Is being a happy little Vegemite a healthy choice? This dietitian weighs in.
Vegemite is the quintessential Aussie spread. In fact, 22 million tubs of the stuff are manufactured each and every year.
Chances are you eat it on the reg, but do you even know what it’s made from? Yeast extract and salt, with some micronutrients added during processing.
Unfortunately for our coeliac friends, Vegemite doesn’t suit your gluten-free diet. But for the millions of other Aussies who love this salty spread, you might be interested to know how it stacks up in the nutrition stakes.
It’s got a good foundation
Of course, you can’t have Vegemite without a slice or two of bread.
Most people are pretty happy to hear that bread isn’t bad for you (#carbsarelife), but it’s actually true. In fact, bread can be a nourishing addition to a healthy diet.
Like most other foods though, there are healthier varieties. As a dietitian, I would suggest to opt for a wholegrain loaf. It’ll provide more fibre than its white counterpart, which is key for a healthy gut, as well as quality carbs for long-lasting energy and some important micronutrients, too.
For those aged between 19-50, you might be surprised to learn that you’re recommended to have six serves of grains every day. So, a couple of slices of vegemite on toast actually contributes two serves to your daily target.
There’s really no need to be scared of carbs. The key is to choose unrefined ones and eat them in the right proportions.
It’s not as bad as you think
While Vegemite has a bad rap for its high-sodium content, it probably doesn’t contribute as much as you might think.
You see, a 5 gram serve (a little over half a teaspoon) as outlined on the nutrition panel contains 165 grams of sodium. To put that into perspective, that’s not even 10 per cent of your suggested dietary target. FYI, that’s the level we’re recommended to keep our sodium intake under to help prevent chronic disease.
Considering that most people only have a tiny smear, it’s likely you’re consuming even less sodium than that.
There’s more good news: there’s even a salt-reduced version, which would be my variety of choice.
If the rest of your diet is low in processed and packaged foods, which are notorious for their high-sodium content, including a smidgen of Vegemite on toast as part of your weekly breakfast rotations is fine by me.
It’s full of nutrients
Vegemite contains the vitamins thiamine, riboflavin and niacin. These B vitamins play key roles in energy metabolism.
It is also a source of folate, which is necessary to make our DNA and is particularly important for mothers-to-be. Just a 5 gram serve of this flavoursome spread provides a quarter of your recommended daily intake, or about 17 per cent if you’re pregnant.
The reduced salt variety is even fortified with vitamin B12, which is key for DNA production as well as blood and nervous system function. This nutrient is usually only found in animal foods, so having it added to a spread is quite handy for our vegan friends.
Of course, these nutrients are found in many other foods, too – so there’s no need to worry if you’re not a Vegemite fan.
It’s a good start that can be made a little healthier
Now, I’m not touting Vegemite as a miracle superfood. I’m just a big believer in everything in moderation. If you love your Vegemite, there are a few simple tweaks to make this typical Aussie breakfast a little healthier.
For a dietitian-approved makeover, opt for the reduced-salt variety. Add some avocado slices to your Vegemite toast for a boost of healthy fats or even a slice of low-fat cheese for a protein hit. Serve alongside some vegies (think roasted tomatoes, sautéed mushies or fresh spinach) for a meal that’s a bit more reflective of the healthy-plate model.
So there you have it. You can be a happy little vegemite.
Melissa Meier is a Sydney-based Accredited Practising Dietitian. You can follow her @honest_nutrition.
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