Is Soylent Good for You?

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If you're looking for a trendy meal replacement drink, you've probably heard of Soylent, meal supplements popular with people who want no-fuss nutrition with a feel-good vibe. According to company sources, the brand name comes from a fictional novel by Harry Harrison about the impact of overpopulation. In the book— called “Make Room! Make Room!” a new food is created which is made of soy and lentils.

But is Soylent good for you? There are pros and cons to using this beverage as a meal replacement. 

What Is Soylent? 

According to the company, Soylent produces "healthy, functional foods that are good for the body and the planet." Soylent users buy either premixed drink bottles or powder to create their own drinks or smoothies at home or on the go.

The popular Soylent Cafe drink comes in three morning-themed flavors—cafe mocha, vanilla, and chai. It provides a boost of caffeine, so many customers use it as a replacement for breakfast. Because the beverage contains healthy fats and protein, it can be much better for your body than some of the sugary drinks served at coffee bars.

Soylent Drink is another pre-mixed beverage that can be used as a meal replacement. Soylent Drink comes in original, strawberry, and cacao flavors. Soylent Powder can be used to mix a stand-alone drink, or you can use it as a base for smoothies. Lastly, Soylent Bridge is a premixed beverage that can be used as a snack replacement.

Soylent provides pre-mixed beverages for consumers who want quick, fuss-free nutrition when they don't have time to prepare a full meal or snack from whole foods.

For some consumers, part of the appeal of Soylent is that the company advertises to be an organization that does good for the planet. As part of this mission, they promote the fact that their containers are recyclable. They also say that their food system is better for the planet because it requires less water and produces less carbon dioxide than livestock, and requires less refrigeration than fresh fruits and vegetables.

Lastly, the company advertises that it takes part in food bank programs that deliver food to "those who need greater access to nutrition" both in the United States and around the world.

Ingredients

Soylent ingredients can be confusing for consumers because the names you see listed in the ingredients list are not familiar food items. The primary ingredient in the premixed drinks is water. Other main ingredients in bottled Soylent beverages include:

Soy Protein Isolate

Soy is a plant-based protein. There has been some controversy about soy consumption because soy provides phytoestrogens that mimic estrogen in your body. But many healthy eaters, exercisers, and health experts still rely on soy-based foods, including soy protein isolate (a supplement that is 90 percent protein), to meet their daily protein needs.

Maltodextrin

This food additive is often used as a thickener to make products creamier. Maltodextrin is a processed food powder made from starchy foods such as corn, rice, potato, or wheat and has a very high glycemic index.

High-Oleic Sunflower Oil

This particular kind of oil is higher in oleic acid, a healthy monounsaturated fatty acid that can boost heart health when used instead of other (less healthy) forms of fat, like saturated fat and trans fat.

Isomaltulose

This sweetener is better than sugar according to some sources because it digests more slowly and may lead to more stable blood sugar levels.

Canola Oil

You probably have canola oil in your kitchen which is often used as cooking oil; it's a good source of monounsaturated fatty acids.

Soylent Powder is made from some of these ingredients, including soy protein isolate, high-oleic canola oil, maltodextrinand isomaltulose. But it does not contain sunflower oil, according to the ingredients list provided with the Nutrition Facts label.

How to Buy and Store Soylent

You can buy Soylent as a one-time purchase or as a subscription. The price you pay for the product depends on which option you choose.

The most expensive drink is Soylent Cafe, which costs about $3.00 to $3.25 per single-serving bottle. Soylent Drink will cost about $2.69 to $3.25 per bottle, depending on whether or not you choose to sign up for a subscription and the quantity you purchase. Soylent Powder ranges from just over $1.50 per serving to just under $2.70, depending on quantity.

When you buy Soylent products online at the company's website, you'll be automatically signed up for the subscription service unless you toggle the button on the purchase page to "One-Time Purchase." Subscribers receive regular monthly deliveries of the product and are billed automatically. You can also purchase Soylent on Amazon or in select 7-Eleven stores, primarily in the Los Angeles area.

Soylent should be stored in a cool, dry place. After opening or preparing the product, keep it in the refrigerator and consume the beverage within 72 hours. All products are marked with a "Best By" date and an expiration date.

According to the company, the shelf life of the product can vary depending on warehouse location. Available stock and unopened products are good for at least two months (and possibly up to a year) after purchase depending on where the product was shipped from. The company recommends that you consume the product according to the package label. If you consume the product after the expiration date, the taste of the product may change.

Is Soylent Healthy?

It's hard to give a single short answer about whether or not Soylent is good for you. Each drink provides about 400 calories and 20 percent of certain vitamins and minerals for the day if you consume a 2000-calorie diet per day.

The macronutrient breakdown of Soylent is best for consumers who eat a higher fat diet. Roughly 47 percent of calories come from fat, 33 percent of calories come from carbohydrates, and 20 percent of calories come from protein. Each drink also provides three grams of healthy fiber to help boost satiety, and 300 milligrams of sodium.

Nearly half of the calories in Soylent come from fat and about one third come from carbohydrate. About 20 percent of Soylent calories come from protein. For some consumers, the drinks may provide more fat than they need.

Even though the type of fat in Soylent is considered healthy, the product provides more total fat than some health experts and nutritional organizations recommend. The USDA no longer provides a recommendation for total fat intake. Instead, they recommend that consumption of saturated fat be limited to 10 percent of total calories.

However, some nutrition professionals still adhere to the previous recommendation which states that you should consume no more than 30 to 35 percent of your total daily calories from fat. If you use Soylent as one of your meals, you would need to make sure that your other meals contain less fat to keep your total daily fat intake within those guidelines.

Soylent products are considered low glycemic foods because each product's glycemic index is below 55. Soylent Powder has a glycemic index of approximately 41 and a glycemic load of 16. The glycemic index of Soylent Drinks ranges from 36 for the Nectar flavor to 44 for the Soylent Drink original flavor (glycemic load ranges from 13 to 14). The glycemic index for Soylent Cafe is 38 with a glycemic load of 14.

The bottom line: The primary problem with Soylent—or any nutritional supplement—is that it takes the joy out of eating. True, Soylent makes mealtime simpler and faster. But for many people, sitting down for a meal is one of the most enjoyable parts of the day. When you sip your meal through a straw, you deny yourself one of life's primary pleasures.

However, not everyone has the time or energy to prepare nutritious meals every day. The company's co-founders created the brand out of frustration after eating a steady diet of corn dogs and ramen. For them (and people who eat a steady diet of similar foods), Soylent is a step up nutritionally. But for others, it might provide too much fat and not enough satisfaction to maintain healthy eating habits or a healthy weight long-term.

Weight Loss

Some users might try using Soylent to lose weight. Meal replacement shakes are an effective and easy option when you are trying to slim down, but Soylent weight loss might not be a smart plan. The drinks are higher in calories than many other meal replacement shakes.

A SlimFast shake, for example, provides 200 calories. A Shakeology chocolate shake provides 160 calories and a Nutrisystem Nutricrush shake provides 110 calories. You can also make a weight loss smoothie with fresh, nutritious ingredients for 300 calories or less.

Soylent does not market itself as a weight loss company and does not provide any weight loss claims on their website.

A Word From Verywell

Eating a healthy diet is not about a single meal or a single food that you choose to eat. Good nutrition comes from creating a comprehensive plan to provide your body with the energy it needs to function well and reduce your risk of disease.

For some people, drinking a Soylent product a few times during the week may help them achieve that goal. But if you enjoy cooking or if you have some time every day to fix meals made with real food such as seasonal fruits and veggies, lean meat, whole grains, and healthy sources of fat, then Soylent probably won't provide you with better nutrition. And it won't be as fun to eat. 

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