Lecithin is a mixture of various compounds, mainly phospholipids. It performs many important functions in the body: improves memory and concentration, lowers cholesterol, protects the liver. It is found in foods and additives, and is also used in the food industry. Consider what foods contain lecithin and what are its beneficial health properties.
What is lecithin?
Lecithin is not one substance, but a mixture of compounds, mainly of a fatty nature. The most important of these are phospholipids. They are presented graphically in the form of a head with a tail.
The “tail” is fatty acids, and the “head” is glycerol, the phosphorus group and the attached compound, which is the most important in the whole phospholipid, because it is largely responsible for its health functions. This may be, inter alia, choline (phosphatidylcholine), inositol (phosphatidylinositol) or serine (phosphatidylserine). In addition to phospholipids, the composition of lecithin also includes triglycerides, carbohydrates, glycolipids and water.
It was first isolated in 1846 by Theodore Nicholas Gobley from an egg yolk. The name comes from the Greek word lekithos, which means egg yolk. Since then, it has been studied in which products lecithin is contained, its healing properties and methods of application are described.
What is it for?
This substance has many functions:
- this is the building block of every cell in the body, this is part of the cell membranes,
- is an element that builds brain tissue and myelin sheaths of cells of the nervous system,
- stimulates the nervous system, supports the processes of concentration and attention,
- participates in metabolic processes,
- is a protective barrier to the walls of the stomach,
- protects the liver
- improves the absorption of fat soluble vitamins;
- participates in cholesterol metabolism and increases blood circulation efficiency,
- accelerates tissue regeneration after training,
- slows down aging.
Memory and concentration
Lecithin is perhaps most closely associated with supporting mental abilities and learning processes. It is recommended for people working mentally, preparing for exams, and the elderly, whose memory condition worsens with age of the nervous system.
Studies show that people taking supplements with this substance feel an improvement in their thinking and memory capabilities. However, their systematic adoption is needed - from a month to 3-4 months.
From multiple doses taken from time to time, the brain will not function more efficiently. Lecithin is used to improve the health and quality of life of people suffering from Alzheimer's disease and senile dementia.
Benefits for the Cardiovascular System
This compound is involved in the metabolism of fats and cholesterol. Due to the presence of polyunsaturated fatty acids in it, it binds cholesterol, facilitates its transport and accelerates the elimination of excess from the body.
It also has an emulsifying effect - it breaks down fats and cholesterol from food into small molecules, which limits their attachment to platelets and the walls of blood vessels. All this prevents the formation of atherosclerotic deposits and coronary blood clots, which lead to cardiovascular diseases that are hazardous to health.
Lecithin is known to lower the level of “bad” LDL cholesterol and triglycerides. Some sources indicate its ability to increase HDL cholesterol, a fraction of which has a positive effect on health.
Supports the liver
Supplements with it have a positive effect on detoxification and regeneration of the liver. This limits the adverse effects of alcohol, medications and other substances that burden this organ.
It accelerates its regeneration, since it has a stabilizing effect on the membranes of liver cells. The beneficial effects of lecithin in steatosis, fibrosis, and liver cirrhosis in alcoholics have been demonstrated.
It inhibits the accumulation of fats in the liver, thereby helping to restore its normal functions. It is responsible for the dissolution of cholesterol in bile, thereby preventing the formation of stones in the gallbladder.
Help with mental illness
Lecithin, like choline, improves the condition of people with manic-depressive disorders. Its use reduces the frequency of delusional states and hallucinations. The use of drugs with it for mental disorders can be an effective part of treatment.
Supports the sexual capabilities of men
Many do not know what the benefits of lecithin for men. The seminal fluid contains a large amount of this substance, and phosphatidylinositol in it is necessary in the process of sperm production. In 100 g of sperm - 53 mg of inositol. Therefore, it is believed that lecithin is very important for the sexual activity of men and increases fertility, and inositol deficiency is associated with infertility.
Application in the food industry
This compound has found application in the food industry, since it allows to reduce cost, improves quality and increases the shelf life of finished products. What foods contain lecithin? It is added to bread, cakes, pastries, chocolate, margarine, mayonnaise, instant foods and even pasta. In the list of ingredients, it is marked with the symbol E322. HE improves the consistency of the dough, prolongs the freshness of bread; prevents food from sticking to the surface of the dishes and gluing; facilitates the formation of water-in-oil emulsions and allows you to mix immiscible ingredients.
The lecithin used in the manufacture of chocolate makes its texture more smooth and velvety. It improves the organoleptic properties of many foods. It does not apply to harmful food additives, but only has a positive effect on health.
Lecithin: in which products to look for it?
this will not be a problem. Lecithin is quite common in foods. If you want to improve memory and concentration, you should take care of proper nutrition. Consider which products contain a large amount of lecithin.
Good sources of it:
- egg yolk,
- wheat germ,
- sunflower seeds,
- unrefined rapeseed oil (most of the lecithin is removed during refining),
- baking yeast
- milk products,
- green vegetables
- black olives.
Its largest amount is found in egg yolks (in 1 yolk - about 2 grams of lecithin).
You should also consider which foods contain lecithin as a dietary supplement. We get it, for example, with bread and chocolate. The daily consumption of 300 g of bread covers the daily need for this substance. This is perhaps not the most reasonable way to deliver this compound to the body, but it shows that it is easy to supplement it in the diet.
The need for lecithin is not indicated in food standards, however, most often in publications you can find that the body needs 2-2.5 g of this substance per day for proper functioning.
Some sources indicate a value of 6 g. It should be remembered that you do not need to take supplements with it every day, but only with an increase in mental stress or a decrease in concentration. If you know what products contain lecithin, you can easily cover the body's needs for this substance with a properly balanced diet.
Pharmaceutical shelves bend under the weight of lecithin supplements. You may find them in the form of liquid soluble tablets or capsules. The form of the product itself is not as important as the content of the active substance in it.
When buying a supplement, you need to be very careful and inquisitive, because in pharmacies you can find products that contain 50 mg of lecithin in a dose, as well as 1200 mg. You should definitely choose the latter.
Supplements must be used correctly. To do this, it is important to understand the benefits and harms of lecithin. Manufacturers of high-dose supplements with it recommend taking one tablet a day, preferably with meals. In case of increased demand, you can take two tablets per day. The drug with the largest single dose gives a little more than 6 g of lecithin, and it is better not to exceed the recommended amounts without consulting a doctor.
Soy, sunflower or rapeseed - which one to choose?
Both soy and sunflower and rapeseed lecithin in liquid form exhibit a similar composition of phospholipids, its main component used for the production of dietary supplements. So in this regard, there are no significant differences between them.
About 30% of the composition of lecithin are oils, in which the proportions of fatty acids depend on the plant from which it was obtained. Sunflower and soybean oils are a source of omega-6 fatty acids, the consumption of which with food in relation to omega-3 acids is too high.
However, rapeseed lecithin has a higher amount of omega-3 acids in a better proportion to omega-6. From this it is concluded that rapeseed is more beneficial for health than soy and sunflower, which have similar properties.
Lecithin in foods is considered safe, does not interact with drugs and, as a rule, does not cause side effects.
Taking a lot of supplements with it can lead to lower blood pressure, heart problems, and anxiety. Some people may experience nausea, diarrhea, abdominal pain, or a feeling of fullness if the recommended doses are exceeded several times. Lecithin preparations often contain vitamin E, which is not recommended for use with blood thinning.
If you are taking this type of medicine, it is best to choose a drug without vitamin E. Liquid supplements may contain alcohol, so if you are pregnant, breastfeeding or driving a car, pay attention to this.
Now you know in which foods there is more lecithin and how to take dietary supplements with it.