Vegemite on toast

The Sandwich Spread American Children Need To Be Eating More Of

Many Americans have probably never heard of Vegemite, a sandwich spread commonly used in Australia. If they have tried it, they may not have liked it. In America, common sandwich spreads are sweet, like Nutella, marshmallow fluff, or peanut butter that contains added sugars. Meanwhile, Vegemite is a black and salty mixture made of concentrated yeast extract. It’s often spread sparingly on bread along with butter, avocado, or cheese. It’s also an acquired taste, meaning it can taste awful to those who never tried it before. Still, it’s worth sampling, especially for young children. The salty and savory flavor can become a healthier counterpart to overly-sweetened spreads.

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What is Vegemite?

Vegemite is a thick spread made of brewer’s yeast, salt, malt extract, and vegetable extract, combined with the B vitamins thiamine, niacin, riboflavin, and folate. It was invented in 1922 in Melbourne, Australia, by Cyril Percy Callister. He set out to make a local, Australian version of the British spread Marmite. It became popular during World War II when promoted as a healthy food item for children. The health claims still stand today but most people eat it for the taste, often on toast, crackers, and sandwiches. Additionally, some Australian bakeries fill pastries and other baked goods with it.

One teaspoon of standard Vegemite is low in carbs and calories and has virtually no sugar or fat.  It also contains plenty of B vitamins. These vitamins are linked to multiple health benefits. These include boosting brain functions such as learning and memory, reducing fatigue, reducing stress and anxiety, and lowering risk factors related to heart disease. [1]

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In a world where most processed foods contain sugar, children’s taste buds become affected negatively. “Biologically, children are predisposed to over-consume all that is sweet,” said Dr. Julie Mennella, a biopsychologist specializing in the development of food and flavor preferences in humans at the Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia. “Humans didn’t evolve in an environment with inexpensive, easily accessible sweet-tasting foods or artificial sweeteners and other sugar substitutes. Children are particularly vulnerable in this food environment.[2]

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Keep in mind that restricting a child’s intake of sugar doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll eat less sugar as adults. However, food experiences early on in life can influence a child’s palate and eating habits. Therefore, introducing Vegemite to kids at a young age can help them acquire the taste to enjoy it as adults as well. This gives them to option to choose a cheap, nutritious, and fast go-to sandwich that’s healthier and lower in calories compared to other spreads.

Read: The Shelf Life of 32 Foods in Your Pantry

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What about Marmite and Promite?

Marmite and Vegemite

Marmie and Promite are two other well-known yeast-based spreads. Marmite began in 1902 by Justus Liebig. It is the original, British version of Vegemite. However, it also contains less but still a healthy amount of the B vitamins — thiamine, riboflavin, and folate — than its Australian counterpart. However, Marmite also contains more vitamin B3 and 60% of an adult’s daily needs for vitamin B12 (cobalamin). Some say Marmite has a saltier and richer flavor compared to Vegemite. 

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Nutritionist Melanie Brown said “Marmite plays such a useful part in many people’s diet, and it’s incredibly useful for older people who are short in vitamin B-12. It’s full of folic acid, and there’s lots of evidence that many women, young women of child-bearing age are deficient in folic acid.” [3]

Additionally, thiamin helps maintain a healthy metabolism; riboflavin and niacin helps transfer carbohydrates into energy in the body; vitamin B12 helps keep blood cells and nerve cells healthy. A vegan lifestyle can easily lack vitamin B12, making Marmite an ideal addition to the diet. 

Meanwhile, Promite is another Australian creation of brewer’s yeast and vegetable extract. However, it contains sugar and caramel to give a sweeter taste. In 2013, Promite manufacturers removed the additions of two flavor enhancers and vitamins B1, B2, and B3.

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How to start eating Vegemite

There are a startling amount of recipes using Vegemite and Marmite. Some are simple, like spreading it on a sandwich, using it as a dip for vegetables, or drizzling it on noodles. However, others are more creative, such as adding making pizza with the spread, cheese, olive oil, and toppings, or making deviled eggs by mixing a small amount of Vegemite or Marmite with the hard-boiled egg yolks, mayonnaise, chives, and mustard. Remember, most people use only a small amount of Vegemite on bread, unlike the usual generous portions of things like peanut butter, cream cheese, or hummus. So if you decide to try this black, salty spread, be sure to start with a little, perhaps paired with butter, cheese, or avocado to help adapt to the taste.

Keep Reading: Elementary school turns leftover lunch into frozen meals for children in need

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Sources

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  1. “What Is Vegemite Good For? Nutrition Facts and More.” Healthline. Ryan Raman, MS, RD. July 5, 2018.
  2. “American Children Should Eat More Vegemite. Here’s Why.Huff Post. Erin Van Der Meer. December 30, 2020
  3. “Marmite Nutrition Facts.Very Well Fit. Malia Frey. September 28, 2020
Sarah Biren
Freelance Writer
Sarah is a baker, cook, author, and blogger living in Toronto. She believes that food is the best method of healing and a classic way of bringing people together. In her spare time, Sarah does yoga, reads cookbooks, writes stories, and finds ways to make any type of food in her blender.
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