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 options. Author's own image

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.

"Soylent" Image by rklopfer, flickr, https://www.flickr.com/photos/rklopfer/, CC

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.

6 Responses to “When Human met Soylent”

  1. ginam says:

    I can imaging a diet primarily or entirely of Soylent would become tedious to say the least. Users have reported little change in their ‘movements’ just in case you were wondering…

    I’m not sure about the protein. It’s definitely an advantage to have a naturally-derived protein rather than a synthetic one. Protein absorption can decrease in users of synthetic proteins (supplements), but I’m not sure whether this would be a problem with Soylent.

  2. ginam says:

    Oh cool, I didn’t know there was a documentary about it. Do you remember what it’s called?

    Interesting about the weight-loss. I guess for many of us that would be a plus- not so much if it were used for disaster-relief or something similar though. It would be interesting to look at the short-term and long-term effects.

    I know that there are some others making their own recipes. The main concern would be the lack of ‘industry’ regulation if usage were to become more widespread.

  3. vdrs says:

    Haha I watched the documentary on this. Super super interesting. Although the guy has a point when he talks about how solent would take away from the social aspect of having food. Also the doctor he visits says he’s loosing a lot of weight- but that is perhaps precisely what our generation needs. I found it interesting how this concept could really pay off in areas of malnutrition around the world- maybe we don’t need to provide the whole food but just the very essential broken down molecules to save lives. I read something about “pulmpynut” that sort of delves into that concept. Cool blog 🙂

  4. egiles says:

    The nutritional breakdown looks really good and well-encompassing! The website states that the average user uses Soylent for 50-80% of their daily nutrition. I wonder about the protein source; from looking at the ingredients list, it appears to be primarily rice protein. Is this a complete protien (ie contains all 9 essential amino acids)? Also, I wonder about having 80% of your intake coming from liquid alone. My understanding (from anecdotal information) is that most people find it really difficult to sustain a primarily-liquid diet. I wonder how sustainable it would be over the long-term.

  5. ginam says:

    It’s nutritious but definitely not tasty. Apparently there are no ill-effects from consuming only Soylent, however users will eat proper meals if out with friends simply because they’re hardly going to pull out a bottle of it at the table.
    I agree, it will never truly replace food, however it does raises an interesting point about our food selection process; do we primarily choose foods for their taste or for their nutritional value?

  6. dcrock says:

    This Soylent stuff sounds like it has great potential! It might be limited by bad taste though… it may look nutritious, but it certainly doesn’t make my mouth water. No doubt it could be really useful in times of hardship, famine, disease etc.

    In any case, as you say food is such an integral part of the human experience that it will never be replaced by some Willy Wonka-style all-in-one pill.