Soy lecithin is the most common source of lecithin is soybeans and eggs. Soy lecithin is a mixture of 35% soybean oil and 16% phosphatidylcholine. It is widely uses as an additive in most of the foods.
Soy lecithin is essentially used as an emulsifier, so it is added as an ingredient in tea bags, bakery items, candy bars, salad dressings, asthma inhalers, medications and cough drops. Sometimes lecithin is used as a supplement due to high content of choline, a micro-nutrient good for heart health and development of brain.
Soy Lecithin Uses
It is also use as an additive due to its emulsifying properties. Bakers use soy lecithin to make the dough smooth and fluffy.
Soy beans are subject to a highly humid environment. This moisture loosens and separates the beans from their hull. Soy lecithin is made by extracting soybean oil using hexane which is a chemical solvent. This is processed, dried and bleached with hydrogen peroxide. The soy beans are then flattened into flakes and soybean oil is extracted from them through the process of distillation. Water is then added to this extracted soybean oil and they are then subjected to the process of steam precipitation or centrifugation. This process pulls out the soy lecithin from the soybean oil.
Soy lecithin is therefore, a by-product. There are claims that the processing leaves certain traces of nasty chemicals in soy lecithin. It is likely that soy lecithin also contains solvents and pesticides. However, these contaminants will only add a little towards the total toxic load.
Soy Lecithin Benefits
Soy lecithin is a lipid, consisting of phosphorus, choline, inositol and linoleic acid. Although it is not an essential nutrient, it has several health benefits and can be included as part of the dietary supplements. Soy lecithin is found to protect the liver and kidneys, promote brain function and protect against cardiovascular disease.
It strengthens liver by preventing the build-up of fats. Soy lecithin is thought to aid in weight loss but this is not scientifically confirmed.
Lecithin is a fat emulsifier which helps the body to effectively metabolize fats. Several pharmaceutical companies use soy lecithin in medications due to emulsifying properties.
Here are few major soy lecithin benefits are:
1. Lowers cholesterol:
Soy lecithin is beneficial for reducing cholesterol and improving cardiovascular health as well. It helps to minimise risk of heart and cardio-vascular diseases like arteriosclerosis. It is an efficient tool for lowering cholesterol and is widely uses for treatment of patients with high levels of cholesterol.
Soy lecithin benefits prevent build-up of fats in the walls of the arteries, heart and brain by breakdown of fat reserves and by controlling the flow of nutrients through the cells. It helps to reduce bad cholesterol and triglycerides and increases the level of good cholesterol.
2. Protects cells from damage:
Soy lecithin has phospholipid properties which help the process of cell transportation. It is protect the cells by facilitating efficient movements of nutrients, fats, ions and waste in and out the cells regularly. It helps to keep the cell structure intact, protects the cells from any damage and aids cell function and development.
3. Improves brain function:
The major nutrient in soy lecithin is phosphatidylcholine which is a part of the cell membrane. Our body breaks it down to choline which is a vital health nutrient for the brain. Choline in the soy lecithin is help to improve brain function by preventing memory loss, especially due to aging, amnesia, Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.
4. Aids weight loss:
Soy lecithin is help you lose weight by speeding up the fat breakdown and increasing the metabolic rate. It can be consume as a supplement or in powder form with foods such as cereals, yogurt or shakes. Soy lecithin can be use as part of an effective, healthy, weight loss diet. Since soy lecithin is a natural ingredient and allows weight loss in an efficient manner without causing any severe side effects that may be causes due to any other weight loss drugs.
5. Soy lecithin as a fat emulsifier:
Soy lecithin helps to effectively process and metabolise fats in the body. It is suppose to be a fat emulsifier which is one of the soy lecithin benefits.
This means that it dissolves the fats in the liquid and helps the processing and movement of fats in the body. Due to the emulsifying properties, lecithin is capable of keeping a candy bar intact, by ensuring that the cocoa in the cocoa butter remains together and does not separate.
Soy lecithin is use in bakery products to prevent the dough from sticking and so that it rises efficiently. Commercially, soy lecithin is use as soybean as it is a cheap crop and it is an ideal natural source of emulsifier in processing foods.
Soy lecithin is being a strong emulsifier, may also dissolve the reserve fats in the body. However, there is not much evidence of the effectiveness of soy lecithin benefits for weight loss. It may not be connect to weight loss and the theory that lecithin breaks down reserved fats in the body may be totally baseless.
6. Side-effects of using soy lecithin:
While there are many soy lecithin benefits, there are also some side effects that one’s needs to be aware of.
For many people, the benefits of soy lecithin have more weightage than its side-effects. Soy lecithin is a good source of choline which promotes overall health. However, it is not recommend to use soy lecithin supplements without the advice of a medical practitioner.
To avoid any side-effects of soy lecithin, look out for soy which follows major guidelines for toxicity with low level of pesticides. Use soy which is ferment, as un-fermented soy contains phytoestrogens and toxins. Soy which is not genetically modify can also be use, as this poses several health risks.
To avoid any unfortunate side-effects and for maximum soy lecithin benefits, it is always recommend to check out the source of the soy.
Some of the side-effects of using soy lecithin are:
1. Causes allergies:
Excess soy lecithin may cause itchy skin, rashes, hives and other allergic reactions. These symptoms may also appear due to a weakened immune system releasing too many antibodies to combat the allergens.
2. Weight problems:
Soy lecithin is suppose to aid weight loss. However, it may lead to weight gain in certain cases. There are certain cases wherein the use of soy lecithin has caused loss of appetite and resulted in excessive weight loss.
3. Gastrointestinal problems:
Excessive consumption of soy lecithin may cause certain gastro intestinal problems such as abdominal pain, nausea and diarrhoea which may hinder in the normal absorption of nutrients.
4. Low blood pressure:
When soy lecithin is consume in excess quantities, it results in low blood pressure and related ailments such as syncope, breathing problems, blurred vision, headaches, confusion, and dizziness, vomiting and wheezing.
Many individuals are unable to digest soy lecithin properly. This may lead to bad breath or pungent body odor.
6. Interferes with hormones:
Soybeans are often found to interfere with the functioning of thyroid and other hormones. Unfermented soy may also cause certain side-effects. Soy is a phytoesterogen. Both soy and soy lecithin may interfere with testosterone levels and may be associate to breast cancer.
7. Throat and nasal infections:
Regular consumption of soy lecithin may cause sneezing, runny nose, coughing, difficulty in swallowing, swollen face and throat.
8. Other problems:
Severe consequences of soy lecithin consumption can be anaphylactic shock, excessive sweating or may also lead to death.
Who should avoid it?
The benefits and side-effects of soy lecithin are still debatable. It is advisable for certain individuals to refrain from the use of soy lecithin due to the following reasons:
- People who avoid refine oils should refrain from using soy lecithin.
- Soy allergic people should avoid intake of soy lecithin.
- People who avoid Genetically Modified Foods (GMOs) should avoid soy lecithin. For such people it is recommend to use products which are mark non-GMO or USDA organic.
- Soy lecithin is a common food additive which is widely use in several processed foods like baked products, chocolates and confectioneries. There are many soy lecithin benefits but there are several disadvantages too. Weigh out both, before using, eating or including it in your diet.
- It acts as an excellent emulsifier and stabilizer. Commercial bakers use soy lecithin to improve the quality of the dough by making it more soft, smooth and fluffy. It is amongst the top 10 most used ingredients used in processed foods.
Since soy and soy lecithin may develop allergic conditions, it is recommend to seek medical advice or undergo an allergy test before including soy lecithin in food or as supplements or in medications. In case you experience any such side effects that may be cause by soy lecithin, stop consuming process foods and check nutrition labels of package food items. Stay safe by choosing the right soy supplements with the right source of soy!