Soy lecithin is a common ingredient in many processed foods. Being one of the most commonly used food additives on the market today, you’re unquestionably already consuming it, whether intentionally or unintentionally. And because of its high nutrient content, some people use it as a supplement.
If you’re a vegan, you’re probably concerned about the ingredients in soy lecithin. Soy lecithin and sunflower lecithin are the two most common lecithins encountered by vegans.
Both of these, as the names suggest, are derived from plants (soy and sunflowers). However, just because a product is derived primarily from a plant does not imply that it is vegan.
Then the question becomes, is soy lecithin vegan? That is what we will discuss in this article how soy lecithin is made and whether you should include it in your vegan diet.
What is Soy Lecithin?
Lecithin is a food additive derived from a variety of sources, one of which is soy. When added to food, it is commonly used as an emulsifier or lubricant, but it also serves as an antioxidant and flavor protector. Dietary supplements, ice cream, dairy products, powdered milk, breads, margarine, and other processed food contain soy lecithin.
Is Soy Lecithin Vegan?
Soy lecithin is derived from soybeans without the use of any animal byproducts. Usually, ground forms of soy lecithin are vegan and contain no additional ingredients.
This lecithin also may be derived from sunflower seeds or a variety of other raw ingredients. Some of them are clearly derived from animals such as egg yolk and thus unsuitable for anyone following a plant-based diet. This type of soy lecithin is usually sold in gel capsules that are not vegan.
What is Soy Lecithin made of?
The most debatable part among the vegan is usually “what is soy lecithin made of”. Lecithin occurs naturally in many foods, lecithin supplements are typically derived from eggs, soy, or sunflower seeds. Lecithin is also obtained from canola, cottonseed, or animal fats.
Soy is a cost-effective source of lecithin. Chemicals, including acetone and hexane, are used to extract lecithin from soybean oil.
Major Concerns Vegans should consider before using Soy Lecithin
When people choose to live a vegan lifestyle, they must adhere to a number of rules. Some adhere to strict veganism and will not support businesses that exploit animals in any way, whereas others simply look at the ingredient list to determine whether a product is vegan-friendly or not.
So there are some concerns that vegans should consider before deciding whether or not to make or add any changes to their vegan lifestyle.
1. Health Risks
In terms of protecting animals and providing numerous health benefits, soy lecithin has a few potential risks that vegans who are concerned about their health should be aware of. Among these are the following:
- Diseases and nutrient deficiencies: The majority of today’s soy comes from genetically modified (GMO) crops. Throughout the GMO manufacturing process, allergens, toxins, and carcinogens are produced. These toxins can have a number of negative effects on your health, including pregnancy complications, infertility, and an increased risk of cancer.
- Toxic buildup: Hexane is used in the filtration of soy lecithin from soybeans, which causes toxic buildup. Over time, an accumulation of this chemical can lead to nausea, fatigue, neurological conditions, and even liver and kidney problems.
Food manufacturers are becoming more conscientious about labeling ingredients these days. Here’s how it might be labeled by manufacturers.
- Soy lecithin
- Lecithin (from soy)
- Soy lecithin
- Lecithin (derived from soya)
There are several minor differences on this, but it is clear that the lecithin used in this case is derived from soy instead of eggs or anything else. Similar labeling is used for sunflower-derived lecithin, which is also vegan-friendly but much less common.
In Europe, lecithin is labeled as E476, which refers to animal-based lecithin, or E322, which refers to a plant-based alternative. However, E322 can be derived from eggs as well.
Many people are allergic to soybeans, despite their popularity among the vegan community. Soy is one of the top eight allergenic foods. The allergens are found in the protein component of soybeans.
Soy lecithin is developed using a hot-solvent extraction method, which ensures that most, if not all, allergenic proteins are removed. However, there will still be tiny amounts of soy protein in lecithin. Those with severe soy allergies may still react to soy lecithin, despite the low risk of reaction.
Another growing concern about soy is its environmental impact. To begin with, the overwhelming bulk of soy plants grown in agriculture today are genetically modified organisms (GMOs). It comes to a plant-based product being vilified because of the negative environmental impact of its cultivation.
This is particularly concerning when biologically diverse forested land is completely cleared to plant hundreds of hectares of a monocultural clone. In addition, while clearing forests, many animals are cruelly killed and displaced from their habitat.
5. Genetically Modified
Soy is one of the most widely used genetically modified crops in the world. The GM type is thought to account for roughly 80% of total production.
There are numerous ethical issues associated with GMO practices.
One common criticism leveled at GMO products is that they have not even been exposed to enough long-term research to determine their safety for human consumption. Soy, on the other hand, is said to be second. Furthermore, pesticides are commonly used in the cultivation of soy in most parts of the world. A high level of pesticide use is harmful to the environment.
Soy lecithin powder and pure sunflower lecithin are the only forms of lecithin that you can be certain are vegan at first glance. Check the ingredients label on all other lecithin products to ensure there is nothing else included, as non-vegan ingredients are frequently included.
However, the information is available for you to make that decision. If you are not a strict vegan practitioner, then it might be suitable for you, and the same goes the other way. Since this is entirely up to you to decide.