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When a Kickstarter launched for a nutritious slurry designed to replace normal food requirements, they laughed. After some reviewers praised Soylent (named after the eponymous film “Soylent Green”), they sat, dumb-struck. Before long, clones appeared. Now, user-sourced recipes are starting to take off – of these, my favorite is the home-brewed People Chow 3.0, the creation of Soylent.me user max. It aims to make Soylent available for cheap with common ingredients sourced from Amazon.

A lot of variations on People Chow 3.0 exist – but the 3.0.1 build, with a mild tortilla flavor, looks both nutritious and delicious. It costs around $3.50 per day to produce – buying in bulk can further slash costs. The average American spends around $8 on their daily food requirements – with questionable nutrition. While I’m by no means a dietitian, People Chow meets all the daily requirements set forth by the American Food and Drug Administration.

So is People Chow worth looking at, or is it just another health food fad? If you’re more interested in dieting, you might be better of with these meal planners Automatically Plan Your Meals & Make Dieting Easier With Eat This Much Automatically Plan Your Meals & Make Dieting Easier With Eat This Much One of the reasons for struggling with diets is the amount of work it takes organizing a diet that will help make you slim and healthy while providing some respite from the continual grind of... Read More .

soylent green

The Ingredients

  • Masa Harina: You might find Masa Harina for less money from a local source. But at $1.99 with $7.98 shipping, you can save yourself a trip to the local specialty store. It adds a tortilla-like flavor to the shake.
  • Now Foods 100% whey protein isolate: You can also find whey protein for less, but finding highly concentrated protein actually saves money. Whey is a dairy-based byproduct of cheese manufacturing.
  • GNC Mega Men Sport (vanilla flavored): This particular component adds flavor, protein, micronutrients and essential amino acids.
  • Potassium citrate: Potassium citrate adds a lot of micronutrients to the mix.
  • Iodized salt: Salt is freely available, almost anywhere. Your body requires a fairly large amount of salt. And while you can get it in mostly any other product, if People Chow is your sole source of nutrition, you would also need some kind of salt supplement.
  • Choline bitartrate: Choline supports brain function and is oftentimes used in conjunction with a racetam stack.
  • Soybean oil: Some users replace soybean oil with olive oil (which I would recommend, particularly if you are of European descent). Coconut oil offers a better flavor at slightly high cost.

The exact amounts and ratios required can be found on the People Chow recipe page.

After some experimentation, I removed the Masa Harina, soybean oil and only drank People Chow once a day, to keep solids in my diet. The mechanical action of chewing food also generates saliva, which remineralizes your teeth. It’s difficult imagining what an all-liquid diet would do to one’s dental health.

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Additionally, I throw in Kale, spinach, blueberries and lemons, by blending them into the slurry (always blend the most fibrous materials first, to help improve consistency). Fresh fruits and vegetables provide better flavor than Masa Harina.

masa harina

Equipment Required

There’s no getting around it: you need a blender to make People Chow. Otherwise, the slurry will suffer from chunks of the powders used in its manufacture. In short, all the powders are mixed together inside of the blender. Additional liquid is added (some use unsweetened almond milk).

Note that these ingredients account for a full day’s worth of food. Someone using the People Chow recipe would likely divide the portions into three separate portions. Dividing each portion may require a measuring scoop or a digital scale. Most of the bulk powders include a scoop, including portion sizes, but because you may need to divide each portion, more precision may be necessary.

blender picture

The Cost: Let Them Eat Cake?

According to the United States Department of Agriculture, in May of 2014 the average adult male spends around $55.90 per week on food. The constituent components of People Chow runs around $24.50 per week. While unusual, the diet offered through DIY projects like People Chow may evolve into an economical means of feeding millions of the poor and unemployed, living in urban environments.

A common issue with low-income housing is the limited access to nutritious food. Oftentimes getting lower-priced, higher quality nourishment requires transportation out of the inner city where rents and crime tend to run high. People Chow simplifies this by allowing for local delivery – and free shipping for some items, with Amazon Prime.

let them eat the cake called people chow

Health Concerns

I did not experience any health issues using a recipe similar to People Chow. However, of the 1,000 comments posted on the People Chow recipe, a number reported indigestion troubles and apparent allergic reactions. Some experienced flatulence. Others suffered from, sometimes temporary, loose stool. There’s a reported “detox” period (which is medically specious) in which users report symptoms similar to ketosis – which is when the body begins burning fat.

There’s also health warnings for a few of People Chow’s constituent components. For example, choline bitarate can cause complications for anyone suffering from hypertension, heart, kidney or thyroid disease, psychiatric disease, prostate problems, depression, stroke or seizure issues. Choline can cause adverse reactions when taken in combination with certain medications. If you are on ANY medication, you need to consult with a health professional before starting on People Chow.

For anyone considering People Chow, I would recommend buying in smaller quantities and slowly easing themselves into the diet. Even for those not using a medication, you should absolutely consult a medical professional. While People Chow meets all the FDA’s recommended nutritional requirements, your individual needs may differ.

choline

Conclusion

I felt improvements in energy, mental focus and a small amount of weight loss. However, I never went entire onto People Chow. Also, I already engage in a great deal of daily exercise. As such, your results may differ wildly from mine.

Does People Chow fulfill a niche within modern culture – one that transcends traditional ideas about food – or is it a fad? I’d say new innovations in nutrition are critical for the future of mankind. Given current agricultural production, the current rate of population growth falls outside of our ability to feed them. I don’t know if People Chow, or other nutrient slurries similar to Soylent, will fulfill humanity’s growing need for sustenance. However, cheap high-quality nutrition is something that we need and eventually marketplaces may one day stock it.

What do you guys think? I know it sounds weird — and it’s potentially unhealthy — but can DIY Soylent feed millions? Or is it just another bizarre fad?

Image credits: Cake via Morguefile.com; Blender via MorgueFile.com

  1. John Williams
    May 23, 2015 at 5:33 am

    Don't need a blender, use Blender Bottles.

  2. Brianm
    July 29, 2014 at 9:14 am

    This a fad. At best. This is likely about as good -or bad- for you as a can of Slimfast or similar reputable product. Even Slimfast has the good sense to say it is not intended to be a sole source of nutrition. I understand the comments being made about food costs, but if the product fails nutritionally in the LONG term, cost not the germane issue. Especially if one is serious about using the product for most or all of your meals! As far as world hunger goes, this is not the answer or even part of the answer to a complicated and terrible problem.

    It is a tad arrogant to think that this fairly simplistic, highly-processed mixture will replace something like the Mediterrean Diet in all it's variety. One thing we certainly know is that highly-processed food is not the best choice. What about trace elements and nutritional factors we don't yet understand, such as antioxidants? The author has a quite sensible reaction at the end, by incorporating kale, spinach and other great, complex foods. Bravo! Go one more step, also eliminate the chemicals, and you are simply making a good breakfast smoothie. Fun article, though!

    I am a full-time, professional biomedical scientist who teaches human nutrition at a university and I've helped conduct nutrition research on humans and animals. Experience says human nutrition is a complex issue. Don't eat this sort of thing if you are a child, pregnant woman, or older adult, or have any medical issues. For everyone else, I can only hope you are as skeptical as I am. I wouldn't trust it for more than a meal a day, and it is a weak choice for that. Just make a soy or almond milk smoothie with some fruits and veggies, and some whey or soybean protein and a tablespoon of peanut butter. Then eat the Mediterrean diet for your other meals!

    • Kannon Y
      July 29, 2014 at 3:09 pm

      Hey Brian, I really appreciate you sharing insightful, professional opinion on the subject! I plan on modifying my current shake diet based on information that you've generously provided me with.
      I had been considering switching to sweet lupine protein powder (but couldn't find any US suppliers) because of its various health benefits - but soybean protein seems like a better fit for my plans.

      Thank you very much!

      By the way, I have a small question - I have read that the Mediterranean diet is among the best around - but I have the sneaking (and uneducated) suspicion that it's only the best diet for those with a certain variation on the PPARG gene, who experience weight-loss from diets high in monounsaturated fats (olive oil). I do carry that particular variation and so I would certainly benefit from olive oil. But perhaps coconut oil or MCT oil would be a better fit?

      Thanks again for the great advice!

    • Kannon Y
      July 29, 2014 at 3:12 pm

      Oh I almost forgot to mention - there is definitely a tone of unintended arrogance in the article. My apologies.

      It is my hope that future innovations in food science will one day feed billions, without loss in quality of life. I'm hoping that People Chow (or Soylent) will one day evolve to meet that goal. Food scientists, like yourself, will help develop such innovations.

  3. Guy M
    July 27, 2014 at 5:03 pm

    I've been experimenting with a product called Vega One. It's an all vegetable sourced meal replacement that allegedly gives a person 50% of their RDA of everything, per meal. So two meals a day and I've got all that I need as far as vitamins, minerals, fiber, omega-3s and such go. Then I have a normal supper, so that meets the need for solid food and something flavourful to avoid food boredom.
    My biggest challenge with it is the price. At about $70 CDN for 22 servings, it works out to be quite cheap, however the rest of the family still shops at regular quantities, so we have our normal grocery bill on top of it. We need to adjust accordingly.
    When I'm consistent with it, I do feel like I have more energy and greater mental acuity. Also, even though each shake is only 250 calories I feel less hungry throughout the day. I attribute that to the fact that my body is getting more complete nutrition than I would with my normally imbalanced diet.
    I think this fall I'll be able to get onto this routine more consistently.

    Other note - if you have a diet of mostly liquids, you could develop what's called hairy brown tongue. Google that if you have a stout constitution. However, simply brushing your teeth and tongue will help prevent that.

    • Kannon Y
      July 29, 2014 at 3:00 pm

      That's really fascinating Guy, thanks for sharing!

      RE: Hairy tongue, yikes! I already have hairy palms. Now the tongue matches! ;-)

  4. Den E
    July 24, 2014 at 8:44 am

    OK - am at work and logging in to MUO is a bit problematic. NEVER MIND.

    I like the idea because it is terribly efficient, and for people who don't enjoy eating as much, maybe they can just get it over and done with quicker. It would definitely be useful in medical settings (I imagine such diets are already in use for tube feeding). It does disturb me that it seems like an adult version of baby food (ie, blended up). Furthermore, storing the ingredients of these liquid diets would be very easy, since all you'd need to do was keep it dry - and the shelf life would be very long. As such, it would be really useful in a military context, as well as for long hikes and treks where it is difficult to find/prepare food. I doubt the liquid diet would do much for the morale of troops though!

    I wondered about the obvious difference in bulk between solid foods and liquid foods (baby food, anyone?):

    I know I must not be the only one who eats foods because I enjoy that it is crispy, or tender, or juicy, (you get the idea) and also that it comes in a massive range of flavours! I personally would find the switch over to a completely liquid diet quite saddening and difficult to get used to.

    BUT, food isn't just about the consistency or taste. It's a significant part of everybody's culture and history. Like how certain dishes evolve when people migrate to other countries and can't find similar ingredients, or when cultures mix together. I love reading stories/myths about how famous foods/dishes came to be, and it makes me proud of my own culture, and an admirer of other cultures around me. Having said that, such liquid diets would also eventually find their own place in history - perhaps as an outcome of globalisation, efficiency, and scientific progress.

    • Kannon Y
      July 24, 2014 at 11:37 am

      Wonderful comment. Thank you for the reply and I apologize for the log in system. We've been having trouble site-wide. We hope to correct it (fairly) shortly.

      I envision Soylent-type products as ways to get nutrition when the alternatives are awful - sort of an alternative to fast food. The food is indeed fast - much faster and more inexpensive than traveling to the nearest restaurant. And probably healthier. On the other hand, they are barren of pleasure, culture, etc.. as you've mentioned.

      Although to some extent, products like Soylent do have a kind of culture to them. The kind of ascetic culture that the minimalists of the Internet are a part of. One day we might see cultural fusion between those looking for great taste and those seeking greater simplicity.

  5. Robert
    July 24, 2014 at 1:23 am

    Grow a garden, harvest wild foods ,eat in moderation, exercise and use your free time to demand a living wage for everyone and a GAI for those unable to work for any reason.The rest is simply the flavour of the day.

  6. jake
    July 23, 2014 at 6:06 pm

    I've been on it for a while and I'm seeing a doctor to test all the issues. I eat when ever I feel I need to. Your body need Choline Bititrate anyway. The problem with normal food is how hard it is to get all the nutrition. The point of soylent for me is that I can get the right nutrition AND when I feel like it I can concentrate on the social, psychological, and recreational side of solid foods. I think all the Soylent haters are missing the point. It's not replacing food, it's replacing the crap you get at the supermarket, and the time it takes to prepare meals. As far as the Vitamin overages, I use diy.soylent.com to figure out what exactly I need and want in my body. You match the ingredients to a nutrient profile that starts with the FDA's approved amounts, then you can modify based on your individual body.
    You can't ship the amount of food a powder replacement can provide, so it's not insulting, it is a good solution. Increase the amount of nutrients and decrease the shipping costs, win-win.

    • Kannon Y
      July 24, 2014 at 11:40 am

      Thanks Jake, you sum up my feelings on the matter perfectly. I think Chana may not have understood the reference that I made to Soylent Green, which was designed by the elites within that particular film to feed masses of starving people.

    • Luke
      March 22, 2015 at 12:03 am

      PERFECT POST JAKE. Thats exactly how I feel as well. The 'force feeding the poor masses' comments were the worst, and most incorrect comment possible. Eating is a hassle. If I want to eat traditional things like pie or broccoli I will whenever I feel like it. The point is with soylent I will NOT be forced to eat. It is freedom from the slavery of having to eat and prepare meals 3 times a day, every day of your life and still worrying about if you are meeting your nutritional requirements! Phew! What a giant waste of energy and time! I want to prepare and eat meals when I want to, not because it is a daily chore.

  7. mnbska
    July 23, 2014 at 3:31 pm

    Mega Men Sport overshoots the Vitamin B recco's by thousands of percent. What about the long term effects of too much Vit B compounds?

    • SoylentIsACreepyName
      July 23, 2014 at 9:48 pm

      Two things - RDA's are the bottom-line nutritional requirements needed to stave off diseases (such as scurvy from a lack of vitamin C.) exceeding the RDA in most water soluable vitamins is safe if not suggested. That brings me to the second point - B vitamins are water soluable, like vitamin C and beta carotene. This means that when consumed to a point where the body is unable to absorb and utilize them, they are passed from the body in urine.

      Don't get me wrong, I'm not endorsing Mega Men here, far from it. I'm just explaining that mega-doses of most of the B vitamin family are harmless.

  8. Chana
    July 23, 2014 at 1:16 pm

    Honestly, the idea that this could be used to feed the "poor and unemployed" is both disturbing and insulting, even if it's well meant...this isn't the only way to get food into food deserts. People could ship other stuff too (and should!). It is really a kind of let them eat cake--it sounds like well, if they don't have anything else they should be grateful....People don't work that way. I certainly wouldn't be grateful. And, among other things, even if people wanted to eat it, you mention that it requires owning a blender (and you put lots of other stuff in it, which would also have to be acquired). Not a great solution for hunger.

    • Kannon Y
      July 24, 2014 at 11:51 am

      Hello Chana, thank you for the reply. You make an excellent point - I attempted to make a reference to the underlying subtext within the film "Soylent Green", in which a corrupt elite develop an extremely inexpensive, nutritious stew of chemical to feed to the "masses" of the poor and unemployed. I don't want to spoil the film for you, but the ending is a shocker. And they definitely weren't grateful about finding out what Soylent Green contained.

      I would like to point out that poor nutrition limits the potential of the young. It stunts both physical and intellectual growth (all measurable statistics of intelligence show a profound relationship between nutrition and cognitive function and it's more important than genetics, family life, etc...). Poverty tends to recreate itself because nutrition tends to be heritable. By "heritable" I mean that a family that eats poorly tends to pass on those habits to their children and their children's children. The sooner we find solutions that end fast food diets, the better.

      But the point you make is excellent, of course. I do not believe that force-feeding billions of people Soylent clones is the answer - but some development of this technology may one day benefit mankind. By the way, my last blender cost $20 and lasted over a year of daily use. It unfortunately cost $20 to replace the failed component. But it's not that much of a cost, considering that the alternatives (store-bought food, fast food, etc...) cost substantially more than the blender + the powders.

      That said, thank you very much for the thoughtful comment. I appreciate your insight.

    • Matt
      April 4, 2015 at 10:05 pm

      I enjoy eating a delicious meal just as much as anyone else. However, in 6 out of the 7 days of a week I sincerely wish that I didn't have to bother with the tedium of shopping, cooking, eating, and cleaning. I have other things that I could make much better use of the time with. I eat to live. I don't live to eat.

      To make available to the poor or uneducated a product which would guarantee proper nutrition with little consideration and low cost is nothing offensive and certainly shouldn't be apologized for! Everybody thinks they deserve a steak ... but learn about "pottage" and its importance in our dietary history. It is simply unrealistic to believe that everyone can eat steak and organic vegetables.

      I am not poor or uneducated and I am very excited about the prospects of this dietary product for myself. I would counter to the one who is apparently offended and outraged for starving people whom s/he is not ... let them decide whether they'd like to stop starving and suffering from the horrible ailments of bad nutrition. This isn't just McDonald's eating Americans with excess bodyfat. It's about third-world villagers with distended stomachs...

  9. Kai M.
    July 22, 2014 at 9:33 pm

    Maybe it's just me but this stuff reminds me of the tasteless, white gruel they are eating at the beginning of the first Matrix movie "with everything the body needs".

    • Kannon Y
      July 23, 2014 at 11:49 am

      :-) Nice anecdote! I wonder what the gruel would actually taste like? Hopefully not like People Chow!

  10. Romeo Stevens
    July 22, 2014 at 8:57 pm

    If you're interested in a whole foods instead of supplements based version you should check out MealSquares or Ambronite.

    • Kannon Y
      July 23, 2014 at 11:13 am

      It appears that someone removed my link to Ambronite - but I was thinking of giving it a try. MealSquares is an entirely new product to me. Thanks for sharing!

      MealSquares is really cutting edge stuff, by the way. I'm thinking of signing up for it.

  11. Femi O
    July 22, 2014 at 8:39 pm

    The need to chew must be met somehow... What about dehydrating it to the consistency of hard chocolate or toffee? Or maybe adding a neutral chewing gum so our teeth won't fall out from disuse? Then all we need is water and the chow in a few different flavors and some of us can ship out to colonize habitable planets in our galaxy!!

    • Kannon Y
      July 23, 2014 at 11:11 am

      That's a really interesting idea! I'm not sure how the vitamins would hold up going through a dehydration process, but it's worth thinking about. A calcium-rich chewing gum would be a great compliment, as it would assist tooth remineralization and acting as a cleaning agent. Great idea!!!

    • Michael
      October 26, 2014 at 1:30 pm

      Chewing gums?

    • Michael
      October 26, 2014 at 1:30 pm

      Oh sorry.. you mentioned that

  12. Tom W
    July 22, 2014 at 7:23 pm

    I think it's a fantastic idea, because I know that I struggle to eat a balanced diet, but I wouldn't want to use something like this as my primary sustenance. There's more to food than just nutrition.

    • Kannon Y
      July 23, 2014 at 11:06 am

      Thanks for the comment Tom! I'm hoping that the next generation of Soylent will taste delicious and provide the essential nutrients that the Western diet lacks. You do point out the major flaw in nutrient slurries: They aren't delicious.

      I've found that by mixing in fresh fruits and vegetables, the taste greatly improves. I actually prefer drinking shakes over many other kinds of cuisine. There's a culinary art to even nutrient shakes. :-)

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