The Evolution of the Soybean

Exactly what is a soybean and how does it work? The soybean’s history can be traced back to China, where it was considered a sacred grain—essential as a food item and a medicine. The rest of the world soon discovered the virtues of this versatile plant, including its valuable protein and oil properties.

Current times find the soybean a staple of the American agricultural system, especially in SoyWorld’s home state of Illinois, where it’s second only to Iowa in annual production. Soy is not just a health food ingredient, but a vital element to a healthy lifestyle with an array of medical and cosmetic benefits.

How does such a small bean do amazing things? It all comes from nature, pure and simple. Soybean extracts, soybean oil, and soybean protein are all used in promoting healthy skin. Proteins help soften the skin and promote an even skin tone.

Soybeans are also abundant in antioxidants such as isoflavone, a key ingredient found in green tea. Isoflavone lightens skin tone, and improves blotchy pigmentation, dullness and texture.

Isoflavone also stimulates the production of collagen, a type of protein that provides strength, flexibility and resilience to the skin. Starting in our twenties, collagen production starts declining. Our skin slowly loses its smooth and wrinkle free properties. For most women (and some men too) this is a scary thought! Although this process is a natural and inevitable process of aging, research has shown that soy can help slow down the process. Antioxidants in general have the ability to protect our skin from free radicals that cause damage to our bodies.

Tocopherol (vitamin E) is another antioxidant found in soybeans. We all know how beneficial vitamin E is to healthy skin. Vitamin E protects skin cells from environmental elements that produce skin damage. Tocopherol also promotes anti-aging properties by reducing fine lines and wrinkles. It also helps your skin retain its moisture and oil balance.

There are skin care products out there that tout vitamin E as a main ingredient but read your label carefully. Their vitamin E may be in an acetate form, which is less efficient for skin surface penetration.

The saponins and lecithin in soy make a great one-two punch in cleansing and moisturizing the skin. Saponins draw out harmful skin substances that cause blemishes and other impurities. Lecithin breaks down oils in the skin while acting as a firming agent. Think “facelift” without the surgery.

Many people associate vitamin A with vision health, but it’s also an important component in skin health. Vitamin A is naturally found in soybeans and one of the few vitamins that can be directly absorbed into the skin (along with vitamin E & D). Vitamin A plays a pivotal role in cell renewal and has repairative effects on acne blemishes.

There are several products that now feature soy as a main component, but the level and presence of these natural antioxidants all depend on how the soybean is processed. Believe or not, processing methods and chemical refinement removes or destroys the antioxidants naturally found in soy. Once again, carefully read your labels. Manufacturers are supposed to list the ingredients from highest content to lowest content. Look to see where soybean oil or other soy extracts are listed. What other ingredients are listed? Can you even pronounce those names? Do some Internet research on ingredients for some of the most popular brand name “natural” products and you’ll be surprised to find they were developed in a laboratory somewhere using other substances.

Of course, it’s important to remember that what we put in our bodies also contributes to aging and our outward appearance so getting plenty of fruits, vegetables, and edible forms of soy is crucial in looking and feeling our best.

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