For centuries, women in Asia have eaten plenty of soy — and it turns out, that could be why they often look younger than their years. Recent research suggests that soy foods can help keep your skin glowing, too.
How it works:
As we age, levels of collagen and elastin — which give skin its youthful radiance — decrease. Upping your intake of soy foods helps to slow this process, thanks to three key components: protein, fiber, and isoflavones. “The protein increases collagen synthesis, which contributes to the firmness, tone, and texture of the skin,” says clinical nutritionist Alison Held, MS. Soy’s fiber helps maintain normal blood-sugar levels, proven to have a positive impact on skin health, and soy isoflavones fight off skin-damaging free-radicals.
Studies show that nutrients in soy may play a role in increasing skin elasticity and tone, lightening sun-damaged pigments and reducing wrinkles. In fact, double-blind research in the Journal of Nutritional Science and Vitaminology found that women who took a daily 40-mg. dose of soy isoflavones such as Super Absorbable Soy Isoflavones ($21, Life Extension) for just 12 weeks saw fewer facial lines. Another nine-week study in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology demonstrated a decrease in skin age spots when a soy derivative was applied topically twice a day, while recent research in Experimental Dermatology showed that soy extract ups elastin activity, which makes the skin more flexible, reducing sagging and signs of aging.
The best soy resources:
Although supplements are beneficial, consuming soy in food is much more effective; the optimal amount daily is 4 oz. to 5 oz. of high-quality soy protein in tofu, soy milk, edamame, miso, or tempeh, found in health-food stores.
Do topical products work?
“There is solid evidence that when soy is use din topical preparations, the isoflavones in soy help boost collagen production, tighten skin, and lighten skin pigments,” says Chinese medicine expert Mao Sing Ni, PhD, author of Secrets of Self Healing ($10.62, Amazon).
While soy can be extremely healthy for women, “like any food, too much of a good thing can be a problem,” says Held. Because soy acts as a weak estrogen, very high intakes of soy (in either foods or supplements) have been linked with an increased risk of developing breast cancer. It also can decrease effectiveness of thyroid medications, so it’s important to check with your doctor before adding a significant amount of soy to your diet, advises Held.
This story originally appeared in our print magazine.
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