Functional Uses

Lecithins are multifunctional products that have a wide range of applications at low use levels of 0.5-3.0% (2).

Emulsification. As surface-active agents they have wide usage in foods as emulsifiers. Their ability to bring two dissimilar liquids together make them important in water/

oil (W/O) and oil/water (O/W) surfactants. These amphoteric surfactant properties make them ideal in food systems. The estimated HLB values for lecithin products range from 2-12 when compared to nonionic surfactants.

Release. Lecithins are good release or parting agents. Their polar groups tend to bind to metallic surfaces, and the nonpolar fatty acids act as slipping agents.

Instantizing. Most problems with dispersion deal with the rapid hydration of the dispersing item. Lecithin will reduce the solution rate and allow for easy dispersion. It also helps to disperse fat in high fat systems.

Anti-Spatter. In fat systems that contain water as an ingredient, lecithin keeps the moisture dispersed for slow evaporation under heat processing. Moisture will foam off rather than spatter.

Lubrication. The fatty acids present in the nonpolar part of lecithin give the added lubricity to prevent sticking in food-processing equipment. Because of its hydratability, the product is easier to wash off surfaces and it is completely edible.

Multifunctional. Lecithin users usually find that it is the combination of functional properties that make it a beneficial ingredient. Rarely do the functions counteract in a finished food system. Emulsification and release go well in baking systems. Anti-spatter and release are perfect frying systems. Instantizing and emulsification work together in beverage mixes.

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