The Truth About Soy Lecithin

Soy Lecithin is a fairly ubiquitous food additive that can be found in everything from chocolate bars to baked goods to animal feed.  There are many opposing articles out there either touting the health benefits or the dangers of soy lecithin as an additive to food, so I wanted to get to the bottom of this debate.

The functional reason soy lecithin is added to many foods is that it acts as a natural emulsifier or stabilizer in processed foods – thus binding ingredients together and improving the shelf life of certain products (like baked goods).

It seems that there are many health benefits associated with lecithin given it is a great dietary source phosphatidylcholine, which the body ultimately breaks down into choline.  Choline is an essential nutrient and is a primary component in all cell membranes.  It helps break down fats and cholesterol and improves the transmission of information in the brain – which helps improve memory and brain function.

Also, despite what you may think, soy lecithin is an all-natural product and is a byproduct in the production of soybean oil.  The question on whether soy lecithin is good or bad for you depends on 2 primary debates – is the soy used in the production of lecithin coming from:

1)     unfermented vs. fermented soy

2)     GMO vs. non-GMO soy

When it comes to unfermented vs. fermented soy, you always want to choose products that contain fermented soy.  The reason is that unfermented soy includes toxins that can have several negative side effects.  Fermenting soy reduces these risks and maintains the same health benefits.  Unfermented soy is generally found with tofu and soy milk products – most other soy products utilize fermented soy.

Given 90% of the soy produced in the U.S. is GMO (or from genetically modified organisms), it is important to consider whether you want to ingest GMO or non-GMO products.  While no official research has proven GMO products to be dangerous, the general consensus in the scientific community is that GMOs should be avoided, where possible, until more is known.

So… while many people look to avoid products containing soy lecithin, it turns out that the right kind of soy lecithin can actually provide a multitude of health benefits, including improved memory and brain function.  Just make sure to look for fermented, non-GMO soy lecithin.  While some larger companies may not list this on the label of certain processed foods, you should shoot them a note.  All companies should be open and transparent with consumers about the ingredients in their products – so hold them to the higher standards you deserve!

Posted in Soy