Is Lecithin Vegan? (Soy, Sunflower, etc.)

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Verdict: Some lecithin is vegan, and some is not.

Summary:

  • Lecithin describes a type of fatty substance, and it can come from both plant and animal sources. It’s used for baking (in powdered form) and as a health supplement.
  • While lecithin typically comes from plants these days, it’s often packaged together with animal products like gelatin in capsules.
  • Most powdered lecithin is vegan (that’s what would be used in food), but most lecithin in other forms like soft gels is not vegan.

The most two most common lecithin that vegans come across are soy lecithin and sunflower lecithin.

As the names suggest, both of these come from plant sources (soy and sunflowers).

But just because the product mainly comes from a plant doesn’t mean it’s necessarily vegan.

Is Soy Lecithin Vegan?

soy lecithin

Soy lecithin comes from soybeans as expected, which is a good start.

Most of the powdered form of soy lecithin have no added ingredients and are vegan.

However, lecithin is also taken to improve the absorption of other fats, or to try and treat high cholesterol.

This type of soy lecithin is sold usually in gel capsules that are not vegan. For example, here is the ingredients label from one of the top sellers on Amazon:

soy lecithin non vegan ingredients in pills

It contains gelatin, which is never vegan, and glycerine, which is sometimes vegan.

Another Issue: A Lot of Soy Comes From Demolished Rainforests

deforestation

Not all vegans I’ve talked with feel the same way about this.

A lot of soy comes from the United States and the EU, but other countries produce it by clearing rainforests to grow it.

Rainforests are vital for the Earth’s ecosystem, and play a big role in the lives all organisms living on the planet. Also, many animals are cruelly killed while clearing forests.

So some soy lecithin will come from soybeans grown from these situations.

If you want to avoid those ones, look for soy lecithin that’s clearly labelled as sourced from the EU or US.

SUMMARY

Plain soy lecithin powder is vegan. In terms of the environment, lecithin from the United States or EU is best. On the other hand, capsules and other forms of lecithin usually have animal products and aren’t vegan.

Is Sunflower Lecithin Vegan?

sunflower lecithin

Some sunflower lecithin is vegan, and some is not.

The lecithin in powder or liquid form is typically vegan.

But similarly to soy lecithin, many sunflower lecithin supplements contain animal products like:

I’d recommend finding one that specifically says it’s vegan or vegetarian, and then double-checking the ingredients for any animal products like the ones above.

SUMMARY

Sunflower lecithin in powder or liquid form is typically vegan. Conversely, sunflower lecithin in soft gel or capsule form is typically not vegan.

Summary: Which Lecithins Are Vegan?

The only forms of lecithin that you can be confident are vegan on sight are soy lecithin powder and pure sunflower lecithin.

For all other lecithin products, check the ingredients label to make sure there’s nothing else included, as there are often non-vegan ingredients.

The best case scenario is to find lecithin that is clearly labelled as vegan.

About the author

Dale Cudmore

Your friendly neighborhood vegan from Toronto. Chemical engineer turned semi-professional soccer player and freelance nutrition writer. I've been vegan for years and try to make life easier for others by sharing what I've learned.

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