The Future of Food May Not Be Food At All

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Yeah, but what does it taste like?

If you could be healthy, lose weight, and save money all without eating food, would you? I recently read an article on a product called Soylent (obvious nod to Solent Green, except it’s not made from people, I hope) that claims to be the future of nutrition.

Created by Rob Rhinehart, a former electrical engineer, when he was too poor to eat a balanced diet. He decided to do some research on what nutrients were needed in the human diet, ordered the nutrient powders online and proceeded to create a recipe for a shake that one could subsist and even thrive on without the need for actual food.

His personal experiment became so popular that Soylent’s kickstarter campaign of $100,000 was funded within 2 days (they were hoping to succeed within 2 months) and there are now over $1 million in pre-orders. Clearly, others are interested in doing away with the inconvenience of buying, preparing, and eating real food.

The formula is constantly being updated and currently consists mainly of oat powder and maltodextrin for carbs, an EPA/DHA blend, flax seed and MCT’s for healthy fats, and a rice/pea protein isolate blend (switched recently from whey protein due to concerns with allergies and vegan compatibility).

My concerns with this type of diet are digestive atrophy and micronutrient deficiencies. Soylent makers claim that there are no detrimental effects to being on a liquid diet long term; but adding a few solid food meals a week should offset these concerns. As for micronutrients, the complete Soylent recipe isn’t published to protect their formula and I’m sure they have taken this into account. However, the human diet has variety for a reason. This wide variety of foods helps ensure we have maximum absorption of macro and micronutrients. I have a hard time believing a single formula can provide long term health benefits.

It might be nice to have a nutritionally complete meal replacement such as Soylent on occasion, but personally, I’ll stick to eating real food. There’s no substitute for the pleasure of a well-made meal shared in good company.

Protein Warning


This week Phoenix is due to hit its first 100 degree day of the year. Around here it’s typical for the newscasts to include reminders on extreme weather days to drink water, stay in the shade and avoid protein. Wait…what? Avoid protein? I’d never heard that one before and I would have thought it was a mistake before my recent education in nutrition. Digesting protein induces a thermogenic effect on the body, meaning it creates heat as it is broken down. The thermogenic effect is also why we tend to crave heavy, meat rich dishes in the winter. From a historical perspective, eating more readily available fresh or dried meats during winter kept people warm and provided additional fat to survive until produce was available again.

For the average person, the protein warning doesn’t really apply. Most of us spend our time indoors in frigid over-airconditioned buildings, in which case we need all the extra thermogenesis we can get!