You know what Soylent Green is.
Just plain “Soylent,” on the other hand, is a mix of vitamins and minerals intended to replicate “exactly what the body needs to survive” and replace meals altogether.
We’re not sure if it’s named for the other stuff to reflect the idea of a “food of the future” or just to be edgy and attention-grabbing. Or both. It certainly succeeded in the latter…
…at which point we thought, Why give the publicity its inventor clearly seeks?
Because it highlights a few important points about food and nutrition that sometimes get lost in the the scramble for novelty, efficiency and profit to be made off our desire to be “healthy”:
- We do not eat nutrients; we eat food. And as Dr. David Jacobs put it in the title of his 2007 Nutrition Reviews paper, “Food, Not Nutrients, Is the Fundamental Unit in Nutrition.” This is because it seems to be the synergistic relationships among micronutrients that matter most to health – the vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals, even compounds we’re not yet aware of. “Consumers get the idea that diet and health can be understood in terms of isolated nutrients,” he said at the time his paper was published. “It’s not the best approach, and it might be wrong.” Yes, there are times when food-based supplements can be helpful. But there’s a reason they’re called supplements and not replacements.
- The nutritional values for sustinance are lower than those needed for optimal health. This is especially true in a world as polluted as ours, where even the most diligent among us are exposed to thousands of toxic chemicals and electromagnetic pollution each day by simple virtue of breathing and eating and being out in the world. Greater nutritional support is needed to keep the extracellular matrix functioning as it should so the body can efficiently rid itself of toxins.
- Food is about more than just nutrition. Our foodways connect us socially and culturally – and, as Michael Pollan describes wonderfully in his latest book, Cooked, connect us to the Earth, as well. The gathering, preparing and sharing of food brings us together in important ways – something we lose when we opt for convenience. And it reminds us that we are in fact members of the natural world, putting us in touch with where our food comes from – from the Earth and natural biological activities, not containers in a lab.
Says registered dietician Joy Dubost, “[Soylent] is taking this and trying to make it a one-size-fits-all approach, and nutrition is not like that at all.”