Soyfoods including tofu, tempeh, edamame and soymilk from U.S.-grown soybeans are a superior plant protein choice, but consuming soy may offer other lesser-known benefits beyond flavor, nutrition and versatility. Evidence increasingly suggests that consuming soy may improve skin health. Soybeans offer approximately seven to fifteen grams of high-quality protein per serving and are high in polyunsaturated fat. The U.S. Soybean Export Council (USSEC) provides updates on soybean research, trends and the various global markets as part of its public education initiative. The benefits of soy for skin health are among the many reasons that more consumers are enjoying soyfoods.
Soy is associated with reducing the visible effects of skin aging, both when consumed as part of a healthy diet, and when used as a moisturizing ingredient in skin care products. For example, soybean oil is a rich source of linoleic acid, a polyunsaturated fatty acid, and offers antioxidant nutrients that are helpful in maintaining healthy skin. Soy has positive research support for its antioxidant properties as well as its potential to reduce photoaging of the skin from chronic sun exposure.
Doing something as simple as sipping soymilk every day might provide skin benefits. In a recent clinical study from Japan, researchers found that when postmenopausal women consumed one cup of soymilk daily for eight weeks, their skin health improved. These changes were determined subjectively through questionnaires, and objectively through skin biopsies. The women filled out questionnaires three times—at the beginning of the study, after they had consumed the soymilk for eight weeks, and four weeks after they stopped consuming it. Each time, they answered six questions about their skin, focusing on dryness, elasticity, coarseness, moisture, pigmentation and overall satisfaction.
Skin samples were also taken from underneath each study participant’s forearm at both the beginning and the end of the study. After eight weeks of drinking soymilk, results showed that the condition of the skin significantly improved for all six questions. Furthermore, the skin samples were also consistent with the improvements that the women themselves reported. Possible skin scores ranged from a low of 2 to a high of 10. At the beginning of the study, the skin score was approximately 4; at the study’s conclusion it was approximately 8. Just a single serving of soy per day led to these pronounced benefits. After four weeks of abstaining from soymilk, questionnaires indicated that most of the benefits were lost, with skin condition approaching what it was at the beginning of the study.