Meet the people who don't eat

Image: Thinkstock

Food is wonderful. Whether you’re cooking it, ordering it, inhaling it, eating it, or putting it on Instagram (don’t deny it), there’s a lot to love about food.

However. If there was a way you could get all the nutritional benefits of food, in an environmentally sustainable way, at a fraction of the price you usually spend on your groceries – would you be tempted to try it? Even if the food in question wasn’t, technically speaking, ‘food’?

This weight-loss trend is dangerous. And it doesn’t even work.

A lot of people are  so compelled by the idea, they’re making it happen in real life. Like some kind of next-level meal replacement shake, they’re swapping the  majority of their meals with scientifically formulated food substitutes. It all sounds very Brave New World (or even The Jetsons) but with discussion forums and new recipes popping up all over the net, the phenomenon known as ‘Soylent’ (okay, so maybe it’s more Soylent Green than Brave New World) is taking off.

The idea for Soylent was conceived by 25-year-old software engineer Rob Rhinehart in 2012. As he told The New Yorker’s Lizzie Widdicombe earlier this year, Rhinehart was desperately trying to find a way to cut down his grocery bill. All-kale and McDonald’s diets had failed, so he began to look at food consumption through the lens of engineering; he figured food was an “inefficient” way to give humans what they require, as the body needs “amino acids and lipids, not milk itself” and “carbohydrates, not bread.”

After a period of research and consulting with nutrition experts, the former electrical engineering student came up with a list of the 35 nutrients humans need to survive, ordered them online in pill and powder form, and blended them together with water. Just like a supercharged green smoothie.

Image via Soylent (Instagram)

One serve of Soylent's current formula, which can be ordered online thanks to a crowd-funding campaign, takes three minutes to prepare and is equivalent to one meal. The recipe comprises 50% carbohydrate, 30% fat and 20% protein, and includes lipids from canola oil, carbohydrates from maltodextrin and oat flour, and protein from rice, along with fish oil and other vitamins and minerals. Apparently it's smooth yet grainy, with an inoffensive taste, and is unexpectedly filling.

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While the substance itself doesn't sound very appealing, paying just $3 for a meal certainly does. The Soylent website also claims the drink is "better for the environment" and takes a long time to go off. Anyone who regularly finds gooey cucumbers at the back of their fridge would agree that's a definite plus.

Soylent's creator Rob Rhinehart

Rhinehart has been living on a 90% Soylent diet since he first developed it - although he says theoretically, "you could live on [it] entirely" and be "pretty healthy".

Not only has his food bill dramatically decreased, but he claims the drink had a host of benefits for his body. After his first 30 days living on Soylent, Rhinehart blogged: "My physique has noticeably improved, my skin is clearer, my teeth whiter, my hair thicker and my dandruff gone."

The ultimate cleanse for people who hate cleanses (but still want to do one)

Although many of Soylent's customers seem to be happy converts, others have been unsatisfied with the product - to the point where they're trying to sell it at inflated prices on eBay and Craigslist. One writer at Motherboard reported that she couldn't find anyone to buy her supply, after it took 20 weeks to arrive instead of the promised 12.

Would you be tempted to try Soylent?