or preservatives.” The “no added salt” is a bit of a furphy as the salt content is actually higher than most of the other “mites” at 197mg of sodium. It delivers .6mg of B1 per 5g serve and also contains B2, B3, folate and B12. It does, however, have no added sugar and the lowest total sugars content of them all at .5 per cent.
|Ingredients: Vegetable Protein Extract (corn), Maltodextrin (corn), Corn Thickener (1401), Yeast Extract, Sugar, Yeast, Citric Acid (330), Caramel colour (150c), Niacin, Riboflavin, Thiamine, Folic Acid, Vitamin B12, Water Added.|
This spread is made by Three Threes who claim that it is “100% Australian Owned and Made and is Gluten Free”. It is has 157mg of sodium per 5g serve and is low in sugar at 3.9 per cent (sugar being 6th in the list of ingredients.
|Ingredients: Water, Bakers Yeast Extract, Potato maltodextrin, Thickener (1412) (from tapioca), white vinegar, sugar, mineral salts (508, 509), hydrolyzed vegetable protein, emulsifier (471), salt, colour (150d), antioxidant (300), vegetable extract, niacin, thiamin,riboflavin, folate, vitamin b12.|
While the B1 is listed in the ingredients I was unable to find a quantity for it. You can read more about MightMite here.
The bottom line
All these spreads contain B vitamins. If you were choosing on the basis of nutrition, you’d go for the one with the least salt and least sugar. However, I suspect that with these products, the choice will come down to individual taste. So just be aware what’s in your ‘mite’ and adjust your consumption accordingly.