Taste isn't Soylent's main attraction. Instead, the guiding principles behind its ingredients are convenience, low cost and healthful nutrition. It can be used as a standalone food or as an occasional supplement to a conventional diet. Because the ingredients are entirely derived from plant sources, they require fewer resources to produce. And for places hit by climate-change-induced catastrophes, war and other circumstances that restrict access to healthy food, Soylent could be a cheap, healthy, easy-to-transport source of nutrition.
Including Soylent's initial release, Rosa Labs has issued five different versions of the product, with each iteration reflecting updates to the formula: Switching the primary source of fatty acids from fish oil to algal oil, reducing sweetness, and tweaking the balance of macronutrients (energy-giving substances like protein, carbohydrates, and fat) and micronutrients (vitamins and minerals that help regulate bodily functions). Chances are, more changes will come in the future.
Here, we're going to look at Soylent 1.4, the version available as of April 2015. Each 500-calorie serving — a quarter of a standard 2,000-calorie pouch and the recommended size for a "meal" — contains [source: Soylent]:
- 24 grams of fat (3 grams saturated fat)
- 51 grams of carbohydrates (4 grams fiber, 11 grams sugar)
- 21 grams of protein
- Micronutrients like potassium, vitamin C, and copper in percentage values based on a 2,000-calorie diet ranging from 17 percent (sodium) to 30 percent (calcium)
In terms of the ingredients themselves, Soylent is derived from brown rice, oat flour, isomaltulose (a type of sugar found in honey and sugar cane juice), potato starch, rice starch, cellulose, sucralose, high oleic sunflower oil, soy lecithin, flaxseed and safflower oil, algal oil, and a specialized vitamin-and-mineral blend. The formula contains very little sugar or saturated fat, and no cholesterol.
All of the ingredients are generally recognized as safe by the Food and Drug Administration [source: Soylent]. However, Soylent is not organic or kosher, it contains ingredients that come from genetically modified sources, in addition to gluten and soy. Additionally, the health effects on people with diabetes, Crohn's disease, or similar health conditions are unknown. The bottom line: If you're thinking of giving Soylent a try, talk to your doctor first.
Now that you know what's in Soylent, let's say you've decided to give it a test run. Where can you buy it, and how much do you need to purchase?