Is Marmite good for you? The surprising health benefits of the savoury spread

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  • Whether you love it or hate it, is Marmite good for you?

    Marmite is a unique yeast extract spread that tends to divide opinion. An ONS survey previously found that equal numbers of people love and hate the spread. So there’s no clear majority in either camp.

    The iconic spread is a vegan-friendly food that’s been a breakfast staple for decades. Much of Marmite’s appeal comes from the simplicity of its ingredients, which include extracts of yeast, vegetables, spices and celery.

    But did you know that Marmite was actually created accidentally? It emerged as a by-product of the beer brewing process. So does the savoury spread actually have any health benefits?

    Here, we investigate the billion dollar question ‘is Marmite good for you?’ – with some pretty surprising (and positive!) results…

    Is Marmite good for you?

    Marmite is rich in B vitamins and has no added sugar. So, compared to some breakfast spreads like jam (or dare we say, Nutella) it is good for you.

    There are only 22 calories per serving in Marmite, so it’s definitely a low calorie spread option for toast. In addition, Marmite’s nutritional information shows that there is less than 0.1g of saturated fat and 0.5 g sugar per serving – which is under 1% of your recommended daily allowance.  A serving size is 8g of Marmite. Plenty to spread across your toast in the morning.

    Plus, researchers from the University of York found in 2017 that diet can affect how your brain works, with Marmite used in the study as a specific example for boosting brain power thanks to he high levels of vitamin B12 found in the spread. This suggests the possibility that Marmite is not just good for your body but it’s good for your brain too.

    Health benefits of Marmite

    Marmite boosts your brain power

    The 2017 study by researchers at York University looked at two groups – one who ate a teaspoon of Marmite per day, and one who ate the equivalent amount of peanut butter – and found that the high concentration of Vitamin B12 in Marmite could help to improve healthy brain function and even potentially protect against neurological disorders.

    Anika Smith, one of the authors of the research, said of the findings: ‘This is a really promising first example of how dietary interventions can alter cortical processes and a great starting point for exploring whether a more refined version of this technique could have some medical or therapeutic applications in the future.’

    It’s full of vitamins

    The same study also found that Marmite contains 116 times more B12 – which makes red blood cells and protects the nervous system – than peanut butter, but it’s vitamin-giving powers don’t stop there.

    Multiple jars of Marmite on a supermarket shelf

    (Credit: Getty)

    Marmite is also rich in vitamins B1, B2, and B3, and provides nearly 50% of your recommended daily allowance of folic acid (or vitamin B9) per serving. B vitamins help you to convert your food into fuel, stabilising your energy levels, whilst folic acid also helps your body to produce and maintain new cells, which is why the supplement is often recommended to help boost fertility and during pregnancy.

    Marmite is low in calories

    Per recommended 8g portion of Marmite, there’s only 22 calories and less than 0.5g of fat, which as toast-topper options go is actually pretty virtuous – and theoretically, because the flavour is so strong, you’ll only use it sparingly.

    It helps you sleep

    We’re all struggling to sleep at the moment and a lack of sleep isn’t good for our minds or bodies. Back in 2016, Lisa Artis, a spokesperson for The Sleep Council, recommended a banana, lettuce and Marmite sandwich (no, really!) as one of the best things to eat if you want to fix your sleep problems.

    ‘The Romans thought that lettuce was good for sleep,’ she explained. ‘But the crème-de-la-crème ‘sleep sandwich’ has to be a banana, Marmite and lettuce butty. Banana is an excellent source of magnesium and potassium, which help to relax over-stressed muscles. They also contain all-important tryptophan to stimulate production of those key brain-calming hormones – and Marmite also contains natural substances that help induce sleep.’

    It could help cure a hangover

    It’s up to you whether you give this one a try, but it’s been reported that Marmite is actually a key ingredient in a popular hangover home remedy in Sri Lanka.

    The spread is used as the base of a drink. It’s mixed hot water, lime juice and fried sliced onion and those who’ve given it a go supposedly swear by its healing properties. Best of luck to anyone who can face that strong, savoury flavour after a big night out. We’ll be sticking to Bloody Mary cocktails for now…