Q&A: Is Soy Lecithin Paleo?

soy lecithin

Hi Neely,

I just noticed that one of my supplements contains soy lecithin. I know it’s a by product of the soy after the oil has been extracted and according to the information I’ve attached, it is actually not very good for you, despite previous claims that it is excellent for many things. They say that even though it’s an extract there always remains some soy in it. Would you suggest I discontinue this stuff?

Thanks for your response.



Hi Mark,

Here’s what I think about soy lecithin.

No, I don’t like soy, my opinions of which are laid out here. It has many problems, like its phytic acid, lectin, phytoestrogen, and enzyme inhibitor content, and the fact that most soy is genetically modified. Please read that article for a more concise explanation of soy and my distaste for it. Besides all of this, that article you linked me to is a pretty horrendous account of the realities of soy lecithin. But regardless of my opinion and that article, soy in any form is not technically a Paleo food, since it’s a legume and it has all of those anti-nutrient properties I just mentioned. So if we’re going based off of the rules of the diet, no, you shouldn’t eat it.

Having said that, I don’t think that the tiny amounts of soy lecithin that are ubiquitous in supplements, chocolate, and all sorts of otherwise Paleo products are going to be the death of anyone (unless they have a life-threatening soy allergy). I think we pick our battles with Paleo, and sometimes soy lecithin wins. For instance, when I was a chocolate eater, before I realized that it gave me acne and ocular migraines, I didn’t give a damn whether my Almond Sea Salt Chocolove had soy lecithin in it. Much less sugar, because it was one of my “cheats”, if you will.

Now, having said THAT, I have to say that many people really do have serious soy sensitivities, and even a small amount of soy lecithin may bring about symptoms, especially if people are eating it every day. And yes, that amount really can affect someone. I had a client who was sensitive to soy (very sensitive), and she didn’t realize for a couple of MONTHS that she was consuming soy lecithin in her probiotic every day. She got very sick (fatigued, bloated, skin broke out) and only started to feel better after she changed her probiotic to a brand without soy. So let that be a lesson to us all.

In the end it’s, of course, up to you. Can you find a brand of that supplement that doesn’t contain soy lecithin? Probably. And you’re probably better off doing so.


  1. Don’t know if any supplements could truly be considered Paleo as they obviously did not have manufacturing processes in ancient times. However with respect to soy lecithin it is a vastly inferior product as it is typically non organic and made from genetically engineered crops that are grossly contaminated with glyphosate herbicides. We use lecithin derived from organic sunflower seeds in any of our supplements that use lecithin. It is difficult to get as a source of raw materials but it is definitely available

    1. Hello Dr. Mercola! I guess you got me on that one. You’re right that supplements are not really Paleo. Good to know the source of your lecithin – thanks!

  2. When it comes to chocolate, soy lecithin is a very useful ingredient:
    If you read it on the label, it simply means that the chocolate has been produced cheaply.
    Good quality dark chocolate doesn’t need added lecithin.

  3. There seems to be a new trend of talking down soy and soy lecithin. Even Dr. Mercola is guilty of it, when trying to talk down other VitC containing soy lecithin. This is against the established fact that Japanese, Koreans and Chinese who consume soy product DAILY are the longest living and lowest in cancer rate – and they take soy WHOLE. In fact, soy and wheat gluten is priced as vegetarian staple.

    I am a healthy 45 who takes soy powder milk almost daily. I look and feel 30. The only soy-anything I will avoid is GMO.

    Yes some people have sensitivities to soy and other nut grains. Typically it’s MODERN westerners with MONO-cultural diet. Allergic reaction to soy or nuts is almost unheard of in populous Asia, from Malaysia to China to India. My theory is
    1] it’s a kind of “instant healing crisis”, the baddies in the system protesting about being invaded.
    2] some westerners do not have sufficient enzymes and diverse enough gut flora to digest specific beneficial and MUCH VILLIFIED proteins and components in soy and peanuts.

  4. You’re right in one respect Balanced, Asian cultures have historically been known to consume a lot of soy, dating back to 3,000 BC. But, you neglected one very important fact, they consumed FERMENTED soy foods like tofu, miso, tempeh, and natto. Fermentation (soaking) is very important in eliminating most of the toxins and anti-nutrients found in soybeans. Miso and tempeh in particular are very popular in Asia and have the lowest amount of phytates, enzyme inhibitors, and goitrogens.

    Whole soybeans, soy milk, soy chips, soy protein isolates, soy flour and all the other myriad of products made from (non-fermented) processed soybeans and advertised as “health foods” have never been staple foods in Asian cultures.

    Also, even if you have the most healthful gut flora in the world, it will do nothing at preventing the anti-nutrients from binding to digestive enzymes and nutritive minerals like zinc, magnesium, calcium, etc.

    1. Yes, Asians consumed FERMENTED soy. They also fermented the soy for much longer than they do today. For example, it used to take several months to make stinky tofu. Today’s stinky tofu is now mass produced in as little as one or two days.

  5. I am not allergic to say, but when I eat it, I break out in cystic acne. I used to believe it was chocolate that caused my acne, but it’s not. It’s the soy lecithin in the chocolate. I went on an extensive elimination plan before I figured out soy was a problem. Then I eliminated soy, but when I’d eat a bit of chocolate, I’d break out again. I thought both soy and chocolate were problems. But I’ve found if I eat real European chocolate that does not have soy in it, or special chocolate brands you can buy in Whole Foods without soy, I am fine. No acne at all.

    All forms of soy give me acne: soy protein isolate, soybean oil, soy lecithin, fermented soy, unfermented soy.

    I also take issue with the idea that I do not have diversified gut flora. I eat very cleanly, lots of vegetables, and take various pro-biotics. Yet, I still apparently have an intolerance to soy in that it causes an inflammatory reaction that I can see manifest as acne. I suspect there are other, internal manifestations that I cannot see as well.

    1. Hi Emra,

      Here at Paleo Plan we’re not big on anything that’s not real food. As the article states, the very small amount of soy lecithin in this protein powder probably won’t pose a problem for most consumers. I think the larger question here is about whey. Is whey protein Paleo? Well, dairy foods are not Paleo so the strict answer is no. However, a lot of people who otherwise follow a strict Paleo diet still use whey protein shakes post-workout or as a supplement, https://www.paleoplan.com/2011/05-11/more-on-protein-powders/. If you decide to take whey protein as a supplement, I would look for a grass-fed, organic product.


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