What is Soy Lecithin & Why is it in your chocolate?
Soy Lecithin! Honestly, I had never heard of it till I started looking at different chocolate bars and found it as a staple ingredient in most chocolate bars. And most people did not care about it ! At least I did not see any anyone conversations around it - talking for or against it.
I started looking and I learned it’s an Emulsifier. Next quest; what is an Emulsifier?
Emulsifiers are natural or chemical substances that consist of a “water-loving” end and an “oil-loving” end. They're commonly used in the food industry to combine ingredients that normally don't mix together, such as oil and water. In modern food production some common emulsifiers are mustard, soy and egg lecithin, mono- and diglycerides, polysorbates, carrageenan, guar gum and canola oil. In home-made recipes tomato paste, mustard powder and miso easily work as emulsifiers.
If you are a geek or someone with a scientific bent of mind, continue.. or else you can skip the next paragraph
In food manufacturing industry where emulsifiers are used extensively think of it as a ‘hand-holder’ between the oil and water mix. Chemically, an emulsifier has one end compatible with oil and the other compatible with water, so it can link with both. This makes it easier to prepare an emulsion. Some emulsifiers will also stabilize, so the emulsion doesn’t separate over time. In some foods, you’ll see stabilizers added as well in order to maintain the emulsion. Many common manufactured foods contain emulsifiers. They not only stabilize the blend but also affect the texture of our foods. In ice cream, for example, emulsifiers enhance the smooth creamy texture as well as slowing down the melting process.
Some common food products that you will find emulsifiers in are mayonnaise, salad dressings, creamy sauces, and ice cream. But why add an emulsifier to chocolate - there is no water in chocolate (or else it would seize!). So what is it doing in your chocolate?
Clearly, it is not added an emulsifier, rather its not needed. What it does, is it eliminates the friction caused between the cacao particles, sugar, milk, and other ingredients - which makes the chocolate less viscous and allows it to flow more easily. This means it easier to temper the chocolate, to pour the chocolate and for the chocolate to flow through the industrial pipes. It is also often used as a replacement for cacao butter allowing to maintain the same taste, texture and mouthfeel while reducing the cost of chocolate. Cacao butter costs > Soy Lecithin.
In summary, emulsifiers make chocolates less expensive, easier to work with, and improves profitability by increasing shelf life.
But what does it do to our body and gut? This is how soy lecithin is made (quoting what I found on my google search) :
“To make soy lecithin, soybean oil is extracted from the raw soybeans using a chemical solvent (usually hexane). Then, the crude soy oil goes through a ‘degumming’ process, wherein water is mixed thoroughly with the soy oil until the lecithin becomes hydrated and separates from the oil. Then, the lecithin is dried and occasionally bleached using hydrogen peroxide.”
It is practically industrial waste and there is nothing natural about it. Research shows that many of these dietary emulsifiers alter the structure and function of the gut microbial community, and contribute to gut inflammation.
At Elements, our philosophy is - Keep it Simple and keep it Real ! Especially when it comes to ingredients. It took us working through many trials, tears (had to keep them away from the chocolate), and prayers to come up with our first recipe - now known as our Classic collection. The unique method of combining the honey and cacao gives us the edge to create a melt in the mouth texture and yet allowing us to keep the nutritional value intact by avoiding unnecessary processing.
Our chocolates have less than seven simple and natural ingredients including ethically sourced cacao and honey but “emulsifier” or “soy-lecithin” is not one of them. Oh yes and we don’t add natural flavors either, a discussion for another time.
While some may argue that we are constantly exposed to chemical toxins and the percentage of lecithin in a bar of chocolate is really small. My question is why not avoid it when you can. And with the number of products that have these emulsifiers, our consumption of this sneaky emulsifier does add up!
So go get yourself a chocolate bar that is decadent and gut-friendly! No sugar spikes, no gut inflammation, no guilt ! Indulge joyfully with our products. If you are a purist, I would strongly recommend Sea Salt with Turmeric in our Classic collection and Black Lava Salt with Turmeric in our Rasa collection to really experience the smoothness of a truly luxurious chocolate.