If you are a vegan, then you already know the ingredients of most of the food you buy. Have you ever seen a label with soy lecithin as an ingredient? You may be wondering, is soy lecithin vegan? This additive often appears in salad dressings, sauces, and other dairy-free, vegan products. As an emulsifier or an agent that can replace eggs, soy lecithin is used in a lot of vegan products today.
So, Is Soy Lecithin Vegan?
In fact, soy lecithin is a vegan additive. However, there’s a difference between soy lecithin and other types of lecithin, such as those made from egg yolks.
Soy lecithin is often seen in a lot of products, but people don’t know much about it. Lecithin is a food additive that is found in soybeans and eggs. It’s useful as an emulsifier, but it can also be a lubricant. When added to a particular food, it also acts as a flavor enhancer and antioxidant.
For vegan products, you’ll find that it is included in non-dairy ice cream and other products that typically require milk or eggs as an ingredient.
Is soy lecithin a natural product?
Soy lecithin is mostly a natural product that is derived from one of these sources: sunflower kernels, rapeseed (canola), soy, milk, or egg yolks. Depending on the manufacturer and intended uses, soy lecithin may contain different ingredients. However, it’s mostly soybean oil and phosphatidylcholine.
Phosphatidylcholine is a phospholipid that you’ll find in liver and egg yolks. It’s the main form of choline that you get from food. The other percentage in soy lecithin comes from phospholipids and glycolipids.
Not all soy lecithin contains egg yolks or milk, so you’ll have to check that the packaging also says dairy-free or lecithin derived from soy. Soy lecithin is made by extracting soybean oil from raw soybeans, and during this process, it does use a chemical solvent called hexane. This soy oil goes to the next process to “degum” it, wherein the water is mixed with soy oil until the lecithin is saturated enough. When this occurs, it will separate from the oil.
In summary, while lecithin is derived from natural soybeans, it goes through a chemical treatment process and may even be bleached. Pesticide residue can also be found in lecithin, but it’s in a tiny amount like 400 parts per billion.
What is the difference between soy and soy lecithin?
Soybeans are different than soy lecithin. For one, soybeans have protein. However, soy lecithin’s protein is removed during the process. However, some traces of protein may be left behind.
There is another key difference. Many people have allergies to soybeans but not soy lecithin. This is because of the protein in soybeans. While trace amounts of soy can be found in lecithin, it’s not the same amount nor will an allergist recommend that a patient avoid soy lecithin.
Since soy lecithin is mostly used as an emulsifier, it’s not always present in large quantities nor is it detectable. Whereas if a product contains soy, you are likely to see it on the ingredients list.
What is soy lecithin used for?
The most prominent way that soy lecithin is used comes from its emulsifying power. As an emulsifier, it can mix things that generally wouldn’t go together, such as oil and water. It’s the reason why egg yolks are used in making the best mayonnaise.
However, for vegan options, it’s used to make things like tofu. The soy lecithin is used as an emulsifier in place of something like egg yolks. This is why you’ll commonly see it in products that typically have dairy ingredients, such as ice cream or a creamy salad dressing.
What products contain soy lecithin?
There are a few products that contain sufficient soy lecithin, and they’re not just in the vegan food section. You’ll find everything from canola oil spray to vanilla ice cream can contain soy lecithin.
Once you start looking for it, you’ll see soy lecithin in everything. Since it’s an emulsifier, you’ll likely spot in a lot of chocolate and cream products. It’s also found in bread and pasta sauces.
Should You Eat Soy Lecithin?
There have been some recent developments with soy lecithin, as well as a study by the Food Allergy Research and Resource Program (FARRP) at the Nebraska-Lincoln.
The study found that soy lecithin does contain trace amounts of soy proteins, which will include soy allergens. However, it’s not included as a soy allergy, and because it’s so pervasive as an additive in most products, it’s difficult to prevent it from being consumed.
From a vegan perspective, eating soy lecithin that is dairy-free and not made with eggs shouldn’t harm you, unless you are extremely sensitive to soy or don’t want to consume GMO products. There are also some major sunflower lecithin benefits to think about as well.
Here is a better look at some of those questions in more detail below.
Is soy lecithin bad for you?
While studies have found that soy lecithin is only included in trace amounts, there may be some objections to lecithin due to the way that they are processed with chemicals and derived from GMO plants.
If you have allergies that are triggered severely by soy proteins, you may still be okay to eat soy lecithin. One study found that protein concentration in lecithin ranged from 100 to 1,400 parts per million. However, studies haven’t been conclusive when looking at other soy lecithin examples, which indicated that there wasn’t a significant amount to cause an allergic reaction.
As for GMOs, most of the soy you find in the US comes from genetically modified plants, unless it’s labeled “organic soy lecithin.” This means that it comes from organic soybeans instead.
What about phytoestrogens? Recently it was found that soy produces phytoestrogens, which leads to significant estrogen activity in the body. This can cause problems for people who are dealing with cancer or fertility issues.
According to one study, soy lecithin also contains small amounts of pesticide residues at around 400 parts per billion. It’s still a relatively small amount of pesticides that can be left behind after the degumming process.
Is soy lecithin okay for soy allergy?
For those worried about a soy allergy, you’ll be happy to know that most allergists say it’s okay to eat products with soy lecithin since it’s much different than actual soybeans. While the protein is what usually triggers allergic reactions in soy allergy sufferers, soy lecithin doesn’t contain enough to trigger a reaction in most cases.
Other studies have found larger percentages of soy proteins in lecithin, which can trigger allergies in those who are highly sensitive. It’s best to talk to your doctor about soy lecithin and how it might affect you.
Is there estrogen in soy lecithin?
For some who are sensitive to estrogen, such as breast cancer sufferers, soy lecithin can be a problem since it contains phytoestrogen. This isn’t estrogen, which is animal-based, and unless you are eating milk-based or eggs-based lecithin, then it won’t contain estrogen.
Phytoestrogen is derived from plants, but they can mimic the physiological effects of the hormone estrogen. One study found that those who ate lots of soy rich in phytoestrogens had lower sperm counts; however, the counts were still in the normal range. This percentage was even stronger in men who were overweight or considered obese.
Alternatives to Soy Lecithin
What is sunflower lecithin?
So is sunflower lecithin vegan? Yes! You may also be thinking is sunflower lecithin good for you? It’ actually considered better for you than regular soy lecithin.
There are many sunflower lecithin benefits for those who want to eat organic and completely vegan. This lecithin is derived from the fat-soluble content in sunflowers. It’s extremely good for your health, which is why so many doctors talk about sunflower lecithin powder benefits to their patients.
Some brands have made a new product out of lecithin from sunflowers and call it “brain food.” For example, is soya lecithin vegan? Yes, in fact!
When it’s derived from sunflower seeds, the vegetarian lecithin is especially potent in phospholipids. However, when it’s created from sunflowers, it’s also organic and doesn’t contain GMOs.
How to Use Sunflower Lecithin
Typically made in powder form, this sunflower type of lecithin also contains more antioxidants due to phosphatidylcholine. It’s best used in smoothies, shakes, and cream for drinks. For this reason, you should go with organic lecithin.
Is sunflower lecithin bad for you?
Since this type of lecithin is concentrated in powder form, it could make you sick to have too much lecithin in your diet, especially if you have an allergy. There are other sunflower lecithin health risks, such as if a person has had cancer, may get cancer, or has problems with fertility.
Sunflower Lecithin vs Soy Lecithin
What if you want to be a soy lecithin vegetarian? You may be comfortable with eating lecithin with eggs or milk. However, traditional soybean lecithin is plant-based.
Since lecithin is used in a variety of different food products, especially those low in fat and calories, you can ingest it to help with depression, high cholesterol, obesity, and other symptoms of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
One question remains: is soy lecithin the same thing as sunflower lecithin? There are some sunflower lecithin uses that are better than its counterpart, too.
Soy lecithin is much different as it is extracted from raw soybeans. They are removed using a chemical solvent called hexane. The composition of soy lecithin is also much different than sunflower types. It contains phosphatidylcholine, phospholipids, and glycolipids.
Lecithin from sunflowers is extracted naturally, and the purity of phospholipids is much higher than in soy lecithin.
Possible Lecithin Benefits
Many studies have found that there are benefits to ingesting lecithin regularly due to antioxidants and phospholipids. Here is a look at some of those studies below.
Does soy lecithin lower cholesterol?
Many lecithin supplements are now available that may lower cholesterol levels and help with other digestive issues.
Research found that soy lecithin increases good HDL cholesterol and lowers bad LDL cholesterol. These are concentrated forms of lecithin, however.
Breastfeeding: What does lecithin do to breastmilk?
If you have issues with clogged milk ducts, lecithin can be recommended to treat plugged ducts naturally. You can take between 3600 and 4800 mg of lecithin per day, three to four times per day to unclog your milk ducts. Moms in need of this should take lecithin directly through a supplement.
Should you take supplements with lecithin? For one, they can help with specific health issues, including ulcerative colitis and high cholesterol.
These supplements come in these three forms:
- Soy lecithin granules
- Lecithin Powder
- Liquid Lecithin
Most soybean lecithin comes in a granulated capsule, but you can also get sunflower lecithin in liquid and powder forms. Sunflower liquid lecithin is typically used to create delicious, antioxidant smoothies.
But are lecithin supplements safe?
There has been some talk about the benefits and drawbacks of lecithin supplements. One study in the New England Journal of Medicine showed that choline derived from lecithin in eggs, poultry, dairy, and fish contains the same amount of TMAO as carnitine in red meat.This is because gut bacteria metabolizes the carnitine into a toxic compound called trimethylamine, which gets oxidized in the liver and becomes TMAO, or trimethylamine-n-oxide. TMAO is linked to several types of cancer.
Is soy lecithin gluten-free?
Since you see it in everything you eat nowadays, it’s important to know whether lecithin is good for you or not. Since lecithin is typically made from soy and processed several times, it usually does not contain any gluten.
So yes, soy lecithin is gluten-free.
Is soy lecithin kosher?
Since most soy lecithin is made from plants, you don’t have to worry about any animals being involved in the process of creating lecithin. Soybeans are naturally kosher, so most products with plant-based soy lecithin are safe to eat and are considered kosher.
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