Why Is Lecithin Used When Making Vegan Chocolate? | Friars
Have you ever questioned why Lecithin is used in the manufacture of Vegan chocolate? In order to answer that, it would be useful to understand what Lecithin is and how it is used. (Here at Friars, our KAKOA range of vegan chocolates incorporates Sunflower lecithin.)
Lecithin is a generic term for a group of fats that are essential to cells in the human body. It can be found naturally in many foods including soybeans and egg yolks. From our diet, lecithin provides the main source of choline which is itself a nutrient similar to the B vitamins. Our bodies convert lecithin into acetylcholine, which is a substance that transmits our nerve impulses.
So, as we can see from the above, lecithin is not an unnatural man made additive but rather a naturally occurring, important substance. Obviously, it can be refined down from original sources such as the soy and egg examples but as stated above, it can be from other options and in our case we use that obtained from sunflowers. Thus our lecithin is plant based and more friendly than some of the other sources.
What Does Lecithin Do And Why Is It Used In The Making Of Chocolate?
It has a number of applications in which it can be used including foodstuffs. Because of it’s non toxicity, it can be readily used in foodstuffs with no harmful effects. Commercially it can be used to emulsify or lubricate.
It can reduce viscosity, (density) and improve the flow properties of chocolate as well as aiding control of sugar crystallisation, thus preventing the chocolate from ‘blooming’ too easily. This makes it easier to temper and mould the chocolate. In effect the chocolate becomes thinner and more easily worked. Lecithin can keep cocoa and cocoa butter together when in a chocolate bar or confection. It can also improve the shelf life of a product. Its impact on the viscosity is particularly useful in larger machine processing of the chocolate, as it prevents sticking during the process.
It has many other uses, and is to be found in cooking and frying, doughs, margarines and spreads to name but a few.
Alternatives To Lecithin
There are alternatives to lecithin, such as egg yolk, (unsuitable for vegans), sunflower oil,(can be strong and mask the flavour of the food), ground flaxseed, (not a food cupboard regular for most),gelatin,(an animal by product), guar gum, ( another rarity in the kitchen) and cocoa butter, (a more expensive option). All these and some other oils such as olive and grapeseed can be useful alternatives.
Why Do We Use Sunflower Lecithin In Our Vegan Chocolate?
As we know, there are a number of sources of lecithin in our diets. These sources can include; egg yolks, Brussel sprouts, Kidney beans, peanuts, soy beans, liver and other ‘organ’ meats and wheat germ.
Immediately it becomes apparent that for the vegan, some of these sources are non viable. The soy bean could be used as an alternative source but there are concerns as to its manufacturing process, which is usually quite chemically ‘heavy’. Although occurring naturally in the soy bean, the process of extraction is far from natural. Harsh chemical solvents are used to obtain the soy lecithin with the potential for the product to contain toxic residues.
Also, many soy bean crops are genetically modified varieties, something else which doesn’t sit well with many consumers. However, the reason far outweighing these other factors is the environmental aspect.
Unfortunately, soy will produce only one yield in its cycle and is virtually unresponsive to fertilisers. This means that to increase the yield, then more soy must be cultivated, which in turn accounts for a huge expansion of soy producing land. Even more unfortunate is that this land is gained at the expense of the forest in the South American countries where 50% of the worlds soy is produced annually. There is a misconception that veganism/vegetarianism are the driving forces behind this huge expansion. In fact, just the opposite. 80 to 90% of the worlds soy beans are fed to farmed animals. Only 6% is for human consumption.
Sunflower Lecithin In Our Vegan Chocolates
Our preference for sunflower lecithin then, is enhanced by the more natural processes through which it is obtained and the fact it does not contribute to deforestation and ongoing harm to the planet. Unlike soy, it is cold pressed from the dehydrated sunflower. The lack of chemicals in the production making it more desirable and ultimately safer.
Furthermore the sunflower is not typically genetically modified and again, unlike soy does not have a high allergen status, which in turn enhances the safer use. Perhaps equally importantly for the chocolate lover, it assists that smooth and silky finish and texture to the product. There are a number of benefits attributed to sunflower based lecithin, including cholesterol reduction, high in protein, brain health and bone and joint health. It seems a much better option to take compared with the soy for all the reasons above.
Taking into account those figures for soy consumption, KAKOA have consciously turned to sunflower lecithin because every little helps and it’s important to start somewhere. You can be assured that when you taste our chocolates from the comprehensive KAKOA range, you will be eating healthy ingredients, from ethically sound sources. That has to be a good thing made even better when considering the quality of our products. You could say its a way of ‘treating yourself healthy’ while keeping the planet safer.