We’d all heard of chocolate as a taste, a food, and, in some instances, an addiction (see: me). Nevertheless, if you look at the back of a chocolate bar wrapper, you may wonder what soy lecithin is. I recall being charged with reading the ingredients on my favorite chocolate bars for the first time; it was in every single one of them. After that, I simply continued seeing it everywhere, and a few years later, I started seeing more firms utilizing sunflower lecithin in chocolate.
Lecithin has grown more widespread in meals ranging from vegan cookies to your favorite chocolate bar over the years. So I went out on a quest to discover why lecithin is present in chocolate and if it is something we should avoid. In this long-overdue piece, the solution may surprise you.
This content is given only for informational purposes. I strongly advise you to consult with your doctor or a competent medical practitioner to determine whether you should take lecithin for medical reasons.
What exactly is Soy Lecithin?
Soy lecithin is a brownish-yellow chemical obtained from soy that is composed of phospholipids coupled to choline. It may be present in both animal tissues (including eggs) and several plants, most notably soy, sunflower, cottonseed, and rapeseed. Lecithin’s etymological roots is Greek, derived from the term lekithos, which meaning egg yolk.
To extract lecithin from a plant, the seeds are dried and crushed before being combined with hexane to extract the lecithin. The mixture is then boiled and filtered to remove the hexane, and sometimes bleached, before drying or packing.
Soy lecithin is frequently utilized in two applications: medicine and cooking. Medicinal soy lecithin is used orally to address problems like excessive cholesterol and choline insufficiency, but it may also aid with cognitive and mood stabilization.
The material is also a powerful emollient, which means it softens and soothes the skin in the same way that oatmeal or honey does, which is why it’s often included in natural lotions. The quantity of soy lecithin required to produce lotion or address medical problems, on the other hand, is significantly more than that found in chocolate.
Soy lecithin may be purchased in either liquid or granular form, depending on how you want to utilize it. The liquid form is favored for most culinary and cosmetic applications because to its more exact measurement. Yet, regardless of the form, soy lecithin is an emulsifier, which means it makes items less viscous and more smoothly flowing, which is desirable in something like chocolate.
What is the purpose of lecithin in chocolate?
To combat viscosity, manufacturers add lecithin to chocolate. It is, to make chocolate less viscous, or more readily pourable, while retaining its density. Lecithin replaces additional cocoa butter, which is not only costly but also has other non-food applications, thus reducing reliance on it saves firms money in the long run. Yet, maintaining a steady viscosity is also vital because chocolate manufacturers must be able to swiftly feed chocolate from refining equipment into tempering machines before it cools and hardens in the machines.
So why, in the first place, add lecithin to chocolate? Weren’t we creating chocolate for ages before lecithin? Indeed, indeed. But nothing approaching this magnitude. Contemporary chocolate production has reached hundreds of pounds per hour in industrial settings, and all of that chocolate must be delivered on schedule and on budget. Yet, as I already said, lecithin is utilized in far lesser proportions in chocolate.
There is also a regulatory limit of 0.5% for lecithin concentration in chocolate. Nevertheless, that legal limit is practically self-regulated, since too much lecithin in chocolate may have the reverse effect, thickening the liquid to the point that it is useless and presumably not very palatable. Surprisingly, manufacturers must use more sunflower lecithin to get the same effect as soy lecithin in chocolate, since soy lecithin is so powerful that no manufacturer has to use more than 0.1% soy lecithin in any of their chocolates.
Sunflower Lecithin vs. Soy Lecithin
If you’re taking lecithin for medical reasons, the soy-derived type is definitely the best choice since it’s the most common and least costly. As long as you don’t have a soy allergy, there’s no reason not to use soy lecithin, unless your doctor recommends otherwise. The same approach applies to people interested in making a lecithin-based lotion or other DIY body cream.
Therefore, picking between soy lecithin and sunflower lecithin when creating chocolate is mostly a matter of preference. If you absolutely must use lecithin and have the option of using any source, a non-GMO soy lecithin might be utilized in lesser proportions, reducing the quantity necessary. On the other hand, even more responsibly sourced soy is still a problem for some people, so if you believe your client base would be offended by any soy, I’d go with sunflower.
A brief message to customers If you often purchase chocolate from other countries, you may see lecitina de girasol among the ingredients; this is just sunflower lecithin in English. Lecitina de soya, on the other hand, is just soy lecithin. Other sources of lecithin are almost unheard of in chocolate manufacturing, although they may be viable to utilize depending on your recipe.
Is Sunflower Lecithin Harmful to Your Health?
The topic of whether lecithin is hazardous for you remains unanswered. There are a few of chocolate producers I know that use sunflower lecithin and must go quite near to the legal limit (0.5% lecithin by weight) to get the viscosity they want. Therefore, in general, if you read sunflower lecithin on an ingredients list, it will represent a little part of your chocolate bar, but it would be much smaller if the maker utilized sunflower lecithin.
Research on sunflower lecithin have demonstrated that the advantages greatly exceed any possible negative effects, save in rare instances of allergies or difficulty with choline digestion. If your doctor has advised you to take lecithin for health reasons, there is no reason why you shouldn’t. In terms of chocolate, sunflower lecithin is a completely healthy component to include.
Is Soy Lecithin Harmful to Your Health?
Soy lecithin’s health status is a little murkier, given so many individuals suffer from soy allergies, making it one of the world’s most frequent food sensitivities. Soy allergens, on the other hand, are contained in the plant’s proteins, which are almost non-existent in soy-derived lecithin. Soy lecithin is safe for most persons with soy allergies, with the exception of those with severe allergies.
Personally, I dislike soy and try to avoid it as much as possible. I’ve discovered papers that both support and refute the hazards of soy lecithin, both in chocolate and elsewhere. Since its extraction entails so many chemicals and it isn’t an essential element in chocolate, I only consume it when it’s in something I truly like. Otherwise, I just avoid it.
Frequently Asked Questions Regarding Lecithin in Chocolate
Lecithins are used to thin down the viscosity of chocolate, which replaces the typical added cocoa butter, making it less viscous and easier to pour into chocolate molds and melt in your mouth.
You do not. Yet, some chocolatiers choose to always use lecithin to make their chocolate easier to work with.
In the United States, no more than 0.5% lecithin by weight may be lawfully added to chocolate.
To treat excessive cholesterol, cognitive impairments, and certain emotional concerns, lecithin is given orally or topically. It is also used as an emollient in cosmetics and in chocolate processing to make liquid chocolate less viscous.
If you have problems digesting choline or have a strong allergy to the substance from which it was derived, lecithin may be harmful to you (soy, sunflower, etc.).
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