The truth about lecithin

Written by Catherine Saxelby on Wednesday, 10 May 2023.
Tagged: guides, health, healthy lifestyle, women's health

The truth about lecithin
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What IS lecithin, I hear you ask. A popular “health food” supplement, lecithin is a type of fat called a phospholipid, which has phosphorus as a key ingredient. It is made in the body by the liver as a component of bile and bile acids.



  • aids in the digestion and transport of fats
  • is a major constituent of brain and nerve tissues
  • is used in the structure of cell membranes.

Unlike vitamins or minerals, lecithin is not an essential nutrient, but it does contain choline and inositol. Choline is an essential nutrient related to B vitamins.

Inositol is a substance that is important for growing new cells, which occurs widely in many animal and plant foods. Although it is essential for some animals, there is no evidence that inositol is essential for humans.

Rich sources include red meat, milk, bran and whole grains (where it’s present as phytic acid), legumes, nuts, vegetables and fruit. 

Lecithin is generally extracted from soy beans; alternative sources include egg yolks, sunflower oil, canola oil and grains such as maize. It is high in polyunsaturated fats, which accounts for early reports that it could lower cholesterol. It is expensive, however, and you can get these fats much more cheaply from polyunsaturated oils or nuts.

Lecithin Granules Plastic Spoon Lspe

Lecithin is generally extracted from crude soy bean oil, but lecithin derived from sunflower oil is becoming increasingly popular, possibly due to requirements to declare allergens in foods like soy. Also, people who wish to avoid genetically modified crops may prefer sunflower lecithin. 

Lecithin is also commonly used as an EMULSIFIER in food products (code number 322), allowing oils and water to mix in a range of foods such as bread, mayonnaise, margarine, non-stick oil sprays and chocolate. 

Commercial lecithin is sold as granules or capsules. 


There is no recommended dosage for lecithin. As a general rule, you should not exceed 5,000 mg daily.

 Nutrition per serve

Two tablespoons of lecithin granules (24 g) supply 675 kilojoules (161 Calories), 2 g protein, 15 g fat (including 3 g saturated fat), 5 g carbohydrates, (including 1 g sugars), 4 g fibre and 2 mg sodium.

Although few analyses are available, it is probably rich in vitamin E, which accounts for its ability to protect polyunsaturated fats from oxygen attack.

The bottom line 

For most people, lecithin is of limited nutritional value. Numerous health claims have been made about lecithin over the years, including that it improves memory, lowers cholesterol and dissolves gallstones. But the amounts found in food or supplements are probably not enough to change lecithin levels in the body.

Catherine Saxelby About the author

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Catherine Saxelby has the answers! She is an accredited nutritionist, blogger and award-winning author. Her award-winning book My Nutritionary will help you cut through the jargon. Do you know your MCTs from your LCTs? How about sterols from stanols? What’s the difference between glucose and dextrose? Or probiotics and prebiotics? What additive is number 330? How safe is acesulfame K? If you find yourself confused by food labels, grab your copy of Catherine Saxelby’s comprehensive guide My Nutritionary NOW!