I think the best way to explain what Soylent and other ‘lents are is to first define what they are not.
‘Lents are not Slimfast for nerds. They are not a diet plan (though they do fit well into them) and they are not designed around weight loss.
‘lents exist because of the idea that good nutrition can be refined to the point where meals are simple, cost effective and yet still properly balanced and nutritionally complete.
Things began back in 2013 when Rob Rhinehart wrote a blog post title ‘How I Stopped Eating Food‘. In it he posited the idea that the 21st century food market was “full of waste, regulation, and biased allocation”. People die of obesity in one area, and starvation in another – when in reality we should be able to harmonise nutrition and properly sustain everyone. One comment in particular struck a chord with readers and his article very quick spread across the internet.
In my own life I resented the time, money, and effort the purchase, preparation, consumption, and clean-up of food was consuming. I am pretty young, generally in good health, and remain physically and mentally active. I don’t want to lose weight. I want to maintain it and spend less energy getting energy.
He hypothesised that we don’t need food itself, but rather the chemicals and elements that food contains. Could he subsist on only the raw ingredients the body uses for energy? There was only one way to find out, experiment on himself.
If the initial article was well received, the two month and three month follow ups generated so much excitement that Rob made the powdered diet that had changed his life available commercially, and Soylent was born.
So, what are ‘lents?
‘Lents are nutritionally complete meals, often powder based, that can be used to replace whole foods and yet still deliver a nutritionally complete diet.
Soylent launched alongside an incredibly popular forum filled with discussion around recipes, and excited users were keen to take control of their nutrition. Many of the early adopters were tech workers and office denizens who traditionally lacked the time for nutritious lunches and were hyped about the opportunity to both save money and improve their diet.
Discussion in the forums was expansive and since everyone’s nutritional needs are different, the DIY section of the forum grew extremely quickly and sparked a number of popular DIY formulations that would end up launching products in their own right.
Three years on we have around 70 different brands offering around 90 separate products, each with their own particular balance of protein, carbs, fats and fibre. There are vegan, ketogenic, soy free, lactose free, nut free and more… but each product sticks to the core aim of Soylent:
Good nutrition that is simple, cost effective and nutritionally complete.
Soylent isn’t without it’s critics. Whilst generally well received, the idea of ‘lents is considered absurd by some with a number of people either skeptical or outright against what the sector is trying to do.
The fact remains though that after three years; very few negative experiences have been recorded. Quite the opposite in fact, with many anecdotal reports of improved health, better skin/sleep/energy levels, and so on. Soylent itself has had a problem related to algal flour recently but that itself is a new ingredient only recently introduced into the mass food chain and overall, ‘lents offer a fantastic way to sustain people with a much reduced impact on the environment and animals when compared to ‘traditional’ whole foods.
If you’d like to read more about how to choose a particular ‘lent to try, head over here for part one of our guide.