July 29, 2010- Everyone is now aware of the fact that many food additives- natural as well as artificial- are added to processed food items. Emulsifiers
are one of such widely used food additives. There are many examples of such food items that are prepared with emulsifiers such as Mayonnaise (vegetable oil in lemon juice or vinegar, with egg yolk lecithin as emulsifier.) Lecithin is any group of yellow-brownish fatty substances that occur in animal and plant tissues, and in egg yolk. Lecithins are made up of phosphoric acid, choline, fatty acids, glycerol, glycolipids, triglycerides, and phospholipids.
What are Lecithin Sources?
Lecithins are oily substances that occur naturally in plants like soybeans. Animals too are a lecithin source, example being fish. Lecithin is, in fact, found naturally in many items used as food such as egg yolk, grains, legumes, peanuts, soybeans, wheat germ, and yeast. Lecithin as emulsifier is used in food preparation to make such food products as baked goods like cakes, chocolate, margarine, and mayonnaise because of its ability to moisturize, preserve, and emulsify. Some natural lecithin emulsifiers like soy lecithin is used in production of instant powders too.
Lecithin- Benefits of Natural Emulsifiers
As the natural emulsifier lecithin is non-toxic, it is preferred to be used in many food preparation – thanks to consumer awareness about safe food additives
. Lecithin is used in foods that need a natural emulsifier or lubricant. The properties of lecithin include
Lecithin reduces viscosity in confectionery.
It controls sugar crystallization and flow properties of chocolate.
Lecithin also helps in homogeneous mixing of ingredients.
It improves shelf life of some of the food products.
It gives texture to dressings and other creamy products.
Lecithin counteracts spattering during frying
Lecithin can also be used as a coating.
Soy Lecithin- Most Popular Natural Emulsifier
Soy Lecithin or the soybean lecithin is the most popular food emulsifier and finds place in the top 10 most used ingredients in processed foods. Soy lecithin (E322) is a byproduct of soybean oil and is derived from soybeans mechanically or chemically. Soy lecithin is an excellent source of choline, which is essential to every living cell in the body and is one of the major components of cell membranes. Without choline, cell membranes would harden thus prohibiting important nutrients from entering and leaving the cell. According to many scientific researches, lecithin and choline may even aid in memory and cognitive function, cardiovascular health, liver function, reproduction and fetal development as well as physical and athletic performance. Soy lecithin emulsifier has one more benefit and that relates to people with soy allergies. People allergic to soy can also consume soy lecithin because it is derived from soybean oil while the allergy relates to the soy protein.
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