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

Walnuts – Omega-3 and Polyphenol rich nut delivers mental power boost!

Several studies have been conducted over the last 10 years on the impact of walnuts on mental performance.  The consensus among the various publications indicates that walnuts, eaten reasonably as part of your daily diet (i.e. ½ – 1 oz. per day), can significantly improve learning and memory – and can lower the incidence of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s.  These benefits stem from the fact that walnuts are packed with the essential fatty acid Omega 3 and Polyphenols.

Did you know that 60% of the dry weight of your brain is made up of fat?  This part of your brain is also constantly being replenished, and rebuilding with the right fat is vital to your mental health and intelligence.  The right kinds of fats to replenish your brain with in order to optimize your mental performance are the essential fatty acids – Omega 3 and 6.  Having a balance of these 2 Omegas is also critically important. However in the past few decades, our food choices as well as the impact of processing our food has led to a massive imbalance in our Omega 3 and 6 levels.  While the ideal ratio of Omega 3 to 6 is 1:1, the average today is more like 1:20 in favor of Omega 6.  This is why we need to more consciously build foods high in Omega 3 into our diets.  Walnuts give you that opportunity to dial up healthy Omega 3s.

While the Omega 3 derived from plants, nuts and seeds (Alpha-Linolenic Acid or ALA) is slightly different than that which is derived from animal-based products such as salmon or eggs (DHA & EPA), it is still important at balancing the body’s levels of Omega 3 and Omega 6.  ALA is a shorter strain of fatty acid than DHA and EPA, but all three of these polyunsaturated fatty acids are important at insulating the neurons in the brain.  Only a small percentage of ALA is broken down into DHA and EPA once ingested which is why it is still important for your brain health to continue to eat fish as part of your diet (fish is the highest source of DHA and EPA fatty acids).

Walnuts are also high in polyphenols, which have amazing antioxidant properties in the brain.  By mitigating the generation of free radicals, polyphenols act to protect the brain cell membranes from damage and ultimately improve the health and function of the brain cells.  Oxidative stress on brain cells is one of the primary culprits in mental underperformance and longer-term degenerative diseases in the brain.

Given the power of walnuts to improve your levels of Omega 3 and polyphenols in the brain, we highly recommend incorporating a handful of this miracle nut in your daily diet.  Walnuts are perfect on your morning cereal and yogurt, or just as a snack in the afternoon.

Posted in Antioxidants, Omega 3

Blueberries & Strawberries Can Slow Cognitive Aging by up to 2 ½ Years

Berries are often touted for their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, which are properties important to mental performance as oxidative stress and inflammation can impair cognitive function. However, in a recent study* the powerful presence of flavonoids, more specifically anthocyanidins, in both blueberries and strawberries are proving to be even more important for maintaining your mental power.Delicious Blueberries

Anthocyanidins are a class of flavonoid shown to actively cross the blood-brain barrier and localize in areas of learning and memory – or the hippocampus.  Such localization of flavonoids helps deliver the neuroprotective powers of the molecules exactly where they are needed – thus enhancing neuronal function and stimulating neurogenesis in the learning and memory centers of the brain.

In a study recently published by the American Neurological Association, nearly 20,000 women were monitored over the course of 30+ years to understand the impact of diet on cognitive decline.  Within the study, blueberries and strawberries were identified as the top contributors to anthocyanidins intake in humans.  After adjusting for age and education, it was shown that greater consumption of both blueberries (1+ servings per week) and strawberries (2+ servings per week) resulted in significantly slower decline in cognitive function over time.  In fact, those women with higher berry intake in the study appeared to have delayed cognitive aging by up to 2 ½ years.

So grab some blueberries and strawberries this week at your local farmers’ market.  In addition to being delicious this time of year, you will be keeping your brain sharp and healthy!

*Devore, Kang, Breteler, Grodstein: Berries and Cognitive Decline (2012)

Posted in Antioxidants, Flavonoids, Fruits

Isoflavones prove a miracle supplement for enhancing mental performance

Long thought a dietary supplement exclusively benefiting older women by maintaining memory, Soya Isoflavones have actually been shown to positively impact a multitude of cognitive functions in both men and women of all ages.  In a study published by ‘Psychopharmacology’, students were given a high soya diet of 100mg isoflavones/day vs. a control group maintaining a low soya diet (>0.5mg / day) over a 10 week period.  In a series of cognitive tests following the 10 week period, both the men and women receiving the high soya diet exhibited significant improvements in short-term and long-term memory (in both verbal and non-verbal tests) as well as in mental flexibility.  In addition to the mental performance benefits shown by those with high soya diets, these students also experienced a reduced level of tension and anxiety during testing.

So not only can a diet high in soya isoflavones improve mental performance, but it also reduces tension and anxiety – talk about a wonder-food!

The best sources of soya isoflavones are almost exclusively from soy based products, including:

Miso:  59mg (per ½ cup)

Boiled Soybeans:  47mg (per ½ cup)

Dried Soy Nuts:  37mg (per 1 oz.)

Tempeh:  37mg (per 3 oz.)

Soy Milk:  30mg (per 1 cup)

Tofu:  20mg (per 3 oz.)


Posted in Isofavones, Soy