What is Lecithin?
Derived from the Greek word “lekithos” which means egg yolk, lecithin, in the scientific world, are the substances (fatty acids) that can be naturally found in your tissues. Nevertheless, it can be found in plant and animal tissues.
Lecithin acts as an emulsifier when added in certain food. Meaning, it stabilizes the ingredient, helping it not to separate. As a form of additives, it provides a moist and smooth texture in the food. However, lecithin can work as a supplement as well. It comes in many forms such as granule, liquid, and capsule. But whether it is additive or supplement, lecithin provides health benefits such as improving brain function, lowering cholesterol level, and aiding with breastfeeding.
Lecithin can found in dairy products, seafood, and meat. Additionally, there are certain types of it like egg yolks, soybeans, and sunflower lecithin.
What is Sunflower Lecithin?
The lecithin that is extracted from sunflower seeds is called sunflower lecithin. It is made by dehydrating the flower and separating the contents in 3 parts namely, solid, oil, and gum. The gum part is where the lecithin is produced. If you are familiar with the cold press process done to make olive oil, it is the same thing when making sunflower lecithin.
Sunflower lecithin is full of nutrients that your body needs. The following vitamins and minerals are what it’s made of:
- Omega-6 fatty acids
- Omega-3 fatty acids
Fat-soluble vitamins such as vitamin A, vitamin D, vitamin E, and vitamin K are easily absorbed because of the assistance of sunflower lecithin.
No wonder it has a lot of positive health benefits such as the following:
Stimulate the Brain Function
Choline is one of the nutrients that sunflower lecithin produces. It is associated with several positive health-related issues. But most importantly, choline is responsible for boosting brain function. In fact, a few studies are made about choline and brain health relationship.
One published study found that choline may enhance the cognitive function when taken at a higher. In another study, older adults have been reported to improve memory function after being supplied with choline. The first study was conducted by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition while the second is from the Clinical Research Center at Massachusetts.
Breastfeeding is essential for a newborn. In fact, experts suggest breastfeeding more than bottle-fed milk. However, mothers do encounter problems such as clogged milk ducts. It can be very frustrating. Imagine experiencing a painful mammary gland. It could be swelled, tender, red and quite challenging to resolve. Most breastfeeding problems even lead to mastitis.
Fortunately, health experts have found a solution through sunflower lecithin to solve the breastfeeding issue. The painful milk ducts can be resolved by taking supplements as it helps thin the breast milk in mothers.
Decreases Levels of Cholesterol
A healthier heart can be achieved by taking sunflower lecithin. Cholesterol is the enemy number one on the list of heart health. The good thing is, by taking supplements, cholesterol level is reduced. In fact, it can be reduced up to 42% according to one study. Particularly, bad cholesterol (LDL) can be reduced up to 56%.
But while the sunflower lecithin decreases the level of LDL cholesterol, it increases the level of HDL cholesterol at the same time. HDL or the “good” cholesterol is responsible for keeping the bloodstream clear. It eliminates fatty substances to keep the blood flowing in the arteries.
Enhances Skin Health
You may not be aware that most skin care products have lecithin included in it. Go, pick up your favorite cosmetic and take a look at its ingredients.
Lecithin has been found effective against dry skin. It also relieves irritated skin. Meanwhile, its emollient properties are especially effective in making your skin soft.
Beauty experts tried to combine lecithin in other skin-soothing ingredients. They found that it can cure skin conditions like atopic dermatitis and eczema when applied topically.
On the other hand, lecithin supplements need further study to understand its effect on skin health.
Improves Digestive Health
Sunflower lecithin is also helpful in improving the health of your digestive tract. In fact, conditions such as Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, and other bowel syndromes can especially improve through lecithin. Science explains that the layer of phospholipids is mostly made up of lecithin. It serves as a protection against harmful bacteria, keeping them at bay.
In a published study titled “Digestive Diseases”, about 70% of individuals suffering from ulcerative colitis decreased the mucus content in their phospholipid barrier. Meaning to say, it is an opening for potential intestinal inflammation once dangerous microbes steps in. But through sunflower lecithin, digestive health can improve. However, further research is still needed to conduct to fully support this claim.
Sunflower lecithin has other function in terms of helping clear acne, aiding with arthritis, and improving liver function.
Additionally, food such as cookies can improve its texture and taste when the ingredient is added.
Sunflower Lecithin Versus Other Lecithin Sources
Of course, there are different kinds of lecithin. But what would be the edge of sunflower lecithin from them? Say, the soy lecithin.
For instance, soy lecithin is quite popular because most companies preferred using it than sunflower. However, there is some concern regarding the product such as:
- Most soy lecithin is mixed with chemicals when processed.
- Genetically modified soy is the most product available in the market.
- Soy allergies are popular among consumers.
Another source of lecithin is egg yolk. The concern about egg yolk lecithin is not centered in the individuals allergic to egg yolks but to the individuals who followed a vegan diet. A vegan diet has a limited animal consumption so it is not advisable that they take too much meat or dairy products. Additionally, egg yolk lecithin has also a harsh extraction process that like soy lecithin is processed with chemicals.
Compared with soy and egg yolk lecithin, sunflower lecithin is organic and processed naturally—no chemicals included. Additionally, there is a lesser population of individuals that are allergic to sunflower lecithin. But say, that a person is highly allergic to sunflower products like seeds, it is advised that they avoid sunflower lecithin as well.