If you are a vegan, you certainly read every label on your food because you want to know, that everything you are going to eat is natural and cruelty-free. And, it also should be harmless to your body.
I’m sure that you have seen “soy lecithin” in the list of ingredients. And maybe you have asked yourself, is it vegan or not?
What is Lecithin?
The French chemist Theodor Gobley discovered lecithin in 1846 and firstly extracted this component from egg yolk. It included glycerol, choline, glycolipids, phospholipids, fatty acids, phosphoric acid, and triglycerides.
Is lecithin vegan? Lecithin compounds can be of plants or animal origin. So, to find out if it is vegan or not, you have to know the source. Nowadays, producing companies usually get it from milk, sunflower, soybeans, or rapeseed.
Our body also can produce lecithin in the liver.
The main lecithin sources:
- Cooked green vegetables
- Sunflower seeds
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What Is Soy Lecithin?
Soy lecithin is a popular food additive, which contains phospholipids and triglycerides. It is also used in medicine and the chemical industry.
Is Soy Lecithin Vegan?
To answer this question, you have to find out what is soy lecithin made of. The primary source for it is soybean oil extracted from the raw soybeans. It doesn’t contain any animal traces. The verdict is that emulsifier soy lecithin is vegan.
- Is lecithin E476 vegan? With a high probability, it may be derived from animals or made of castor oil or GMO. So, I can say sometimes it may be vegan, but not always.
- Is soy lecithin E322 vegan? It’s a plant-based alternative to E476. But be aware that E322 may also be derived from eggs. Fortunately, labels usually indicate it as “soy lecithin,” so you can be sure, that you don’t consume food with animal traces.
Soy lecithin nutrition facts per 100 gram:
- Calories – 763
- Total fat – 100g
- Saturated fat – 15g
- Choline – 350mg
- Vitamin E – 8,18mg
- Tocopherol, alpha – 8,18mg
- Vitamin K – 183,9mg
- Octadecanoic acid – 2,920g
- Hexadecanoic acid – 11,984g
- Monounsaturated fatty acids – 10977
Why is it Used in Food?
Lecithin works as emulsifier and stabilizer, and probably you eat every day.
- It’s an excellent antioxidant.
- It saves the food flavors.
- Lecithin makes dough smooth.
- It helps to dissolve powdered drinks.
- It improves the shelf life of the food.
Soy Lecithin Benefits
Is soy lecithin healthy? Well, as every food supplement it has its pros and cons.
Here are several potential soybean lecithin benefits:
- This supplement lowers the level of cholesterol in our blood. It also can prevent the development of atherosclerosis, the disease which may lead to the insult. Soy lecithin protects your blood vessels from a harmful buildup of cholesterol and can reduce its level by 20%. This component also activates the work of enzymes that break down the fats entering the human organism. And in this way, it improves lipid metabolism in our body.
- A great source of choline. It’s neither a vitamin nor a mineral; sometimes it can also be called B4. This macronutrient can stabilize insulin and reduce cholesterol. What is more, it is an excellent hepatoprotector due to its ability to detoxify the blood from waste. Choline improves our memory and the work of our nervous system.
- It may strengthen your health. Brazilian scientists did the research showing that soy lecithin supplements improved immune function among rats. But we still don’t know whether it has the same effect on human health.
- It helps to fight with stress. Soy lecithin includes phosphatidylserine, which can reduce the level of cortisol in our body. German discovered that this supplement could relieve stress and may be used as a natural remedy for the treatment of diseases associated with nervous tension.
- Improves your memory. According to the study published in Advances in Therapy journal, soy lecithin has a positive effect on patients with Alzheimer’s disease and other cognitive impairments. 91% among patients with dementia receiving the supplement began to feel better.
- May prevent the development of osteoporosis. There are some researches showing that soy products can reduce the risk of this disease. They include isoflavonoids which work as phytoestrogens. According to the article published in the Journal of Medicinal Food, Asian women in advancing age have fewer cases of a fractured neck of a femur, than European women. The reason is the high consumption of soy food by Asians.
- May improve menopause symptoms. A research made in 2018 showed that women consuming soy lecithin supplements felt fewer symptoms of climacteric syndrome. There were marked improvements in fatigue symptoms, blood pressure, and cardiovascular system.
- May prevent breast cancer. According to the article published in Epidemiology in 2011, there is a suppose that soy lecithin supplements may help to avoid the risk of cancer. It can be associated with phosphatidylcholine.
Soy Lecithin Risks
Despite its benefits, it also has some potential risks.
Here are the potential risks of soy lecithin:
- Hexane. In other words, it’s a solvent that helps to get lecithin from soybeans. It is also the part of petrol and can be used in the manufacturing process of glues, varnishes, and other chemical industries. The main problem is that DTA doesn’t regulate the levels of hexane in soy lecithin, and it can be very hazardous. It may cause sleepiness, dizziness, damage to the nervous system, numbness of toes.
- GMO. Is soy lecithin genetically modified? Yes. Because soy oil is, in most cases, transgenic. Fortunately, organic soy lecithin is available now; you just have to read labels carefully when buying food.
- Allergy. This product is theoretically hypoallergenic because it doesn’t have soy proteins. But the researches show that it may include some traces of its components and they may cause allergy. What is more, producing companies use a lot of chemicals, which may also be the reason for the skin reaction. Usually, it happens because of the use of non-organic soy lecithin.
- Phytoestrogens. There has been insufficient research on the effect of these compounds. Some scientists think that they may prevent cancer, and some say that phytoestrogens in soy lecithin cause it. It is a controversial issue now. One thing is clear: it affects our hormones.
A lot of countries, except the EU and USE, produce soy by chopping large areas of rainforests. They are significant for our planet, and when they disappear, a lot of species of animals die out.
As you can see, the research on soy lecithin side effects is not clear and needs more analysis. Remember to avoid genetically modified soy lecithin, because it has a lot of health risks.
Best Organic Soy Lecithin
Is organic soy lecithin safe? Yes, it is. It is produced without any chemical solvents and is good to our well-being.
Here are the best non-GMO and organic soy lecithin supplements.
- 100% soy lecithin
- Kosher certified by Orthodox Union
- Works excellent as stabilizer and emulsifier
- 1 percent of profit is donated to safe wild animals
- Free of GM substances
- No hexane, carrier substances or flavor enhancers
- Can be used for cooking and baking
- Re-sealable BPA-free pouches
- The source of capsules is plant-based gelatin
- Certified environmentally friendly
- Tasteless lecithin capsules
- BPA-free glass bottles
- Doesn’t include any artificial colorings, flavorings, preservatives, wheat, milk.
How to Use Soy Lecithin
As I’ve said, soy lecithin powder is an excellent emulsifier and natural preservative, that helps in mixing ingredients.
There exist several ways you can use it in your kitchen:
- Use ½ tsp. of soy lecithin for a cup of flour in the recipe.
- Dissolve it in the liquid ingredients.
- Bake it as usual in your oven.
- When it’s done, taste it. If the texture is not suitable for you, add more lecithin in the next time. In case you feel its flavor use less amount of it when cooking.
- Replace each egg yolk with 1,5 tsp. of soy lecithin. Dissolve it in 2 tsp. of water. If your recipe requires the whole egg, use only 1,5 tsp. of water.
- Combine all the other ingredients and cook it.
Froths, foams or airs:
- Use 1g of liquid soy lecithin to every 100g of ingredients you want to foam.
- Blend it to get bubbles.
- Add 1g of liquid soy lecithin to 100g of dressing to prevent it from separating.
How to Replace Soy Lecithin?
There are reasons you may look for a vegan substitute for soy lecithin:
- Allergy to soy
- It’s hard to find non-GMO and vegan soy lecithin
- The usage of chemicals in its manufacturing.
Sunflower lecithin is a great replacement for it. Made of sunflower seeds, it’s veggie-friendly. It is produced like olive oil.
- Lowers your cholesterol. It has the same function as soy lecithin. What is more, it can increase the level of HDL cholesterol and improves the circulation of blood. It also prevents the development of the coronary disease.
- Helps in the treatment of digestive disorders. Phospholipids containing in sunflower lecithin protect your intestinal mucus from bacteria.
- Can relieve arthritis pain. It acts as a lubricant to our joints and in this way you can get rid of symptoms of this disease.
- Protects your brain. Neural cells need phospholipids for repair processes. It also helps to produce acetylcholine, an important chemical for our brain.
- Heals wounds. Proteins and oleic acid in sunflower lecithin release cytokines which speed up the process of healing.
- Protects your liver. It prevents your liver from being overloaded by fats and keeps it in a healthy condition.
- Nervous system. Fatty acids protect our nerves from damaging and improve neurotransmitter activity.
- Works as an antioxidant. Phosphatidylcholine helps to get rid of free radicals, which cause a lot of harmful diseases.
The main benefit of sunflower lecithin is that it is the safest one to our health. Sunflower seeds are never genetically engineered. And its manufacture doesn’t require the use of potentially harmful ingredients. Unlike soy lecithin, it doesn’t have phytoestrogens and can’t affect our hormones. This supplement has no side effects.
But the intake of large doses may cause diarrhea and nausea.
As soy lecithin, it can be used both in cooking and as a healthy supplement in shakes and smoothies.
Soy lecithin has benefits and potential risks. Despite the fact that non-GMO versions are on sale, it still hard to find a vegan one. Always pay attention to what you are going to eat and stay healthy.
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