by Melissa Chichester
It seems like the experts are agreeing and disagreeing on a weekly basis. But what about soy lecithin, an ingredient commonly found at health food shops and promoted as a nutritious supplement? While many individuals are confused about soy and its reputation in the health and wellness world, soy lecithin has several benefits that contribute to maintaining proper functioning of the body.*
Soy lecithin is a yellow-brown substance that is a mixture of phospholipids and other non-phospholipid compounds that are extracted from soybean oil during processing. Lecithin is usually used in liquid form, but it can also be used in granule form. Because it attracts both water and fat, soy lecithin is commonly found in foods as an additive used to smooth out the texture of products, including chocolate! Soy lecithin is also used as an emulsifier in cosmetics and animal feed.
French chemist Theodore Gobley discovered lecithin in 1845 when he extracted the substance from an egg yolk. From there, lecithin became the term designated for the fatty compounds that naturally occur in both plant and animal tissues. In the body, lecithin is found mostly in the brain. Lecithin is commonly extracted from soybeans, but it can also be found in eggs, sunflower seeds, and milk.
Soy lecithin contains many beneficial nutrients that contribute to overall well-being. Phospholipids are made up of fatty acids that are components of the cell membrane. With age, phospholipid levels in the brain may decline. Additionally, Soy lecithin can positively contribute to maintaining mental function.**
Soy lecithin is also a source of linoleic acid, which is a polyunsaturated omega-6 fatty acid that contributes to heart health.**
Linoleic acid is considered an essential fatty acid and it cannot be made by the body, so it needs to be consumed through food or supplements. Soy lecithin also contains choline and inositol, two essential components of cell membranes that contribute to cell growth and function.** This includes promoting nerve cell health and maintaining the overall health of the nervous system.**
Supplementing with soy lecithin can be done with traditional softgels or with granules. Soy lecithin granules have a distinctly nutty taste and are often used by vegetarians in eggless baking to create an egg-like substance that binds food together. Lecithin is also used to prevent baked goods from becoming stale quickly, and it improves the ability of ingredients to mix together. If baking isn’t your thing, soy lecithin granules can be sprinkled on yogurt or cereal, and they can be blended into smoothies. Soy lecithin granules can also be sprinkled on salads and blended into soups.