What Is Sunflower Lecithin?

Synthia L. Rose

Sunflower lecithin is a type of phospholipid abundant in sunflower seeds. This fatty substance is obtained by dehydrating a sunflower seed and separating it into three parts: the oil, gum, and other solids. Lecithin comes from the gum byproduct of this mechanical process. Nutritionally, it is an emulsifier that endows foods with a creamy, moist, smooth texture. It's often used in chocolates, faux butters and baked goods, such as muffins.

Sunflower lecithin is abundant in sunflower seeds.
Sunflower lecithin is abundant in sunflower seeds.

Although soy was once the dominant source for lecithin in foods, the type that comes from sunflowers has become favored by those seeking an alternative due to their concerns about soy. Many people have soy allergies, and most soy is genetically modified. Some critics also complain that chemical solvents are used in the processing of soy lecithin and that traces of those solvents remain in the food. A source of phytoestrogen, soy can allegedly make some people susceptible to cancers and thyroid dysfunctions, critics claim.

An emulsifier, sunflower lecithin is used is chocolates, faux butters and baked goods.
An emulsifier, sunflower lecithin is used is chocolates, faux butters and baked goods.

In contrast, sunflower lecithin is frequently organic and natural with no genetic engineering, according to agricultural studies.Instead of being processed with a chemical solvent, it is normally processed by cold-pressing. It is believed to have little to no side effects in most individuals, although some may experience allergies to this type of lecithin as well.

Used as a nutritional supplement, sunflower lecithin aids in mental recall, muscle conditioning and maintaining the nervous system.
Used as a nutritional supplement, sunflower lecithin aids in mental recall, muscle conditioning and maintaining the nervous system.

Besides using lecithin as a cooking ingredient, many people take it as a nutritional supplement. Nutritionists praise it as a beneficial source of phosphatidylinositol, phosphatidylethanolamine, and phosphatidylcholine. Phosphatidylcholine is a nutrient that aids in mental recall, muscle conditioning and maintaining the nervous system. Lecithin’s greatest benefit is that it has an abundance of essential fatty acids, which are helpful to the brain.

A sunflower.
A sunflower.

In overall fatty acid composition, nutritionists say sunflower lecithin has virtually as much benefit as the traditional soy lecithin. Soy lecithin has slightly more palmitic acid and alpha-linolenic acid, but lecithin from sunflowers has more stearic acid and linoleic acid, which is believed to help lower cholesterol levels. They are equal in the levels of oleic acid, which is touted for its ability to reduce the risk of heart disease. Some studies boast that sunflower has more choline while soy has more of the other phosopholipid components.

Nutritionists recommend roughly 1,200 mg of lecithin daily to achieve the nerve, brain, and muscle benefits. Supplements come in liquid, granule, and powder form, and tablets are sometimes available. Many users believe that the granules are the most effective form. They are often mixed into drinks like fruit juices or skim milk.

Lecithin is often used as a supplement to assist in weight loss.
Lecithin is often used as a supplement to assist in weight loss.

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Discussion Comments


Sunflower lecithin can cause allergic reactions.


Thank you for all the previous comments. Here is your known reaction: I did not test positive for a sunflower allergy; however, recently I've had anaphylaxis when consuming sunflower lecithin. I recently bought nut free milk and it had sunflower lecithin and I had a reaction. Maybe I am a bit more sensitive than some, but its very real.


I have a sunflower lecithin allergy, I get a really high heart rate for hours from it and mild breathing difficulties and then in a day or two, I get flaky skin eczema on my face.

I also have a soy lecithin allergy, which is similar, just with much milder effects than from sunflower lecithin.


I too have a sunflower allergy, which presents as laryngeal edema. Recently, I had an episode after eating half a sub. Subway must have recently changed ingredients in their breads as I have printed lists of most fast food places so I can avoid sunflower and yellow dyes. Now I see sunflower lecithin in all of their sub rolls -- great. Sunflower is related to ragweed and many people have cross reactions, and probably wouldn't even know why.


Another choice is egg yolk lecithin powder or granules.


I am glad I found this page. I was curious about how allergenic sunflower lecithin is. My son is highly allergic to sunflower seeds. He does alright with foods that have sunflower oil in them - chips that have been fried in them, for example. But he gets terrible reactions to eating the seeds. I will probably make sure to steer clear of sunflower lecithin in foods he will be eating, just in case of the potential for a problem.


I agree with Anon988042. Just because sunflower allergies are rare does not make them nonexistent. My daughter is recovering from exposure to sunflower lecithin in a bread from Subway. She didn't even eat the bread; she ate one that was "safe" but most likely had contact with the bread with sunflower lecithin. It makes her afraid to eat out at all, since this is not her first accidental exposure from something that she did not even actually eat.


I have an issue with this. I came across it doing research, because guess what? I have a sunflower allergy. I have allergic reactions to anything sunflower based. I have been hospitalized for these reactions, so don't under any circumstances say there are no known allergic reactions. This allergy is rare, not non-existent. Get your facts straight and at least acknowledge that this product could put lives at stake.


I bought the granules. Should lecithin be stored in the refrigerator? The last time I stored them in a sealed plastic container in the pantry and they clumped together into a block.


Can someone tell me where in Australia I could order sunflower lecithin granules. Many thanks, Jennie


"...no known allergic reactions..." My son has severe allergic reactions to this. Google "sunflower lecithin allergy" and you'll see that this is far from "allergy-free."


I have always loved sunflower seeds. To me, a great salad is always topped with these seeds. I planted a row of sunflowers in my garden, hoping to harvest some of the seeds, but the birds got to most of them before I did.

I wonder if you can receive some of these same benefits by just eating the seeds, without the processing to make the lecithin. Most seeds and nuts have good nutritional benefit and it sounds like the sunflower plant and its seeds have more than I realized.


I have read about the many benefits of using Lecithin and purchased a bottle of liquid lecithin at my local health food store. This was much cheaper than buying the capsules.

Whenever I make any kind of smoothie, shake or anything in the blender, I will pour a bit of the lecithin in there. It does not change the taste of anything, and a bottle like this will last a very long time.

I have read that lecithin is great for healthy skin and hair, and can help relieve arthritis pain. There are many other reasons for using it, but those are the reasons I was most interested in giving it a try.


It is nice to know there is an alternative to soy lecithin. Because of some recent studies regarding the use of soy, many people are looking for natural, organic alternatives.

I have taken a lecithin supplement for many years in capsule form. There are several benefits to lecithin, one being that is help emulsify fat which is always a plus. Another great benefit of taking lecithin is it is supposed to be really good for the brain.

You can find lecithin at any health food store, food co-op or just about anywhere nutritional supplements are sold.

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