Soylent 1.0 Macronutrient Overview
We are excited to begin sharing the specifics of the Soylent 1.0 formula — its ingredients, recipe, and nutritional breakdown. This is the first of three posts that will cover the ingredients of Soylent, and covers the macronutrient ingredients. Micronutrients and applications (flavor/texture) ingredients will be covered in upcoming posts over the next week.
Oat Flour (110g) - As the only whole food ingredient in Soylent, oat flour provides several different essential macronutrients simultaneously. However, it is primarily used as a source of starch. Oat starch is a complex carbohydrate, which is broken down slowly by the body and absorbed into cells as glucose.
Oats are very nutritious overall as they also provide some protein, fat, iron, phosphorous, and more. Our oat flour is conventionally grown in the United States. Whole oat grains are processed into a powder for solubility and tested for impurities.
As a whole food source there are several non-nutritive substances in oats such as Phytic acid, which can potentially interfere with calcium and iron intake. However, the ratio of minerals to phytic acid means there is ample available for absorption and no tests have indicated any trouble absorbing either one.
Maltodextrin (165g) - As the primary source of energy for the body, carbohydrates are the largest component of Soylent by mass. The starch in Oat Flour makes up the bulk of this nutrient and the rest is provided by Maltodextrin.
Maltodextrin is an oligosaccharide, or a medium-long chain of glucose units composed of both 1->4 and 1->6 glycosidic bonds. Maltodextrins are classified by “dextrose equivalence” or DE. Dextrose, a monosaccharide is the simplest unit of sugar. Higher DE means shorter average chains with a DE of 100 applying to dextrose. Our chosen maltodextrin is derived from corn and has a DE of 10.
Monosaccharides and disaccharides are simple sugars which are lower in molecular weight such as glucose, fructose, dextrose, or lactose, while complex carbohydrates are longer chains of sugars (polysaccharides) linked together such as starches.
Starches are long chains of glucose molecules linked together by glycosidic bonds, and are broken down slowly by the body, thus preventing a spike in blood sugar (spikes in blood sugar are problematic because they lead to spikes in insulin (a hormone released by the pancreas that encourages cells in the liver, skeletal muscle, and fat tissue to take up glucose). Gradually, through frequent spikes of insulin, the body may adapt to pay less attention to these signals resulting in “insulin resistance”, a precursor to type II diabetes.
Preliminary tests by beta testers and founders abiding by WHO glycemic index testing guidelines have found the GI to be rather low. More formal testing is planned for early 2014.
Brown Rice Protein Isolate (102g) - Proteins are broken down into their constituent amino acids and either metabolized for energy, or used as building blocks for new protein synthesis by cells. All proteins are made of the same 20 amino acids, 11 of which can be synthesized by the body. This leaves 9 that must be consumed in the diet, in different amounts.
Our brown rice protein has a complete amino acid profile, meaning it provides enough of each essential amino acid, in addition to all non-essential, to supply the body with its needs. Individual amino acid requirements are provided by the WHO, based on decades of research.
Rice protein tends to have applications issues such as a “chalky” texture profile, but modern processing techniques have produced finer mills and better tasting blends.
Canola Oil (56g) - Fatty acids are a type of lipid and are essential to the body. Some essential vitamins, such as A, D, E, and K are fat-soluble and require fat to be transported and absorbed by the body.
Like amino acids, fatty acids can be either metabolized for energy or used as cell components. Linoleic acid, for example, is abundant in cell membranes, and must be consumed in the diet as it cannot be synthesized by the body.
Canola oil is mostly Oleic, Linoleic, and alpha-Linoleic acids which are omega-9, omega-6, and omega-3 fatty acids, respectively. Canola oil is also attractive because it contains very little saturated and negligibly low levels of trans-saturated fats, which are not required in the diet and are risk factors for heart disease.
Fish Oil (6.4g) - Fish oil is a popular source of the Omega-3 fatty acids recommended in the diet by the American Heart Association. Though technically only ALA is essential, the conversion factor to DHA and EPA which occurs in the body is poor and direct supplementation is advised.
DHA is found in synaptic membranes of the brain and both EPA and DHA have been found to improve overall mental health and stability.
Soylent contains roughly 1g of each omega-3 fatty acid per day, which is comfortably in excess of the amount recommended by the AHA. The USDA has also made mention of officially recommending EPA and DHA for inclusion in the diet, though the amount is undecided.
Fiber (38g) - While not nutritionally essential, fiber is crucial for the overall health of the body and digestive system. Fibers such as cellulose contain molecular bonds unable to be broken by the body’s natural enzymes, and is instead metabolized by the multitude of microorganisms that colonize the human gut. While the grand diversity and function of the microbiome is beyond the scope of this post, the IOM recommends 38g of dietary fiber each day for an active male.
Most of the fiber content in Soylent comes from the oat powder, some in the form of Beta-glucans, the only dietary fiber currently recognized by the EFSA to be able to reduce a disease risk. Other fibers come from xanthan gum and gum acacia, which will be further addressed in a later post.
Macronutrient Ratio - As advised by our nutritional advisor, F. Xavier Pi-Sunyer, M.D., MPH, Soylent has a Carbohydrate/Fat/Protein ratio of 50/30/20. Pi-Sunyer is professor of medicine at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons in New York City. At St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital Center he serves as chief of endocrinology, diabetes, and nutrition, and is director of the New York Obesity Research Center. Dr. Pi-Sunyer is also a senior attending physician at St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital and New York-Presbyterian Hospital. This and general agreement within the field gives us confidence that this is a good macronutrient ratio for the general population.
We look forward to sharing the rest of our work with you over the next week or two, and as always welcome comments/questions from our supporters.