Soy Lecithin: What IS That?

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Over the past few weeks, I’ve been taking a closer look at some of the most common additives in processed food, such as aspartame and “natural flavour”. This week I want to tackle one of the most widespread additives around: soy lecithin.

Where is it found?

Soy lecithin is an emulsifier – it prevents the separation of water and fat. It is found in thousands upon thousands of manufactured products, from baby formula, chocolate, coffee cream and margarine to cosmetics. It’s even sold as a nutritional supplement, boasting claims from increased metabolism and athletic performance to controlling dandruff.

Thanks to a multi-billion dollar marketing campaign spanning almost a century, soy byproducts now reside in up to 70% of the food products on your supermarket shelves.

Where does it come from?

It’s not a pretty picture. Virtually all soy beans grown today are genetically modified varieties, engineered to withstand massive doses of pesticides and herbicides. Oils are extracted from soy beans for commercial use via processes that leave traces of solvents and pesticides in the residual sludge.

Soy lecithin is made from that toxic industrial sludge. As the waste product of soy oil extraction is not fit for livestock consumption, the soy industry has been aggressively seeking other ways to sell the stuff.

What does it do to your body?

Numerous studies have found that soy products may have some pretty nasty side effects. Thyroid dysfunction, kidney stones, suppression of the immune system, increased risk of breast cancer and potentially fatal food allergies, to name just a few.

In addition to being linked with serious health problems, compounds found in soy have significant anti-nutritional properties:

  • Lectines compromise immune system functioning and upset the healthy balance of gut bacteria.
  • Phytic acid suppresses nutrient absorption by bonding to the nutrients you need, like calcium, magnesium, zinc and copper.
  • Haemaglutten causes blood cells to clump together and inhibits oxygen uptake.
  • Phytoestrogen mimics the female hormone estrogen.
  • Enzyme and trypsin inhibitors impede protein absorption and pancreatic functioning.

Even if all the claims made by the soy industry about the health benefits of soy lecithin and soy byproducts were completely true, it would still be pretty clear that the bad outweighs the good.

If, after reading this, you’re looking to avoid soy byproducts, you’ve got your work cut out for you! If you eat any processed food at all, odds are it contains products derived from soy. You’ll find soybean oil, soy flour, soy formula, soy lecithin or hydrolyzed soy protein on one label after another.

The good news is lowering the load of soy in your diet is easier then you think!

Action Step: Over the next 24 hours take a look at the food in your cupboard. Do you see any items with soy in the ingredient list? Maybe a chocolate bar, box of crackers, some cookies or salad dressing? On your next visit to the grocery store, take a look at a few other products on the shelves related to the item you want. If it has no soy in the ingredient list, it automatically is a better choice. They are out there, you just need to take a few minutes to look.

Remember, the best way to avoid soy products is to get in your kitchen and make your favourite foods yourself. Here is one recipe to help get you started. It is for my delectable Guilt Free Chocolate Bars. This is the silkiest, smoothest chocolate you have ever tasted. Give it a try and let me know how it goes.

Is there anything GOOD about soy?

Fermented soy products like miso, temeph and natto are safer to consume because the fermentation process blunts the activity of phytic acid on your nutrient absorption and creates probiotic activity for gut health.

Now go take a look in your kitchen cupboard and see what you find!

Please share!
About Adam Hart

Adam Hart is the bestselling author of The Power of Food. When not on stage speaking, Adam can be found helping one of his many corporate clients in awakening an abundance of energy through his highly engaging stress management solutions.Contact Adam to book a demo for an enhanced corporate wellness experience.


  1. So even if you buy organic soy milk and organic tofu, soy is still harmful to you?

    • Unfortunately it is one of the plant based foods I recommend to avoid. Once in a while okay, but we are way over consuming it without even knowing.

  2. Hi Adam,

    Are you saying that all soy-based products have these negative side effects? Or just the by-products from processing soy, which include soy lecithn? I find it hard to believe that soy beans in general have these negative effects mentioned here. Thanks for any clarification.


    • Hi Kelvin

      From my research the main negative effects come from soy byproduct, but there are many health concerns raised from soy in its whole state as well. It is one that requires doing some of our own research to sift through the millions of opinions. I have chosen to remove it from my diet as much as I am able.

  3. HI Adam. Great information, thank you. For years I was taught that organic, non-gmo soy lecithin was an excellent source of the phospholipid phosphatidylserine (PS)and is excelent for memeory and possibly even alzeimer’s because we lose PS as we age.

    As a RNCP / ROHP and a current member of the IONC, I want to make sure I have the most updated information on the effects of supplements / ingredients such as Soy Lecithin. I understand that the Soy lecithin in most products (such as chocolate bars) is GMO and very low grade but what about organic or above organic, non-gmo, ethically sourced soy lecithin? I haven’t recommended it as a therapeutic supplement in years because of the lack of science surrounding the matter but I can see now that more and more holistic health professionals are talking about it. Would you know of any resources or studies where I could find some solid research around the dangers you speak of? Thank you for your time and thank you for all of your amazing work Adam. I admire your mission!

    • Adam Hart says:

      Hey Tammra

      Soy is always a loaded discussion when it comes up at my events or anywhere really. My opinion is that soy in very small amounts that is organic and free of chemicals used in production may have some health benefits. But the reality is, in North America, the average person over consumes soy at a level that is causing health concerns. Most go undetected due to the fact that it is very tough to link symptoms to the consumption of soy. It is hidden in so many products under so many different names, making it almost impossible to make the connection to how you are feeling. Most of my research has come from doing goolge searches as well as reading the book ‘The Whole Soy Story’. Hope this helps!


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