Soy, Sunflower Lecithin Benefits, Uses & Side Effects

Want to find out more about lecithin? This article answers all the popular questions about lecithin. Learn what lecithin is, types, uses, health benefits and side effects of both soy and sunflower.

What is Lecithin? Is it Vegan? Ingredients & Sources

Definition-What is Lecithin (Phosphatidylcholine) and what is it made out of?

Lecithin is a term that is used to describe any group of yellow brownish fatty substances that occur in animal and plant tissues. They are used for both smoothing food textures, dissolving powders, homogenizing liquid mixtures and repelling sticking materials.

Types-Soy & Sunflower

The two type of lecithin are soy and sunflower.

Soy is further sub-categorized into six types of soy:

  1. Soy milk
  2. Edamame
  3. Soy protein powder
  4. Soy flour
  5. Tempeh
  6. Miso

The types of sunflower lecithin you should be familiar with are: pale leaved sunflower, helianthus pauciflorus, helianthus maximiliani, Jerusalem artichoke and common sunflower.

Is Lecithin Vegan?

Lecithin can be vegan but this depends on the ingredients under consideration. Some types of lecithin contain egg yolks and therefore unsuitable for vegetarians. On the other hand, lecithin obtained from soy is vegan.

Lecithin Sources-Where does it come from?

Lecithin has its origin from either animal or plant sources. Plant sources of lecithin include: soy, vegetables e.g. the cooked Brusssels sprouts and broccoli as well as other types of leafy vegetables. Legumes are also rich sources of lecithin for you. The animal sources of lecithin include sea foods, dairy products and eggs.

Top Lecithin Foods List

Vegetables and legumes like Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, beans, most leafy vegetables and legumes are rich sources of lecithin. Eggs, cheese, yoghurt, milk and other dairy products are also essential sources lecithin. Soy is regarded as one the richest sources of lecithin. You can enjoy cereals with soy milk or garnish salad with soy cheese. Another great source of lecithin that you could get interested in are the lean cuts of meat. Animal liver is loaded with high amounts of lecithin and regular servings of meals. In case of deficiency of lecithin as diagnosed by a medical d0ctor, you should seek to supplement your diet with commercial supplements available in food stores and shops.

Lecithin Uses-What is lecithin used for?

Lecithin uses in cooking

In modernist cooking, lecithin is used to hold vinaigrettes together, create light foams and airs. It is used to add elasticity and moisture tolerance to dough.  It is used for commercial baking although it is very unfamiliar ingredient to most bakers. In order to be effective in baking, you should follow the below stated outline:

Dough conditioner.

  • Measure ½ to 1 teaspoon of lecithin granules for a cup of flour
  • Make the lecithin dissolve in the liquid ingredients
  • Prepare baked goods as you would normally bake them until you are done
  • Evaluate the finished product by testing them. If the texture is not like you would want it or if they still stale readily than you would prefer, add more lecithin.

Eggless baking.[i]

  • Dissolve one and a half tablespoons of lecithin granules in two tablespoons of water for each egg yolk you would be using
  • Increase the water to one and a half tablespoons if you are considering replacement of the whole egg rather than the yolk
  • Add flavorings, fat, binding ingredients or leaveners to complement the lecithin and account for the eggs’ other roles in the recipe.
  • lecithin uses cosmetics

Lecithin naturally occurs as a mixture of the diglycerides of stearic, palmitic and oleic acids that are linked to the choline ester of phosphoric acid. This form varies from a waxy mass to a thick, pourable liquid. Hydrogenated lecithin is a product of controlled addition of hydrogen (hydrogenation) to lecithin. Hydrogenated lecithin and lecithin are used in the formulation of a large number of cosmetics and personal health care products.


Lecithin and hydrogenated lecithin enhance the appearance of dry or damaged skin through reduction of flaking and restoration of suppleness. Apart from that, these ingredients also help form emulsions by reducing the surface tension of substances being emulsified.[ii]

Lecithin uses homeopathy

The uses of lecithin as a homeopathic remedy are anemia, convalescence, debility, faulty nutrition, impotency, neurasthenia, insomnia and to increase secretion of milk in lactating mothers. Lecithin possesses a favorable influence on a nutritive condition and especially on blood hence its use in anemia, convalescence, neurasthenia and insomnia. It increases the number of red corpuscles as well as the amount of hemoglobin. Similarly, it causes decrease in the amount of phosphates. It also helps decrease mental exhaustion and impotency, tuberculosis causing marked improvement in nutrition and general improvement.[iii]

Lecithin uses in food

In food, is used by most people as a supplement because of its high content of choline. Choline is a micronutrient essential for the heart and brain development. More to that, lecithin is used as an emulsifier. It helps keep a candy bar together by making sure that cocoa and cocoa butter do not separate. It is used in bakery items to make the dough not to stick and hence improve its ability to rise. Soy lecithin is also used in tea bags, cough drops, prescription medications and asthma inhalers. It is used in food because it is less expensive.

More other Uses and applications

  1. It used as a wetting and instantizing product:

Lecithin provides rapid and pure wetting of powders into aqueous systems. Instant powders require surface modifiers to improve hydration and dissolution when they are reconstituted.

  1. Viscosity modification

Lecithin products allow control of viscosity in liquids and semi liquid products. Chocolate for instance and compound coatings utilize lecithin to control viscosity. It reduces the surface tension of fats thus allowing particles of chocolate, sugar and other milk products to be coated. The coating improves the foodstuff particle flowability therefore significantly improving mixability. The typical use for viscosity modification should be 0.2% to 0.6% on total weight basis.

  1. Release agent.

Lecithin products promote easy and complete separation of food from contact surfaces. The release applications available on market include: dip tanks, aerosol sprays or air spray systems. Typical formulations consist vegetable oil with 2% lecithin. Water filled dip-tanks can contain to as much as 10% de-oiled lecithin.

  1. Separation agent.

It helps form a stable film barrier that prevents adhesion of food products to each other. Direct incorporation in baked goods allows for better machinability and minimal sticking on the mixing vessels. The most suitable results are obtained when lecithin is surface applied as compared to direct incorporation like processed cheese slices.

Soy Lecithin: Gluten Free? Estrogen &Testosterone

What is Soy Lecithin

Soy lecithin is a product of soya bean oil. It is relatively inexpensive and easy to use product which serves a number of functions in foods. This is because of its ability to stabilize blends of ingredients. It is also an essential nutrient choline.

How is it made?

To make Soy lecithin, you extract soy bean oil from the raw soy beans using a chemical solvent (preferably hexane). Take the crude oil through a degumming process and this is done by mixing water thoroughly with soy oil until the lecithin becomes hydrated thus separating from the oil. Then dry the lecithin and if need be bleach it using hydrogen peroxide. Before the degumming process however, the lecithin goes through a multistep that is aimed at removing the hexane from the product. Soy lecithin mostly contains fats. The resultant product is entirely free from allergenic soy proteins.  The product contains lubricating, stabilizing and emulsifying properties.[v]

Is soy lecithin genetically modified?

Currently, most of the soy that is grown in the United States is genetically modified. In most cases it is labeled organic on commercial products. The genetically modified soy lecithin contains DNA and the DNA present is normally degraded to the extent that it is impossible to say whether or not it is genetically modified. Therefore, most of the risks that come with genetically modified products are not present in soy lecithin. This hence means that there should be no need for alarm as to the likely effects soy use.[vi]

Is soy Lecithin Gluten Free?

Soy lecithin is a gluten-free food because it is not made of wheat, rye or barley. On the other hand, additives to lecithin may somehow contain lecithin. Before use of lecithin, you must do your research into the ingredients and the gluten content.[vii]

Soy Lecithin Estrogen & Testosterone

What effect does soy lecithin have on both estrogen and testosterone? Are there studies to explain it?

Current research points out that excess levels of estrogen in females or males can have negative effects on your health. Estrogen dominance can lead to acne, weight gain, changes in mood, male breast development and may increase risk factors for hormone sensitive cancers. Soy foods include phytoestrogens that are plant estrogens. The estrogens are found mostly in soy proteins.

In the long run, phytoestrogens contained in soy proteins are known to have different effects compared to certain other bad forms of estrogens found the body. The phytoestrogens bind to the cell receptors in the human body and antagonize the receptors of the body by blocking the binding of natural estrogens. This eventually reduces the effects of estrogen which lowers the risk of breast cancer and aid alleviate menstrual symptoms in women. (Physician Committee for Responsible Medicine)Regarding effects on testosterone, research points out that there is reduced testosterone response after soy supplement administration.

Is Soy Lecithin Dairy

Soy lecithin is a dairy product because it can be used to come up with several products that include soy milk, soy cheese, soy nut butter, soy yoghurt. However, it does not have an origin from origin from any milk product.[viii]


Sunflower Lecithin

What is sunflower lecithin and what is it made from?

This is a type of phospholipid that is in high amounts in sunflower seeds. It is a fatty substance that is obtained the dehydration of sunflower seeds then separation of the seeds into three parts that is the oil, gum and other solids Lecithin is obtained from the gum as a byproduct of this mechanical process. It is an emulsifier which endows food a creamy, moist and smooth texture. This product is used in chocolates, baked goods like muffins and faux butters.

Is there organic sunflower lecithin?

Organic sunflower lecithin is a product obtained by pressure extraction of sunflower seeds to produce raw oil. This process does not require any solvent to be conducted. The raw oil is then degummed with addition of water and centrifuged to produce liquid sunflower lecithin.

Soy vs Sunflower Lecithin-What are the differences?

Soy lecithin is a derivative of soya beans retrieved from the soya plant. The harvested soya is turned into several food products like oil, tofu and milk. The product is extracted using hexane which should be gotten rid of ass soon as the process is due.

The bottom line is that Soy is a waste product left after producing soya oil, and lecithin is a collection of several phospholipids that have both health and industrial uses.

Sunflower lecithin on the other hand is obtained from sunflower seeds. It is a type of phospholipid abundant in sunflower seeds.[ix]

Sunflower & Soy Lecithin Granules, Powder & Liquid

Sunflower and soy lecithin granules– these are naturally occurring combination of phosphatidyl choline and other phospholipids that are extracted from soy beans. They are convenient to use as they can be sprinkled on food or mixed in juice as well as water.

Powder form of lecithin-This is a product of soy bean oil that has been 97% purified from phospholipids found in non GMO soy seeds. [x]

Lecithin comes in two forms i.e. dry lecithin which includes powder and granules and the liquid lecithin. Dry lecithin consists of fatty acids known as phospholipids. These are critical components of cell membranes and the human body needs to get these from the diet.

Soy lecithin powder is commonly used as an emulsifier in various foods in order to improve texture and consistency. It is packed with healthy choline, it can also be taken as a dietary supplement. One tablespoon of mild nutty flavored lecithin powder provides about 50% of the new Dietary Reference Intake Level (DRI) for choline.[xi]

The de-oiled granule form of lecithin is used for emulsification, stabilization, softening, as a blending aid, as a dispersing agent, used to increase water dispersibility, used to lower flavor used as a wetting agent and used to ease handling of food and other products.

Where each is applicable/used best

Commercially available lecithin powder is derived from soybeans, canola or sunflower and eggs. It is rich in choline and it is therefore used to confer many health and culinary benefits.

However, you should not start using the product until you have consulted your doctor about the product. It has been used to treat high blood cholesterol.

Regarding the kitchen, you can use it as a low fat alternative to oil and butter in baked goods. It can also act as an emulsifier in salad dressing and homemade sauces like the mayonnaise and can at the end help stabilize air filled froths or foamy dishes like meringue, smoothies, shakes or whipped cream.

Soy based lecithin powder adds a mild nut flavor to food. Lecithin granules acts as a versatile source of phospholipid nutrition, is a great fat emulsifier for cardiovascular maintenance and also plays a role in liver and brain function.

Lecithin granules have other very many important uses as follows:

Lecithin Granules can support brain and cardiovascular health

Lecithin is considered one of nature’s miracle foods. It is found naturally in foods like egg yolks and organ meats, which most people don’t often eat. That is why taking lecithin is an inexpensive way to add its incredible powers to your supplement program.

Fight memory loss

The choline component of lecithin is the remedy to memory issues that come with memory problems. The human body uses choline to produce acetylcholine, a substance involved in learning, memory, muscle function, sleep, arousal, hormone secretion and circulation.  It allows nerve cells to send impulses properly. Conducted research has revealed that two tablespoons of lecithin daily helps mild memory problems associated with aging.

Heart health and other health conditions    

Among many other components of lecithin, inositol, a B-vitamin-like substance is also present. Your body uses inositol to help maintain healthy cholesterol and blood pressure levels already within the normal range, grow healthy hair and skin, and help break down body fat. By adding lecithin to your diet, you will provide some of the raw materials your cardiovascular system needs to stay in top shape.

Soy & Sunflower Lecithin Benefits- Health, Skin & Hair

Lecithin Health Benefits

Cholesterol Benefits

Soy lecithin has been found to treat very many health conditions and on cholesterol, it has been found to lower high cholesterol levels in the body. It increases the HDL which is also known as good cholesterol. Sunflower lecithin has high levels of linoleic acid (LA) the Omega-6 essential polyunsaturated fatty acid. It therefore helps to reduce high amounts of cholesterol in the body.


Sunflower lecithin has been found to restore liver health and function. It may also be able to reverse the damaging effects of alcohol abuse on the liver. Soy lecithin has choline that can help dissolve fat and finally help regulate the liver. It restores the liver that has been damaged.

Brain & Memory Benefits

Soy lecithin works effectively with neurological functions like memory in order to improve brain’s general effectiveness. Sunflower lecithin helps to improve cognitive functions of the brain. It generally improve the functioning of the nervous system. In the long run, it improves memory.

Benefits for Men & Bodybuilding

Both soy and sunflower lecithin contain phosphatidic acid and this is key in the course of increasing the body’s lean mass by 2.6%. It has been therefore been indicated in athletes to boost physical performance.

Benefits Psoriasis

In order to overcome this autoimmune condition, it is mixed with coal tar to make a solution called Psoriderm cream which helps clear psoriasis in a short period of time. The lecithin works to soften the psoriasis scales so that the coal tar can be absorbed to break down the skin.

More other health benefits

Lecithin is used for treating memory disorders such as dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. It is also used for treatment of gallbladder diseases, liver diseases, some types of depression, high cholesterol, skin diseases i.e. eczema and high cholesterol. You may also see lecithin as an ingredient in some eye medicines. It is used to help keep the medicine in contact with the eye’s cornea.

Lecithin Benefits for Hair & Skin

Lecithin helps give your hair a shiny, silky look to touch. It is most useful for dry hair as it improves the structural qualities of hair. Used with other hair care ingredients, it gives you a natural protective coating of your hair. These benefits counteract part of toll aging takes on hair.[xii]

With regards to the skin, lecithin is present to act as an emulsifier for the product but it also helps to hydrate, replenish and repair the skin due to its essential fatty acid content.

The one derived from soybeans has skin protection qualities and acts as a natural moisturizer. Lecithin has the ability to penetrate the epidermis and carry substances to the right cell level. It is an important source of choline and inositol, which are vital components of all cell membranes, and play an important role in cell growth and function.

Recommended Further Reading on benefits & uses

Lecithin Side Effects/Dangers-Is Sunflower & Soy lecithin Bad for you?

Soy lecithin dangers/Side Effects-Is Soy Lecithin Bad for you?[xiii]

The most common side effects of soy lecithin include:

  • Gastrointestinal problems like diarrhea
  • Changes in weight (loss and gain)
  • Loss of appetite
  • Skin rashes
  • Nausea, dizziness, vomiting and confusion
  • Low blood pressure (which is just as dangerous as high blood pressure)
  • Blurred vision and occasional fainting

Sunflower lecithin Side Effects & Safety

Sunflower lecithin is generally considered safe, but even at normal doses, it may cause gastrointestinal problems, like stomachache and diarrhea or loose stools. According to the University of Utah Health Care.

Other General Side Effects of Lecithin

On a general scale, lecithin consumption is likely to cause side effects, and pregnant women should not take them unless their doctor gives the go-ahead. Lecithin alone should not cause allergic reactions, but supplements contain lecithin extracted from allergy-causing foods.

In case you take supplements and develop symptoms of a severe allergic reaction, such as difficulty breathing; swelling of the throat, lips, tongue or face; or red, itchy patches on your skin, seek immediate medical attention.

Soy Lecithin Allergy Symptoms & Intolerance

How is soy lecithin linked to allergy?

Soy lecithin causes a severe allergic reaction which is known as an anaphylaxis. From studies, it has been found out that the reaction begins as early as childhood and it is carried on to later stages in life. It has however come to be found out that children outgrow the allergy at the age of about 10 years.[xiv]

What are the symptoms of soy lecithin allergy?

The following symptoms are likely to be encountered when an allergic reaction has taken place:

  • Rash or hives (urticaria)
  • Itching in the mouth
  • Nausea, vomiting or diarrhea
  • Stuffy or runny nose
  • Wheezing or other asthma symptoms

Is soy lecithin safe for soy allergy?

Soy is not safe to be used in case you are allergic to soy products. Care therefore should be taken to avoid encountering the above mentioned side effects.

What to do about it ?

When an allergy occurs, it can be managed through the following ways:

  • Avoid products containing soy.
  • Read labels carefully to know the ingredients of the product
  • Consult your doctor as soon as possible in case of an allergy.

Sources & References

[i] 1.

[ii] 2.

[iii] 3.

[iv] 6.

[v] 4.

[vi] 7.

[vii] 8.









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