What if we told you that you could add an all-natural powder to your daily smoothie, and not only would that powder give your smoothie the consistency of a milkshake, it would also jump-start stalled fat loss. Well, that’s exactly what a derivative of sunflower seeds called sunflower lecithin can deliver according to “First Lady of Nutrition” Ann Louise Gittleman, PhD. This under-the-radar plant extract has also been proven to sharpen thinking, lower cholesterol, improve skin vibrancy and even possibly help ameliorate some of the symptoms of MS. Read on to discover how you can tap into its total-body health benefits.
What is sunflower lecithin?
Sunflower lecithin is composed of phospholipids — compounds that embed in cell membranes and play a critical role in cell-to-cell communication — that are extracted from sunflower seeds. The seeds are dehydrated and then separated into three key parts: Solids, oils, and a gum-like substance. That gummy substance is the lecithin.
“Sunflower lecithin is part of a specific subset of phospholipids called phosphatidylcholine,” explains Cate Shanahan, MD, author of The Fatburn Fix. “That’s an important molecule in every single cell in our body and every single living thing.”
What role does sunflower lecithin play in the body?
In addition to helping to maintain and compose cell membranes, sunflower lecithin is a natural emulsifier, which means it stabilizes mixtures of two liquids that would otherwise separate (like oil and vinegar in Italian dressing). It’s used in foods, cosmetics, and pharmaceuticals, often as an alternative to soy lecithin, which can be genetically modified or cause reactions in those allergic to soy.
In the body, lecithin serves essentially the same purpose. “It acts a fat emulsifier, breaking down and dispersing fats in order to increase their bioavailability,” says Ann Louise Gittleman, PhD, author of Radical Longevity. “Your liver naturally produces lecithin when it has adequate building blocks of choline, but often this nutritional compound is in short supply.” Enter sunflower lecithin supplementation.
The top 5 health benefits of sunflower lecithin supplements
Since it’s not possible to get the recommended 1 to 2 tablespoons of sunflower lecithin from eating sunflowers alone, experts like Gittleman recommend consuming it in the form of a supplemental powder (keep scrolling to learn more). Here are a few benefits that supplementing can deliver:
1.) Sunflower lecithin makes weight loss easy
For those looking to finally ditch those stubborn extra pounds, sunflower lecithin could be the secret to speeding your metabolism. “Lecithin is a fat-flushing accelerator,” Gittleman raves. “People see extraordinary change in their waistline when they increase their intake.”
According to Gittleman, the beneficial fat in lecithin breaks down harmful fats that stiffen cell membranes. This allows lecithin and other healthier fats such as avocado and coconut oil to replace them. The result is healthier cell membranes and a boost in metabolism.
“Adding a tablespoon of lecithin to your smoothie is like adding detergent to your dishwater — it melts fat off your hips and thighs, breaking it down so your body can use what it needs and flush the rest away,” Gittleman says. “This under-appreciated fat-melting food deserves much more attention than it gets!”
Gittleman says she first realized the power of lecithin when she asked volunteers to test
it. “Everyone was stunned,” she recalls. “They suddenly felt like a million bucks. And even lumpy cellulite, which is the hardest fat to lose, started disappearing.”
2.) Sunflower lecithin sharpens memory and may ward off MS
Sunflower lecithin contains choline, a chemical used by the brain to communicate. Choline can be converted to a neurotransmitter called acetylcholine, which plays an important role in improving neural pathways in the brain to enhance memory and learning. Choline is so crucial for sharper thinking that research in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition suggests that a diet rich in choline can improve both verbal and visual memory. (Click through for more natural memory boosters.)
And that neural protective power of sunflower lecithin may help in the fight against multiple sclerosis, too. “Lecithin makes up about 30% of your brain, as well as two-thirds of the myelin sheaths surrounding your brain, nerves, and spinal cord,” Gittleman says. “There is evidence that multiple sclerosis sufferers are deficient in lecithin, which makes sense when you consider MS is a disease of the myelin sheaths.”
3.) Sunflower lecithin lowers cholesterol and keeps blood vessels healthy
The brain isn’t the only organ that benefits from sunflower lecithin. Your heart and blood vessels can also reap the rewards in multiple ways. Research suggests the phosphatidylcholine in lecithin lowers “bad” LDL cholesterol levels. It works by reducing the absorption of cholesterol from food in the gut. In fact, research in the journal Cholesterol found that supplementing with lecithin reduces LDL cholesterol by as much as 56% and total cholesterol by up to 42% within two months. (Click through for more ways to lower cholesterol without meds.)
Sunflower lecithin also has anti-inflammatory properties that make it beneficial to the cardiovascular system. The phosphatidylcholine in sunflower lecithin inhibits production of inflammation-causing proteins called cytokines. This reduction in inflammation has the potential to improve blood vessel function, easing strain on your ticker.
4.) Sunflower lecithin keeps skin young
A rich source of phospholipids, sunflower lecithin works from within to improve skin elasticity, prevent age-related damage, and reduce puffiness and inflammation, according to research in JID Innovations. Lecithin also is a good source of antioxidants. These potent compounds help protect skin cells from free radical damage, research in the International Journal of Pharmaceutics reveals, which can lead to wrinkles and liver spots. (Click through to discover the best ways to fade liver spots.)
5.) Sunflower lecithin protects against GI upset known as ulcerative colitis
Research in Digestive Diseases found that lecithin can improve digestion in people with ulcerative colitis, a chronic inflammatory bowel disease that causes ulcers and inflammation in your large intestine. That’s because sunflower lecithin’s function as an emulsifier improves the protective mucus lining of the intestines. This eases the digestion and protects the organs from inflammation.
How to add more sunflower lecithin to your diet
Sunflower lecithin is available in a variety of forms, from capsules to powders, liquids, and granules. The supplement has a mild, slightly nutty flavor that Gittleman says can easily be mixed into other foods or drinks, particularly in its liquid form.
“The best way to add sunflower lecithin to your diet/health regimen is to add 1 to 2 tablespoons to your daily smoothie or salad dressings,” Gittleman says. (Click through to find out how to make your weight-loss smoothie more filling.)
Lecithin granules are also popular, especially if you prefer a smoothie with a thicker consistency. “The granules make smoothies nice and thick — almost like a milkshake,” says Gittleman, who suggests storing lecithin in the fridge to prolong its shelf life. “You can also try adding powdered or granulated lecithin to sauces, gravies or soups to make them creamier.”
While you’ll benefit from taking sunflower lecithin any time of the day, Gittleman says morning is preferable because it aids appetite suppression, keeping you full until lunch. Generally, sunflower lecithin is well-tolerated, though it may cause side effects like GI upset, diarrhea or loose stools when you first start supplementing.
Interested in giving sunflower lecithin a try? Gittleman recommends Foods Alive Liquid Sunflower Lecithin (Buy from iHerb.com, $13.10). Other smart choices include Micro Ingredients Organic Sunflower Lecithin Powder (Buy from Amazon.com, $29.95) and Legendairy Milk Organic Sunflower Lecithin Softgels (Buy from Amazon.com, $21.99). Whatever formulation you prefer, Gittleman advises opting for organic sunflower lecithin whenever possible.
For more tips on natural ways to harness the power of fatty acids to speed weight loss, click through to our sister publication’s Adding *This* Butter Back Into Your Diet Can Break Through a Weight Loss Plateau So You Lose Faster Than Ever.
This content is not a substitute for professional medical advice or diagnosis. Always consult your physician before pursuing any treatment plan.
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