If you’re a vegan, you might always come across “lecithin” mentioned as an ingredient when you carefully study the labels before consuming our products. So, you might often wonder if this lecithin is vegan. Well, the answer is complex.
Lecithin can be both vegan or animal-derived, depending on its form. While powdered lecithin is usually plant-derived, gel-based lecithin is often derived from eggs or animal flesh. So, you need to be careful about what form of lecithin goes into your food!
So, to be careful about what form of lecithin we consume, we must also be the complete authority on the additive. And we’re here to break down everything you need to know about lecithin.
Understanding Lecithin and Various Forms
So many of you might also be confused: what exactly is lecithin? So, first, let us understand lecithin and its types better to know if each is vegan!
In general, lecithin is a popular emulsifier used in baking and cooking to give form and structure to our dishes. If we are to get technical, then lecithin can also be a fatty substance derived from eggs, animal tissues, and plant-based items such as soybean, sunflower seeds, corn, and other nuts, among others.
The power of lecithin is such that it can force two unmixable substances (a popular example will be that of milk and oil) to blend and combine effortlessly. Thus, it helps in mixing wet ingredients while baking and cooking.
You can think of it as a blend of glycerol, glycolipids, and other fatty acids. Now let us discuss some popular forms of lecithin and understand if they are vegan or not:
- Soy Lecithin
This is the most popular lecithin that comes from a plant source. No point in guessing that soy lecithin is derived from soybeans.
Now, most soy lecithin is available in powdered form. This is great because the lecithin has been derived from soybeans only with no additives, making it vegan.
However, it is also worth mentioning that lecithin in a powdered form never contains any additives. But even soy lecithin in gel-based capsules might contain gelatine and glycerine that aren’t plant-based.
- Sunflower Lecithin
Again, the name is enough to let us know that this lecithin is derived from sunflower seeds or dehydrated sunflowers.
Soy lecithin is available in powdered form. But think of it as an advantage of sunflower lecithin, which is also available in liquid form.
- Egg Lecithin
Also known as egg yolk lecithin, it is another popular emulsifier. You can find it in foods, make-up and skincare products, and certain medicines.
Of course, being derived from the phospholipid from the egg yolk, this lecithin is not plant-based and obviously should not be consumed by vegans.
- Other Forms of Lecithin
Now since lecithin is a fatty compound found in animal tissues, animal fast-based lecithin isn’t uncommon. Other forms of lecithin are also derived from:
- Rapeseed or Canola Oil
And as science and research progress, we’ll have many other forms of lecithin.
Are All Forms of Lecithin Vegan?
As we discussed just now, not all lecithin is vegan. To summarize all of the animal-derived lecithin forms, we have shortlisted them here:
- Egg Lecithin
- Meat Lecithin
- Soft capsule-based soy lecithin
- Soft capsule-based sunflower lecithin
And why is lecithin not vegan? These capsules might contain gelatine or glycerine to give the capsule its soft form. And since gelatine and glycerine are not vegan, these capsules are categorized as animal-derived products.
Want to know more about Lecithin? Or just want to double back on the claims about lecithin being vegan in its most popular forms, we have compiled the answers for the following FAQs relating to it:
- Is Rapeseed Lecithin Vegan?
Rapeseed or canola oil lecithin is one of the most popular alternatives to soy lecithin. And since it is derived from canola oil only, it is vegan.
Again, if a soft capsule form of rapeseed lecithin exists, it might not be vegan. So, vegans can freely consume the liquid form of rapeseed lecithin.
- What is the Most Common Source of Lecithin?
Soybeans are the most common and the most popular source of lecithin. However, they also contain allergens for some people.
For such vegans who are allergic to soy, sunflower lecithin and canola oil lecithin are the most popular sources of lecithin.
- Why Should I Consume Lecithin?
Lecithin is said to be good for the liver. Since soy lecithin converts into choline in our body, it helps to keep our mind and memory strong. And other unverified claims also suggest that it can be used to cure anxiety and other mental issues.
- Is Lecithin Natural?
Yes, lecithin is a natural substance in soybeans, sunflower oil, canola oil, eggs, and meats. However, it is also imperative to note that certain harsh chemicals might be used to extract lecithin from these natural products.
- Can Lecithin be Harmful?
While the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) certainly classifies lecithin as food safe, certain people might still react differently to each form of lecithin.
- Possible side effects of lecithin include:
- Bloated Belly
- Decreased Appetite
And there can be many more of these side effects as each body will react differently to each form of lecithin.
Overall, we discovered that the most popular forms of lecithin are vegan. Think of soy lecithin, canola oil lecithin, and sunflower lecithin. However, if they come in soft-gel capsule forms, vegans must avoid them as these pills contain gelatine and glycerine.
Other than that, egg yolk lecithin and animal fat lecithin are animal-derived, and hence vegans must avoid such forms of lecithin.
However, do note that some people are allergic to soy. And while most forms of lecithin boast health benefits, some forms also come with distinctive side effects.