Soylent vs. a healthy diet


#1

How healthy do you think S/soylent is compared to a “healthy diet”? Here I’m referring to a diet consisting of lots of veggies and fruit, fish and some lean meat, micronutrient complete, etc. Soylent tends to be compared to the SAD (Standard American Diet), but that’s not a relevant comparison for many of us. I use CRONometer to meet my micronutrient demands every day, I eat plenty of vegetables, little sugar, lots of fish etc. I’m not an American and I don’t think my diet is that poor.

I love the convenience of Soylent, though. At the moment I have to go shopping once a week and though I don’t cook any food, food preparation still takes something like half an hour a day. And of course there’s the economic benefits. So I went on Joylent for a while, but my body clearly didn’t feel as good on it. I got some brain fog and all in all didn’t feel 100%. I cut down to Joylent lunch and “real food” for the rest of the day, and I feel better on that. Of course Joylent isn’t Soylent, but what do you think? If we compare S/soylent to a healthy diet as recommended by professionals, how well does it stack up?


#2

A traditionally healthy diet has the advantage of being more flexible, since any unique needs can be met by eating more or less of certain foods.

Soylent the other hand, provides a far more consistent nutrition. And it has the additional advantage of being convenient and typically cheaper than a traditional healthy diet.

It might argued, that a hybrid of the two would combine advantages of both approaches.


#3

I think it has nothing to do with being American. Soylent is comparatively cheaper domestically, but that’s about it.

If you are genuinely getting all your micros and eating the kind of diet you describe, and feel well, and have no weight problems, and it is affordable and convenient for you, then Soylent does not compare favorably. It will probably not be more healthy for you.

For many people, Soylent will be healthier than what they would otherwise choose - not because they’re American, but because most of us are not as careful as you are.


#4

Sorry, I didn’t mean to imply that only Americans eat unhealthily. I do feel well, have no health problems, but while it’s certainly affordable, it’s more costly than (European) soylent, and it’s certainly not that convenient.

I’m not just asking for me; I’m genuinly curious about what people think of Soylent compared to a regular healthy diet. Soylent is engineered to hit the sweet spot on all nutrients (except for that huge amount of vit A that might cause osteoporosis), whereas a traditional diet will never be that precise. But of course, Soylent is only engineered to provide what we know that we need, but might miss out on things we don’t know that we could benefit from. It’s an interesting question, I think.


#5

We just have so many options here, and the easiest and/or cheapest ones are almost NEVER the healthy way to go. It just makes making the good decisions a little harder. I could go to the grocery store and buy healthy things, or I could just swing through the drive-thru and get right back to studying.

S/soylent has been such a godsend in convenience for me. Healthier food = better brain and better schoolwork!


#6

I don’t agree with your concern on the Vitamin A - in fact, in my DIY, I use considerably more of most vites (I use LEF’s Mix).

I’d emphasize two points:

  1. You refer to comparing it to a regular healthy diet. I contend that a regular diet and a healthy diet are two separate things. Most apparently good diets are low in one thing or another or, usually, several. This is not a cultural fault, it’s simply not as simple as most people think, even in the industrialized world.

  2. On the question of “things we don’t know we need,” I remind you that a primary ingredient of Soylent is whole oat flour, which is a whole, natural, raw seed. There’s a lot of that “unknown” stuff in there. When we discover a new “essential” component of diet, we may find it’s already in there (or in the protein source, or the oils, etc.)

For me, before DIY soylent, on a good day, my diet was as good as soylent. On a typical day, soylent is better. On a bad day, soylent is far and away better. And I’ve never eaten a “typical American diet.” (I haven’t had a hamburger for over 20 years, and I didn’t grow up on fast food.)

Just my two cents.


#7

On official Soylent for only two days, I experienced the digestive issues that many have described and otherwise felt unwell. I’ve been vegan for thirty years and my regular diet was probably better than the SAD. I’ve noticed a few similar experiences posted by others who said they follow a healthy, plant-based diet.

Making my diy, I was surprised by how difficult it was to get all of the micros from whole foods. There were a few that were especially problematic - zinc, choline, pantothenic acid, vitamin E. Some of this may be the result of incomplete nutritional information on the protein and carb powders I’m using. At this point, I’m using a few minimally processed supplements - wheat germ, yeast, lecithin, Brazil nuts. This allows for more flexibility with the other ingredients - vegetable juices. I feel much better on this than I did on my regular diet - more energy and better moods. The fresh vegetable juices, protein and carbs all seem to be important for these effects.

Personally, I have a science background, which makes me sympathetic to the concern that we probably don’t know everything there is to know about nutrition. But I think that the diy app is a great tool for applying what we do know. I’d suggest plugging your regular, healthy diet into the app. The USDA database is built in, so you can easily add more than 8,000 foods. Whole foods might supply some mysterious nutrients that have been overlooked, but you might find that others that we know are important are in short supply.


#8

I think there is no one answer to your question @Ari.
We’re different and always will be looking for new healthy foods we can fit our needs better.

I like you combination of healthy real food & Joylent for every day (I do the same with my products).
But you may go further and pick a proper food for better sleeping, better workout, better mental productivity…

In short, my opinion - there is no good or bad, there are foods better or worse for particular needs.
You may find useful this post from Registered Dietitian:
http://discourse.powderedfoods.com/t/should-we-vary-fat-carb-protein-ratio-during-the-day/204/4


#9

There are some limitations that Soylent is currently stuck with. The first is that currently it is tailored to a typical person as opposed to the individual. The second is that it doesn’t have variety in flavor and texture. The third is that it has to remain economical.

It bothers me when people say Soylent is better than some microwavable food. What does that even mean? It makes it sound like Rob just half-assed the whole formula, and it will keep you alive but is not all that healthy. Why the disclaimer? I mean the real disclaimer here should not be that it doesn’t live up to a healthy diet, but rather that it is an untested food that could have unforeseen side effects in the long run.

If it doesn’t live up to a healthy diet, then the question is “how do we make it better match a healthy diet?” as opposed to just settling for “better than a burrito”. It does bother me.

Is it the case that Soylent isn’t about being as healthy as possible, and it just wants to be a cheap as possible without resulting in any serious malnutrition? I don’t understand.


#10

I’ve been using the app CRONometer for some time, which does much the same (except it has even more databases to pull from, though I still have to add some foods myself as the databases are all heavily americocentric). I track my calories, macros and micros every day (it’s actually kinda fun) and I’m sure I don’t have a deficiency of any mineral or vitamin, except possibly K2, but the Soylent app doesn’t separate K1 and K2, either.


#11

Yeah, sure. I wasn’t expecting a definitive answer, just want people’s thoughts on the matter. I really like the idea of Soylent, but I also don’t want to settle for a “better than burritos” diet. I want something that can help me live a long and healthy life and avoid illness. There’s a lot of science on how to design a “regular” diet to maximize that. I’m wondering how people think Soylent stacks up.

I also don’t want this to sound like a critique of Soylent. I love the concept, and I suspect that any non-optimal things in the formula will get tweaked as time and science progresses. And I certainly don’t want to be guilty of the naturalistic fallacy. Soylent is unnatural, but that may well mean it’s actually a lot better for us than eating veggies and fish.


#12

That’s my view, in a nutshell as well. I know a lot of people that eat “healthy” in that they consume fresh fruits and vegetables and think they have a good diet. I suppose their diet is better than one based on a frozen burrito, but these people have never in their life thought to look at the nutrients they consume and how they match up with their needs, or even how to determine what those needs are. How do we define “a healthy diet”? My friends would say it needs to contain lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, not too much sugar, no fast food, etc… and someone operating under those limited requirements might happen by chance to eat the perfect diet - or they might end up eating one that is much closer to the frozen burrito meals.

The disadvantage that Soylent has is it is a one size fits all diet - the ability for me to customize it to my needs is rather limited. On the other hand, how the heck do I determine my needs? Is it as simple as the Facebook chart where if you crave chocolate you don’t have enough magnesium and should consume raw nuts? Do I have regular blood tests done to look for shortages? Does anyone actually do anything more than think “I work out, so I need tons of protein!” type stuff?? I don’t feel qualified to determine how my individual needs are different than the norm. I think if I tried I’d have about as much luck with my modifications as I would picking stocks that outperform the market based on the aesthetics of the stock symbol.

My gut feeling is that for the majority of people eating “a healthy diet”, Soylent would actually be superior. I suppose, at any rate, it’s better than a frozen burrito…


#13

The constant mention of frozen burritos keeps making me think. (I once lived almost exclusively on them, but it reached the point where I had to eliminate all beans from my diet for a couple years because of intestinal inflammation whenever I ate them. I recently ended that ban, and all seems fine. Moderation in all things!) The burrito isn’t a bad “design”, previous parenthetical nothwithstanding… and I see all these new natural/organic frozen burritos at work these days… it’s probably worth building a “soylent burrito”…


#14

If you’re looking for nutritionally complete and natural food - it’s also possible.
Check Powdered Foods Marketplace for Vegan, Organic and Raw blends…


#15

Soylent contains 5000 IU of vitamin A, far in excess of the RDA at 3000. There’s at least one study indicating that vit A doses not far above the RDA is detrimental to bone health. If you use “considerably more” vit A than the 5000 IU of Soylent, I think you might want to be careful.


#16

I use considerably more of most vites than Soylent, but not Vitamin A. The LEF multivamin mix I use has 5000 IU, which is the same as the FDA’s basis for DV (Daily Value) in food labeling, which is the same that Soylent uses.

You’re right that this is higher than the RDA, but it is still within safe limits.

The National Institutes of Health specifies 10,000 IU as the tolerable upper intake level for adults (UL):
http://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminA-HealthProfessional/#h8

That’s not how science works. If there’s one study suggesting something might help or might hurt, you have no basis for any conclusions. It’s when several studies corroborate each other that science has learned something. The studies on Vitamin A and bone health are mixed and inconclusive. Even if you wish to show an abundance of caution, keeping the limit at 5,000 IU instead of 10,000 IU does that:

Results of some studies indicate that vitamin A intake is not associated with detrimental effects on bone mineral density (BMD) or fracture risk (39-41). However, results of some prospective studies suggest that long-term intakes of preformed vitamin A in excess of 1,500 mcg/day (5,000 IU/day) are associated with increased risk of osteoporotic fracture and decreased BMD in older men and women (42-44). Although this level of intake is greater than the RDA of 700-900 mcg/day (2,300-3,000 IU/day), it is substantially lower than the UL of 3,000 mcg/day (10,000 IU/day). Only excess intakes of preformed vitamin A (retinol), not beta-carotene, were associated with adverse effects on bone health.

For what it’s worth, the LEF supplement uses Beta Carotene, not Vitamin A Palmitate. (Soylent uses Vitamin A Palmitate, i.e., “preformed vitamin A.”)

And if you’re interested in the studies cited above, here they are:

.39. Rejnmark L, Vestergaard P, Charles P, et al. No effect of vitamin A intake on bone mineral density and fracture risk in perimenopausal women. Osteoporos Int. 2004;15(11):872-880. (PubMed)

.40. Sowers MF, Wallace RB. Retinol, supplemental vitamin A and bone status. J Clin Epidemiol. 1990;43(7):693-699. (PubMed)

.41. Ballew C, Galuska D, Gillespie C. High serum retinyl esters are not associated with reduced bone mineral density in the Third National Health And Nutrition Examination Survey, 1988-1994. J Bone Miner Res. 2001;16(12):2306-2312. (PubMed)

.42. Michaelsson K, Lithell H, Vessby B, Melhus H. Serum retinol levels and the risk of fracture. N Engl J Med. 2003;348(4):287-294. (PubMed)

.43. Promislow JH, Goodman-Gruen D, Slymen DJ, Barrett-Connor E. Retinol intake and bone mineral density in the elderly: the Rancho Bernardo Study. J Bone Miner Res. 2002;17(8):1349-1358. (PubMed)

.44. Feskanich D, Singh V, Willett WC, Colditz GA. Vitamin A intake and hip fractures among postmenopausal women. JAMA. 2002;287(1):47-54. (PubMed)