Today’s mystery ingredient is… soy lecithin. Maybe you have noticed the ingredient “soy lecithin” in products you pick up at the store, such as chocolate bars, protein shakes and other quick and processed food items. Well, have you ever thought to actually learn what that product is? It comes down to this… soy lecithin is a byproduct of soybean oil production, which means it is what is left over after soy bean oil is removed from the beans. There are some interesting facts that you should know before you grab that tasty looking item next time. And no, it isn’t paleo. If you have to ask, you probably should know the answer.
A couple of notes before you continue reading:
- There are road closures tomorrow on Peace Street and Hillsborough, starting at around 800a, be sure to plan your route to the Tank accordingly. Athlete report time is 830a. The first heat starts at 900a. Come on out to spectate!
- Regular classes for Saturday are closed as we are hosting the Valentine’s Day Partner WOD.
- Register for the 2013 CrossFit Games Open – do it! It’s a fun time for five weeks. See what you are made of and have a great time each Saturday with your fellow Raleigh CrossFit athletes. Join the Raleigh CrossFit team!
Have you posted your review of Raleigh CrossFit in Yahoo, Yelp or Google? If you do, you can win a free t-shirt….
Now on to learning!
If you read nutrition labels and ingredient lists, you’ve probably come across “soy lecithin” more than a few times. It’s actually a very popular ingredient – one of the top 10 most used ingredients in processed foods.
But what exactly is it? What does it do?
And most importantly, what are its health and nutrition characteristics?
What you need to know:
Lecithins are oily substances that occur naturally in plants (soybeans) and animals (egg yolks).
Some people use it as a supplement because it’s high choline content. Choline is a micronutrient that is good for heart health and brain development.
But that’s not the reason soy lecithin is used as an additive in foods. It possesses emulsification properties. This means it can keep a candy bar “together” by making sure that the cocoa and the cocoa butter don’t separate. It is also used in bakery items to keep the dough from sticking and to improve its ability to rise.
You can also find it in places you wouldn’t expect, like tea bags, cough drops, prescription medications and even asthma inhalers!
Soy lecithin (E322) is extracted from soybeans either mechanically or chemically using hexane. It’s actually a byproduct of the soybean oil production.
Why do food companies use soy lecithin?
Since soybeans are one of the cheapest crops in the US (thanks in part to federal subsidies to growers), it makes sense to use a cheap, natural soy derived emulsifier in food processing.
We asked one company, Hain Celestial, why they put lecithin from soy in their tea – read their answer.
Is there a soy lecithin allergy?
Most people with soy allergies needn’t worry about products containing soy lecithin, because it is derived from the soybean oil, whereas the allergy itself relates to the soy protein. However, if you read though the comments below, you’ll see that some people with soy allergy are sensitive to soy lecithin as well.
For this reason, any product you scan with our Allergy app (LINK) will show a warning: “Contains Soy” if it has soy lecithin.
Who should avoid soy lecithin?
While there are vastly differing opinions on the health benefits or detriments of soy lecithin, it is still easy to explain who would not want to use it:
- People with severe soy allergies who want to play it safe.
- People who avoid refined oils – soy lecithin is made from soy oil, which is usually made derived through a chemical process hexane.
- People concerned about GMOs. Unless a product is certified non-GMO, you can assume that the soybeans used have been genetically modified. Products marked non-GMO or USDA organic should be non-GMO, but have been found on occasion to contain GMOs.