Choosing the best lecithin granules is usually a matter of knowing what you’re looking for, as well as what you hope to achieve. Before shopping, it’s often a good idea to familiarize yourself with the options as well as some of the most common manufacturing processes. There are usually many different varieties available, and there are also typically a range of textures and sometimes even flavors for sale. Lecithin is usually considered a natural derivative, but this doesn’t mean that all granules are necessarily “all natural.” People who are concerned about chemical additives or the use of animal products usually have to spend a lot of time scrutinizing product labels. It’s also important to remember here that the question of which product is “best” is necessarily subjective and can vary from person to person. Asking for recommendations from friends and family members can be a good place to start, but what’s best for them might not necessarily also be best for you.
Understanding Lecithin Generally
Lecithin comes in many forms, and it can be derived from a number of different sources. The general category is quite broad and encompasses a range of different fatty acids, most of which are derived from nature; soybeans and egg yolks are two of the most popular sources. Granules are a highly concentrated form of lecithin, and they usually have an appearance similar to small grains of rice or barley. People usually choose granules when they want an antioxidant supplement; this is a different use entirely from to the liquid form of lecithin oil, which is commonly used as a fat emulsifier and baking additive during the manufacture of food products.
Antioxidants are chemicals that have the ability to block harmful substances known as “free radicals” which are sometimes present in the body. Popular research suggests, but does not prove, that consuming antioxidants might help prevent certain cancers and other illnesses while promoting overall health. Granules can help achieve this, and might also have additional health benefits, too. Soy lecithin in particular contains large amounts of choline, for instance, which the body needs as an essential nutrient. One standard serving of the granules provides approximately 50% of the choline the body needs every day.
Granules are commonly perceived to be the best type of lecithin supplement, since they contain the highest concentration of lecithin that can be obtained in dietary supplements and they are also usually very easy for the body to absorb and process. The granules are said to be oil-free, since oil content has been removed. This leaves a granular substance, which is then bottled or packaged in bulk form.
Think About the Source
Choosing the best granule is often complicated by the sheer number of choices. Some stores have just one or two varieties, but in most places there are many different options. One of the first things you can do to narrow the decision is to look at how each product is made, and more specifically what it’s made from.
Most granules are manufactured from soybeans, but those derived from egg yolks are also available. Egg products might absorb more quickly and sometimes have a higher concentration of nutrients per serving, but they also tend to be more expensive when compared to lecithin from plant sources. Soy-based granules are widely available and can be obtained at low cost, and can be obtained both prepackaged and in bulk. Prepackaged granules may be contained in bottles of loose granules or in tablet form.
Flavoring and Additive Considerations
Lecithin granules by themselves often have a mild nutty flavor, though some manufacturers also add flavorings to improve the taste. In addition, some have other supplements added, too, such as coenzyme Q10, a substance that helps cells produce energy. Kelp can also be added to the granules, which is popular with bodybuilders due to its high content of iodine and amino acids. The ratio used is generally about 0.004 ounces (100 mg) of kelp to 0.04 ounces (1,200 mg) of soy lecithin.
The only sure way to verify what additives a given product contains is to read the label. Some companies add tricalcium phosphate to reduce clumping of the granules. This is an odorless food additive composed of calcium plus citric acid, which is said to be nontoxic and is used in many foods as a stabilizer. Additionally, lecithin granules that have been preformed into tablets may have one or more of the B vitamins added, such as B-6 or B-12.
Deciphering Labeling Information
Labeling information isn’t always as straightforward as it might seem, and it may take you a bit of time to figure out what exactly it is you’re reading. For instance, numerous labels state “pure lecithin” as the only component of the product. Some labels may simply state “natural soy lecithin.” If it is certified to contain no animal contaminants, it might also state “pure vegan.” While this type of granule does not contain animal products, it is not necessarily derived from organic plant sources, which is of concern to those who do not wish to consume lecithin from genetically engineered soybeans.
Increasingly, it seems that companies have become aware of this preference and many now place “non-GMO” (non-genetically modified organisms) labels on their brand of lecithin granules. Still, if these are important considerations for you, you’ll want to spend the time to be sure you understand what is included in the supplement and where it came from.
Soy Lecithin Benefits
Soy lecithin can be a beneficial supplement in multiple ways for your health. While it is still debated, most of the scientific evidence points in the direction of soy lecithin being safe and beneficial for use. Remember that lecithin itself is a naturally occurring substance. That fact alone doesn't automatically make something good for consumption but can help dispel misguided fears about what the product is.
Soy lecithin's health benefits can include the following:
- Reduces bad cholesterol
- Increases good cholesterol
- Improves liver health
- Helps cognitive function
- Provides choline
- Lessens inflammation
- Reduces effects of menopause
- Helps you to cope with stress of various kinds
- Wards off dementia
- Helps with breastfeeding
While these are ways that soy lecithin can help improve your health, due to it being relatively new on the dietary scene (and less studied than other products), it should be combined with other healthy foods and products to maintain a healthy and balanced diet. Your health depends upon more than just a product like soy lecithin, as helpful as it can be.
Sunflower Lecithin vs. Soy Lecithin
Sunflower lecithin is another kind of lecithin that is naturally occurring and available as a dietary supplement and additive. One difference between this lecithin and soy lecithin is that it is extracted using the cold press method. This method is understood to be superior to the way that soy lecithin is extracted, which involves using a solvent and therefore involving a foreign substance in the process. Essentially, soy lecithin available for purchase contains GMOs, while sunflower lecithin is non-GMO. While this doesn't mean that soy lecithin will ultimately be bad for you, it is worth considering. Of course, deciding between sunflower and soy lecithin as supplements is a matter of personal choice.
While allergies are a relevant consideration to dietary questions like this, they shouldn't be of too much concern here. Even if you are allergic to soy, there's a good chance that soy lecithin will be okay for you to use without any adverse side effects because it's mostly allergen-free. Keep in mind that you are very likely already ingesting soy lecithin (or other types of lecithin) as it is used in many common products bought at the grocery store, such as bread products, dairy items and various dietary supplements. Regardless, it's always a good idea to ask your doctor before taking it (or any such supplement) to be sure.
Types of Lecithin
Lecithin comes from multiple sources, and different kinds of lecithins are added to common supermarket products as well as sold separately as supplements. The most common lecithins available are the following:
Soy lecithin is the most common lecithin available. It is typically extracted through a process that involves GMO ingredients in the resulting product, but it is still considered a safe and relatively beneficial supplement. It is available online and in various stores.
Sunflower lecithin is widely considered purer than soy lecithin because of its extraction process leaving it untainted by any additional ingredients. The benefits of sunflower lecithin include boosting heart health, strengthening the immune system, protecting the brain, stabilizing blood pressure levels and helping maintain proper hormone levels.
Egg Yolk Lecithin
Egg yolk lecithin is another kind of lecithin that is used as a supplement for its health benefits. It can be found in stores or bought online, and it is commonly used as an emulsifier. It can also be found in cosmetic products in addition to foods. The benefits of egg yolk lecithin range from strengthening brain function to improving cardiovascular health.