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.
- 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?