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Lecithin: The Best Binding Agent For Edibles

Francis Cassidy
lecithin

Sunflower lecithen is the preferred binder when cooking edibles and here’s why.

Gravity is the force that holds the earth together. Without it, we’d be a floating mass of dust wandering aimlessly through space and time. And a well-made cannabis edible also has a glue that holds it together. Known as a binder, it allows fat and water-based molecules to bind tightly together for optimum texture, shelf life, and taste. The most common are lecithin, xanthan gum, and gelatin. They’ll all hold an edible together effectively, but unlike gravity, they won’t prevent some from wandering aimlessly through space and time after eating!

What are Binders?

Binders hold baked food together. A cake or a loaf of bread wouldn’t exist without them; these would simply crumble and fall apart. Binders add volume, flavor, firmness, and texture to any recipe, and are widely used in cooking. Several types exist, all with slightly different characteristics. Examples include lecithin, gelatin, xanthan gum, psyllium husk, and guar gum, to name a few. A little knowledge about the purpose these serve will help ensure that your journey toward creating the perfect edible is a fruitful one.

lecithin

Lecithin as a Binder in Cannabis Edibles

Lecithin is the most commonly used binder when making cannabis edibles. Cooking with it can greatly enhance the structural integrity of your edibles. Lecithin is a phospholipid. In other words, it’s a type of fat that binds ingredients together. A variety of sources contain lecithin, including eggs, soybeans, avocados, or sunflowers. It acts as an emulsifying agent to bind food that wouldn’t ordinarily mix. When it comes to edibles, lecithin helps ensure that oil-based ingredients bind with water-based ones.

Aside from the aforementioned conveniences in the kitchen, lecithin is also beneficial to health. Scientific studies have shown that lecithin is essential for normal cell membrane structure and function.

What does Lecithin do for Cannabis Edibles?

It’s no fun unwrapping an edible only for it to crumble in your hands. When cannabutter is used in a recipe, lecithin helps ensure it binds to water-soluble ingredients like cacao or sugar.

In the same way that you should effectively store cannabis flower to avoid degradation, lecithin also helps to ensure an increased shelf life for edibles. This has the added benefit of preventing mold forming on your edibles.

One rumor that circulates far and wide is that lecithin leads to an increased potency in cannabis edibles. Many people claim that the inclusion of lecithin increases the bioavailability of the active compound in the cannabis plant. However, at the time of writing, no scientific study has verified this anecdotal finding. But of course, many still find the placebo effect to be surprisingly powerful!

What Kind of Lecithin is Best for Cannabis Edibles?

A variety of foods contain lecithin – some good, some not so good. Soy lecithin is the most common type. But many avoid soy; it is often genetically modified and highly processed. In addition, cultivators often extract soy lecithin using potentially dangerous solvents that can cause health risks

Many regard sunflower lecithin as the most superior form. While it’s more expensive, it comes from a minimally processed source. This binder is cold-pressed from the seeds. Sunflower lecithin comes in a finely ground powder that’s easy to work with.

lecithin

What Other Binders can You Use for Cannabis Edibles?

If you don’t want to use lecithin, other options do exist. Gelatin and xanthan are two of the most commonly used binders for cannabis edibles.

Gelatin

This binder is common in cannabis edibles, especially gummies. But use too much of it, and it may result in a spongy or chewy texture in your edibles. 

Try to source gelatin from grass-fed animals to ensure a healthful addition to any edible recipe. It’s highly nutritious if it comes from the right source and provides some useful amino acids, such as glycine and proline. Both have well-documented health benefits.

To use gelatin in a recipe, dissolve the powder in a liquid. One tablespoon of gelatin powder will generally offer the same binding properties as one egg would.

Of course, this isn’t particularly vegan or vegetarian friendly.

Xanthan Gum

Another commonly used binder is xanthan gum. Sugar ferments and converts into this gooey substance. Once dried, it becomes an easy to work with powder that quickly dissolves in liquid.

The FDA consider it safe as a food additive and several scientific studies back up the claim. Among those studies, there are several which document its ability to lower cholesterol and control blood sugar after eating. One negative side effect of consuming xanthan gum, however, is an upset stomach. This will only occur after consuming large doses.

The creation of the perfect edible, where dose, texture, potency, flavor, and shelf life are all optimized can be a real art form. However, using an appropriate binder in the right quantities goes a long way toward ensuring your time spent in the kitchen won’t go to waste!

Francis Cassidy

Francis Cassidy is a freelance writer who writes on a variety of topics. With a particular focus on the cannabis industry, he aims to help ensure the smooth reintegration of cannabis back into global culture. When not writing, he's to be found exploring his new base in British Columbia, Canada. You can follow his other works including his photography on his blog thestrayphotographer.com

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