Have you heard about this "Soylent" beverage that's been working its way around the internet?
I would have never known about this toxic beverage if Jeff, part of the design team who built our Academy of Culinary Nutrition website, hadn't asked me about it (despite his partner Matt warning him of an impending ass-kicking from me).
Apparently this drink was first introduced through a Kickstarter campaign (that I won't link to) and will either end in a recall due to anal leakage or starch overload, or be the next horrendous drink to be pushed by dieticians who also believe that Ensure can stand up to a complete meal any day (or for any disease).
I told Jeff it was at his own risk if he wanted to drink this, but I needed it in writing that he would not consume this while working on my project, as I required all facets of his mind and organs (brain, liver, kidneys, nervous system, and digestive system, to name a few) to be in full and optimal working order.
We aren't talking about Soylent Green, although the barf factor of this version is similar to the corpse-based original. Soylent is a food substitute designed to supply all of the human body's nutritional needs. Apparently.
While some sources claim that Soylent isn't meant to replace food altogether, the marketing campaign sure seems to imply it. Thanks to my looking into this product, all I'm getting on Facebook are ads that say: "What if you never had to worry about food again?"
I'll take my "worries" about trips to the farmer's market and days playing in the kitchen over chugging back a chemical-based beverage three times a day, thank you very much. If I never had to think about food again, then I'd be worried!
After tens of thousands have been raised essentially sight unseen, the Soylent boys have finally posted nutritional information.
Let Me Break This Down For You
- Maltodextrin: Maltodextrin, the first ingredient on the list, is an artificial sugar that is derived from either wheat or corn, with corn being the standard in the United States. Unless otherwise specified, the maltodextrin is likely coming from GMO corn with all the associated health risks. What some may consider a winning point on maltodextrin is how absorbable it is (like straight glucose). And this is exactly the main problem -- the sugars that absorb rapidly will also spike the blood sugar, increase insulin secretion, followed by a cascade of stress hormone release that all serve to increase inflammation in the body and reduce our capacity to deal with the world in a sane way. No joke. One of the best quotes I found about maltodextrin: "While wheat-derived maltodextrin may cause concern for individuals suffering from gluten intolerance, maltodextrin is such a highly processed ingredient that the majority of the protein is removed, rendering it effectively gluten-free." Um. Great?
- Crappy Versions of Synthetic Vitamins: The ingredients listed may technically meet 30% and 40% RDA levels, but are they affecting blood levels in our body? The forms of nutrients listed are the least absorbable and least bio-active, meaning, in plain English, the body won't have a clue how to use them. For example, Soylent uses vitamin D2 (as ergocalciferol) which has poor conversion into the active form vitamin D in the body and studies have shown it be harsh on the kidneys. The active form of Vitamin D is actually D3 (cholecalciferol), which can be readily used. These isolated nutrients with low absorbability potentially become toxic to the organs that need to filter through this garbage, namely the liver and the kidneys. Much like Ensure, they are simply using the cheapest forms of each vitamin. You get what you pay for. If you are interested in learning more about the various types of nutrients that can be found in vitamins and vitamin enriched foods, click here and here.
- Soy lecithin: Soy lecithin has been found to be extremely estrogenic. That means it functions like estrogen in the body and can cause hormonal imbalances. So while all these dudes are sipping on their Soylent while gaming, they could also potentially be shrinking their junk and growing breasts. It's a thickening agent and emulsifier and, unless specified otherwise, it likely comes from genetically modified soybeans. GMO foods have been linked to allergies, liver problems, infertility and sterility, breast cancer, thyroid disorders, kidney stones and more.
- Gum arabic: Gum arabic can cause gas, bloating, nausea and loose stools. It's a stabilizer that's used to give processed foods their long shelf life and is commonly used in soft drinks.
- Vanillin: Vanillin is a cheap substitute for vanilla that comes from -- wait for it -- a beaver's ass. Literally. As in, "the exudate from the castor sacs of the mature North American beaver."*
Correction: As many Soylent fans pointed out- Vanillin doesn't in fact from Beaver bum sac, that would be straight up Vanilla, Vanilla Flavour and/or Natural Flavour. What actually is found in Soylent is Vanillin which is either derived from wood pulp or synthesized in a chemistry lab. Our apologies for this misrepresentation.
- Sucralose: Sucralose is not food. It is an artificial sweetener (read: fake chemical mess) with a looooong list of studies cataloguing its health risks. Here's just a few: "In rats, sucralose alters the microbial composition in the gastrointestinal tract (GIT), with relatively greater reduction in beneficial bacteria." In that same study, researchers found that cooking with sucralose at high temperatures resulted in a potentially toxic class of compounds, and that sucralose may alter glucose, insulin, and glucagon-like peptide 1 (GLP-1) levels in both humans and rats. Researchers in this study dubbed sucralose "not a biologically inert compound." No kidding. Read more on artificial sweeteners here.
- Canola oil: Like corn and soy, canola oil is most likely genetically modified unless otherwise specified. When choosing your oils, you have to ask yourself -- does this oil come from a naturally oily source? Olives, coconuts, butter -- oily. Canola? Not so oily. That means a heck of a lot of processing needs to happen in order to turn canola into oil. Plus, a 2009 study found that canola oil shortens the life of stroke-prone spontaneously hypertensive rats. Not exactly something I would choose as my primary source of fat. This omega 6 oil is highly pro-inflammatory in the body.
- Fish oil: I can support supplementing with high-quality fish oil for omega-3 benefits when it's from a very clean and purified source, but just how high-quality is the fish oil going to be in a mass-produced beverage? We're not sure which fish this oil is coming from, but we wouldn't want to eat them. Rancidity amongst fish oil, even some quality brands, is very common. To avoid this, many commercial brands add more preservatives to lend some shelf life to an oil that is naturally sensitive to heat, light and oxygen. Think chemical fish juice storm.
It's completely understandable to want to simplify your meals. This beverage, however, is not an option -- unless maybe you are in outer space and all your freeze dried food has been consumed and this is the only thing you have left. But then again, with this much starch, artificial sweetener, gums and emulsifiers, it may be best not to consume potentially diarrhea-inducing food in space.
Eat real food! There is nothing more important in your day than what you choose to fuel your life with. It will impact every other facet of your day and subsequently, the quality of your life.
Make your own meal replacement with a high speed blender, some spinach, some protein powder, a banana and some blueberries. It doesn't get much easier (and healthier) than that.
Yield: 5 smoothies
- 5 - bananas
- 5 scoops - Genuine Health Whole Body Nutrition (or a greens powder you love)
- 5 scoops - Sunwarrior (or brown rice, pea, organic whey protein powder of choice)
- 5 handfuls - fresh or frozen spinach
- 2½ cups - fresh or frozen blueberries
- 10 Tbsp flax, chia, or olive oil
- 10 cups water
- 5 doses professional brand multi-vitamin (such as Pure Encapsulations, Douglas Labs, Metagenics, Integrative Therapeutics)
- 5 - ½ litre mason jars
- Line up your five clean mason jars, lids removed.
- Into each jar place one banana, 1 scoop of green powder, 1 scoop of protein powder, ½ cup blueberries, 2 Tbsp oil of choice.
- Seal this jar and place it in your freezer.
- Each night, take one jar out of your freezer and place it in the fridge. In the morning, dump contents of jar into your blender and add 2 cups of water. Blend until smooth.
- Pour back into your jar, seal the lid and go.
- You can drink this to replace one meal a day, not 21 meals a week!
- Take one dose of your multi-vitamin each day.
Please note that while we welcome differing opinions, personal attacks won't be published as they aren't beneficial for discussion or helpful to the community.
Update August 11 2014: We have been informed that Soylent recently put a hold on shipping after recipients complained about flatulence and headaches after consuming the product. They have recently begun shipping it again, along with advice for "optimizing the Soylent experience" which includes avoiding using it as your main source of food without giving your body time to "adjust." You can find the official announcement here.