Lecithin is a food additive with an E number of 322. It is used as an emulsifier. An emulsifier is a substance used to stabilize mixtures of oil and water preventing separation.
Lecithin is very common. It can be found in both plant and animal tissues. Lecithin was first discovered in 1846 by Theodore Gobley. It was first found in egg yolk and the word lecithin comes from the ancient greek word for “egg yolk”.
Sources of lecithin include soy beans, eggs, milk, and sunflower. Because they are cheap and easy to grow, soy beans are the major source lecithin production.
It is one of the most commonly used additives in processed foods. It is most often found in cases where an emulsifier is required. It can also be used to prevent foods from sticking.
Some specific examples include:
- Baked goods
- Spreads and dressings
Health Issues / Side Effects:
It is a source of choline. As such, it is sold as a dietary supplement. There have been studies that seem to indicate it can relieve acne, improve liver function, and lower cholesterol.1
Because it is most often produced from soy oil, people with severe soy allergies may want to avoid it.
Anybody who wants to avoid GMOs (genetically modified organisms) may also want to avoid products containing soy lecithin. This is because most soy bean crops have been genetically modified.