Originally I set to write a blog post that would group all the KIND bar flavors into those that contain soy lecithin, and those that do not. However, upon checking the ingredients of each flavor (kindsnacks.com), I learned that soy lecithin is far too common an ingredient in my precious KIND bars—in fact, it’s in 16 of their 18 flavors!! Only Cranberry Almond + Antioxidants, and Almond Cashew with Flax + Omega 3 do not have soy lecithin. This is so disappointing to me because the very philosophy behind the KIND brand (or so their marketing department has us believing) is: “We believe if you can’t pronounce an ingredient, it shouldn’t go into your body. Actually, it shouldn’t even go into your pantry. That’s why all KIND Healthy Snacks are made from all-natural whole nuts, fruits and whole grains. No secret ingredients and absolutely nothing artificial here. Just a delicious way of getting your body essential nutrients like fiber, protein and antioxidants (to name a few).”
So then I thought, maybe I’m over-reacting to the presence of soy lecithin. How closely does it resemble soy, which is where I really have the issue. Although it’s debated in the health community, I personally do my best to stay away from soy because, “more than 90 percent of soybeans grown in the United States are genetically modified. Since the introduction of genetically engineered foods in 1996, we’ve had an upsurge in low birth weight babies, infertility, and other problems in the U.S., and animal studies have shown devastating effects from genetically engineered soy including allergies, sterility, birth defects, and offspring death rates up to five times higher than normal.” [1. Dr Joseph Mercola, Huffington Post, published 8/23/12].
So what does soy lecithin do that it needs to be present in (what seems like) everything?
“[Soy lecithin is] used as an emulsifier, which means it makes oil and water mix together, which they ordinarily would never do. It even helps to emulsify foods you’ve probably never thought of as emulsions (oil & water mixtures)–like chocolate. But lecithin does more than just emulsify! …it helps stabilize emulsions, which extends shelf life. It also reduces stickiness and is often used as a “releasing agent,” which is integral to the effectiveness of non-stick cooking spray.” [2. Amanda Greene, Huffington Post, published 3/18/13] Ah, well the non-stickiness factor and longer shelf life definitely applies to needs KIND would have for their bars. But I still didn’t understand where it comes from.
It’s no surprise to me that my research brought up time and again, that while lecithin can be derived from other products including egg yolks, wheat germ, and peanuts (side note: isn’t it scary/interesting that the most common food allergies are all represented here?!), soybeans are the most common because it’s the cheapest. Same sad story for explaining away all packaged food products in the last 20+ years—cheap always wins even if quality and safety is lost. And because, as Dr. Mercola  told us, 90% of soy in the US is genetically modified, it’s even cheaper.
As I’ve said, my concern for soy is more based on hormones and GMO practices, but for those with a soy allergy or sensitivity, food scientist Amanda Greene  cites that “the Food Allergy Research and Resource Program (FARRP) at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL) reports:
Soy lecithin does contain trace levels or [sic] soy proteins and these have been found to include soy allergens. However, apparently, soy lecithin does not contain sufficient soy protein residues to provoke allergic reactions in the majority of soy-allergic consumers. Many allergists do not even advise their soybean-allergic patients to avoid soybean lecithin when it is included as an ingredient on food products. From this practical standpoint, we can surmise that most soybean-allergic individuals do not react adversely to the ingestion of soybean lecithin. (3)
So where is my actual concern with soy lecithin in KIND bars?
The Amanda Greene article, “Soy Lecithin: Why Is It In Everything?” I link to below, says that “organic soy lecithin” is actually okay because it is fermented and confirms it is non-GMO; however, “organic” does NOT appear in KIND’s ingredients and yet they always make a point to specify “non-GMO glucose” as another very commonly used ingredient in their bars. To further confuse matters, on the front of all KIND bar packages, they state the bars are “all natural/non-GMO” so can we assume the soy lecithin is non-GMO too? Why does the glucose get a specific shout-out and not the soy lecithin? Aghghghhh the inconsistency!!!!
Well, friends, I have to be honest, I’m still confused!! But here’s what I’m thinking…avoid soy lecithin as much as possible; however, if you are going to consume it, limit it and stick to products such as KIND that have front labeling as “non-GMO.” I personally plan to keep my post-workout snack as a Cranberry Almond + Antioxidants or Almond Cashew with Flax + Omega 3 bar—particularly while I’m pregnant and then breastfeeding—and leave the other flavors as an occasional treat (and let’s be real, a Peanut Butter Dark Chocolate KIND bar with its soy lecithin is still WAY better for you than a chemical laden Snickers bar!)
After learning about the chemically-driven technique to typically derive soy lecithin and how only organic soy lecithin can earn the non-GMO badge, I still don’t understand what shadiness is happening that KIND doesn’t/can’t list “organic soy lecithin” as the ingredient instead of simply “soy lecithin” when they are allowed to display on the front that they’re non-GMO and on their website that they only use all natural ingredients. I really want to trust them but in light of recent events with food companies such as Naked Juice (Naked Juice lawsuit) my skepticism of the food industry is at an all time high. I want to shrug and say “moderation is key” but I will continue researching this for everyone because it just doesn’t add up.
I fear I’m leaving you in more confusion, so I’m REALLY interested in your feedback on this information: What do you plan to do? Eat soy lecithin, eat only organic soy lecithin, or avoid it all together?