Soylent (Green)

soylent-greenThis 1973 Dystopic Film Has Come to Pass in a Way Never Anticipated. However, the new Soylent Food Product Does Not Use the Same Ingredients As Soylent Green.


The 1973 film Soylent Green had an all-star cast and was set in the year 2022. The world was overrun with people, who were kept alive with nutritional wafers from the Soylent Corporation. There were three types: Red, Yellow, and Green, with Soylent Green being the preferred “flavor,” and in short supply.

The Soylent Corporation would not disclose the ingredients of Soylent Green, stating only that it was oceanic in origin. The movie’s plot revolves around a New York detective determining the ingredients.

Fast forward to (almost) 2022 and we have—dah dah—Soylent. No color, though, but a product with “everything.” This food concept was invented by Rob Rhinehart, a software engineer, the idea being that the concoction would contain all necessary nutrients. Rather like software, it has gone through several revisions, and we are now at Soylent 2.0. Although Rhinehart chose the name from a different movie, everyone associates it with the 1973 dystopic film. This hasn’t seemed to have hurt sales, though.

The target market seems to be the Silicon Valley 80 hour-a-week types who don’t have time for such pleasantries as dining.

soylentSo what would such a magical product need to have in order for a person to thrive. We are already in trouble here, because there is such a wide diversity of people that it is already a stretch to imagine that one size could fit all. We can generally divide nutritional needs into two broad categories: macro-nutrients and micro-nutrients. The macro-nutrients are what we use for energy. This is the easy part. The body prefers fat, and is all set up to get its energy from it. It can also burn carbohydrates and protein. Soylent 2.0 features this in the way of macro-nutrients:

Soylent 2.0 (Drink Version)

Nutrition Facts (one bottle~about a pint)

Total Fat 21g
Saturated Fat 2g
Total Carbohydrate 37g
Dietary Fiber 3g
Sugars 9g
Protein 20g

This is not a good start. This stuff is loaded with carbs. About 50% of the population can’t metabolize carbs very well and will put on weight. Anyone who is diabetic, pre-diabetic, or simply insulin resistant better avoid Soylent. The low percentage of saturated fat is alarming too. The body runs cleanest on saturated fat. However, it will likely sustain life. Still it would make some sense to offer a low-carb version. But macro-nutrients is the easy part.

Micro-nutrients are the trace elements, vitamins, and molecules that we have to get from food in order to thrive. So what are these? Now here is the huge problem: we don’t know. We probably need over a thousand. Normally we don’t have to worry about it because a reasonable variety of real food will provide all this. Here’s the Soylent 2.0 micro-nutrient list:

  • Vitamin A
  • Vitamin C
  • Calcium
  • Iron
  • Vitamin D
  • Vitamin E
  • Vitamin K
  • Thiamin
  • Riboflavin
  • Niacin
  • Vitamin B6
  • Folate
  • Vitamin B12
  • Biotin
  • Pantothenic Acid
  • Iodine
  • Magnesium
  • Zinc
  • Selenium
  • Copper
  • Manganese
  • Chromium
  • Molybdenum
  • Chloride

Looks impressive, doesn’t it. And the list has grown since Soylent 1.0.

But is it impressive? In fact, it’s a health disaster in the making, and anyone living on this stuff is going to have problems. For starters, we need a lot more than vitamins and 11 elements. There is not a single phytochemical listed. These are important, and there are thousands of them. Pomegranate alone has over 100. Which ones do we need? This varies from person to person and also with time. And again, we don’t know. We just know that a varied diet will provide the ones we need at the time we need them.

Are all the minerals there? No. Only about half of them. We also need boron, chromium, cobalt, copper, fluorine, selenium, silicon, tin, vanadium, and zinc.

But here’s the real problem. We need differing amount of all these things at different time, and our bodies know specifically which ones and our bodies will easily extract these out of the food we eat, unless they aren’t there at all.


Typical Real Food

So anyone eating a lot of Soylent, should “supplement” with real food, especially colored vegetables. Our own take is that Soylent consumption, like most attempts to meddle with Mother Nature, is fraught with peril. But we are old fashioned. Still, the long term effects of a vegan diet are devastating for some, and a vegan diet would have far more micro-nutrients that Soylent.

If Soylent does wants to offer colors—a low carb version, for instance—they should grab them. In 2001, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) approved a beef based filler product added to ordinary beef products, especially ground beef. It have been controversial, to put it mildly. It is usually called Pink Slime, but sometimes goes by the name Soylent Pink. Yum.

So what was the original Soylent Green made from? [Spoiler Alert]. The answer can be viewed here (and be sure to read the comments).


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