When Human met Soylent
Popping a pill and having all your nutritional needs met for a month is the stuff of sci-fi movies. By deconstructing food to its nutritional basics, the producers of Soylent have almost made this a reality. The good news is, that unlike its movie namesake, Soylent isn’t made from humans.
Humans are heterotrophs; we consume other organisms to fuel our bodies. Since our humble beginnings as hunter-gatherers, food has become more than simply nourishment; it now has a great deal of social, cultural, even economic importance. Above all, it has become a source of enjoyment.
Many Western countries are faced with an overabundance of food. More than half the food produced never reaches human mouths. With such a wide variety of food available in plentiful amounts, for many of us, eating has become more of a hobby than a survival necessity. It is a social way to express ourselves, to spoil ourselves and to explore our world.
Danish food choices
Author’s own image
At the same time, modern life is hectic. A long working day may leave little or no time for sleep, let alone shopping and food preparation. Pharmacies are full of vitamins and minerals catering for the malnourished amongst us. Energy drinks such as “Mother” and “V” are readily available to ‘boost performance’. Products such as “Up And Go” and “Oats Express”; breakfasts in a box, are designed for people who don’t have the time to sit down to a meal. Frozen sections in supermarkets are packed with ready-made, pre-prepared meals catering for those too busy or too inept to feed themselves.
The majority of these foods are at best unhealthy. Some are even harmful.
We have overcomplicated food to the extent that much of what we consume is so deficient in essential dietary components that it can barely be classified as food, let alone nutritious. Much pre-prepared food is full of fats and sugars, even fillers such as soy, added as a cheap way to increase the mass and therefore price of the product.
For much of the population, fast food is unhealthy food. One company is drastically changing this with a product named “Soylent”.
To be blunt, Soylent is a nutritional sludge; a complete meal which takes seconds to prepare and seconds to consume. It’s also cheap, costing less than $4 a meal. It is a carbohydrate-based powder and contains all the essential vitamins and minerals, protein, fibre and fatty acids your body requires. They’ve even remembered to include Omega 3 fatty acids. Simply add water and scull. It’s that easy.
Image by rklopfer, flickr, https://www.flickr.com/photos/rklopfer/, CC
So far, Soylent has been pitched as an easy and healthy way to consume a balanced diet for individuals too busy to prepare and eat ‘traditional’ meals. Its potential however is much greater. Soylent could be used either as a complete food or as a supplement for individuals who have many allergies or intolerances. It is small, lightweight and requires only a small amount water to prepare, making it ideal for hiking and military applications. It is cheap to produce, making it invaluable in areas where war, poverty or natural disasters have caused food availability to become scarce.
It seems unlikely that Soylent will ever replace the traditional concept of a meal, however its gastronomic genius will definitely inspire us to rethink how we define food.