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back to article Our week with Soylent: Don't chuck out your vintage food quite yet

Our week-long experiment to live off Soylent has come to an end, bringing with it the reintroduction of typical food via a lip-smacking dinner of rice, black beans, and chorizo sauteed in chillis and red wine, and time to reflect on our experiment with the liquid food replacement. During the course of our time chugging Food 2.0 …

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Maybe...

It will find a use being Survivor (US Television show) rations.

Until then, I'll stick with a nice steak, medium rare please. Sour cream, chives, and bacon for the baked potato. Morton's Steak house, Yum!

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Pint

Re: Maybe...

Urban myth has it that you can achieve the same with just Guinness and cheese

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Coat

Re: Maybe...

Just leave the Green one on the shelf, I'm telling you, you really don't want to try the green one! :-P

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Organic?

The author said something about Organic Foods (without defining what he meant by that, he could just mean anything farmed instead of the more usual meaning of farming without pesticides and chemical fertilizers), so is this Soylent stuff made from Organically grown Soybeans and Lentils? Or is it derived from conventional plant material?

I mean this stuff will probably not be able to get a USDA or EU Organic certification even if it is organically derived due to the amount of processing and chemicals that have got to have to be added to make it anything near realistic for a food replacement/medical food, but then again there is a brand of meal replacement shake that holds a USDA Organic certification that I know of (though it tastes terrible), so maybe its not entirely out of the question.

But hell, I live in Hurricane Country so anything like this (as long as it has a decent shelf-life) would be a welcome addition to the monotony of canned vegetables, meats and soups* that you get stuck eating while waiting on the utility company to get their shit together and get the power back on, which can be a nice long while sometimes. 3 1/2 weeks in 2004, and that was for the first one, we ended up having 4 that year, one on top of another.

*-Organic naturally, I dont eat conventionals unless I absolutely have to like at Battle Assembly and during Annual Training, I'm not hot about eating pesticides, most Genetically Modified Organisms, and unnecessary chemicals after a cancer scare a couple years back.

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Unhappy

Re: Organic?

> I'm not hot about eating pesticides, most Genetically Modified Organisms, and unnecessary chemicals after a cancer scare a couple years back

I have bad anecdotal evidence for you along the lines of "this doesn't help at all with that"

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Headmaster

Re: Organic?

Eat healthy. Fruit and veg is naturally helpful against some forms of cancer.

The mechanism seems to be the rate of blood vessel formation. A starved cancer cannot grow, but you need to have a healthy body too. Fruit and veg helps to restrict excessive blood vessel growth, so new cancers cannot get new veins in them. That way the existing body is healthy and fed, but any intrusion is stemmed off. Meats etc may encourage blood vessel growth.

Actual studies taken from here: http://www.ted.com/talks/william_li.html

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Re: Organic?

Where did you get the idea that it's made from soya and lentils?

Their website shows the major carb source is maltodextrin (made from starch, commonly corn) and also oats, and the main protein source was whey (from milk, a byproduct of cheesemaking) but in the latest incarnation seems to have switched to rice protein.

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Re: Organic?

"Where did you get the idea that it's made from soya and lentils?"

Probably from the name, Soy(a)Lent(il).

(Yes, yes, I know about soylent green, I'm just suggesting a mechanism for thinking it's made from soya and lentils, as far as I'm concerned it looks like it's made from concentrated boredom and evil.)

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Re: Organic?

I like natural peanut butter, the type where the ingredient list is Peanuts.

A while ago the local shop added organic peanut butter. I checked the ingredients and after peanuts was organic palm oil, and organic dehydrated cane juice (sugar), organic salt (wtf)

It might be organic, but it's still shit.

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Boffin

Re: Organic?

It's also funny because plants make their own pesticides and organic foods are even more chock full of them because they get no extra help. Not to mention that pesticide residues on food have fallen by orders of magnitude and if you tested conventional food with the techniques available when Rachel Carson wrote Silent Spring it would pass as organic. We only know there are any there because ultra high performance HPLC etc are so absolutely sensitive.

Also GM food is no more dangerous than mutant food like the mutant cabbages: broccoli, cauliflower, sprouts etc or most of the apple varieties. And say away from seafood, they are chock full of lateral transfer genes from all sorts of creatures.

Oh and in the lab one day while trying to clone a chicken gene I sequenced one possible (from chicken tissue) that hit just two other things on the genome database: malaria mosquitos and humans. Two host species and a vector. So you and me and all chickens are genetically modified. Lateral gene transfer is so common in biology you can literally fall over it by accident. That is all GM is and it is in no way 'unnatural' Nature has been doing it since 3.5billion years ago.

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Re: Organic?

Ermm... I don't think it's so clear-cut.

If one of these 'natural occurring mutants' happens to show nasty long term secondary effects, only the local communities that grow it will be affected. In the worst possible case a few of those local communities would be wiped out, together with the cultivation of said mutant variety. If the secondary effects don't kill the consumers, but only make them ill, chances are that in a few generations someone will notice the issue and the variety will be discarded.

On the other hand, if one of these GM crops shows nasty long term secondary effects, we'll probably know when many millions of people have been already affected, and the GM variety genes have 'infected' other non GM varieties of the same crop, through cross pollination.

I'm not doubting your expertise in the area, but IMHO you're probably looking at the wrong side of the problem.

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Re: Organic?

I'd also like to add that many herbicides and pesticides are really nasty stuff, at nerve-gas levels of nasty. Most 'traditional crops' have been selected over time so as not to become toxic to humans when said crops are attacked by some pest or another. This doesn't totally rule out the possibility of some small toxicity, of course, but...

And while modern pesticides probably are safe as long as farmers 'follow the rules' when using them, you can be sure that these rules are very often set aside, due either to ignorance or economical reasons.

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Stop

Re: Organic?

Genetiically modified, as the term is commonly used and understood, refers to planned or designed changes usually via a laboratory or similar process, often involving the combining of material from unrelated species and even phyla in a way rare if not impossible by other means. It assumes that the scientist or technician avoids unintended consequences, is correct in their assessment of what is needed and fully understands the range of uses and growing conditions. Funnily enough, experience shows us that we are fallible and indeed usually wrong in all these areas. What's more, demonstrating this, one asinine aim was to make crops resistant to certain herbicides so that more, stronger ones could be used to kill weeds without damaging the crops.

As for organic soya, genius Americans failed to keep normal and GM soya separate. So all soya, just about, is contaminated with GM variants.

Furthermore, at least some of the producers do not allow farmers to keep any of the harvest to sow for the next season, driving up prices and exerting more control over the food process. Or perhaps they feel they must keep control in case of unintended effects.

By all means, risk your own health. Do not presume to do it for the rest of us.

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JLV
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Re: Organic?

Totally with you.

I often shop at a local food co-op. They used to have 50/50 organic/standard fruits & vegs. The organic stuff was pricey, but less so than the usual gouge premium you get hit with at other places. Nowadays they are more 70% organic, which misses the whole point of a low-cost co-op.

But what bugs me is that they carry organic fair trade salsa (and other premium tree-hugger processed food) that easily contains 10% more sodium per serving than the already high regular industrial equivalents. They carry 10 different types of bouillon cubes from one health food vendor, from gluten free to vegan friendly, but often fail to stock the low-sodium ones.

When are they gonna realize that, for a normal person, the major health risks with foods are salt, fat and sugar intake? As well as too much meat and not enough vegs. Way before gmo and pesticide exotica.

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Re: Organic?

I've tried the peanut butter which only has "peanuts" on the ingredients list, but it's much harder to spread (found myself tearing the bread up it was so hard) and the oil separates after a while and needs stirring back in.

There's no need for added salt or sugar but I don't think there's anything wrong with a tiny amount of vegetable oil just to make it spread easier and not separate. The peanuts contain their own natural oils anyway, there is no need to be afraid of 1% vegetable oil added to it. I get more vegetable oil than that from my own cooking.

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Boffin

Re: Organic?

A while ago the local shop added organic peanut butter. I checked the ingredients and after peanuts was organic palm oil, and organic dehydrated cane juice (sugar), organic salt (wtf)

It's especially worth noting that palm oil consists almost entirely of saturated fats, including high levels of palmitate, which is pretty much implicated with increased risk of cardiovascular disease (long chain fatty acids form atheromas, leading to constriction of the blood vessels and potentially embolisms). It is also a pretty disastrous product as far as environmental concerns go. Even if produced 'organically', most palm oil is produced on land that was previously rain forest, especially in Indonesia, where the plantations infringe upon the natural habitat of the orang-utan, and no doubt countless other endanger species.

And refined sugar is none too good for you either.

I'm not too sure about the earlier poster's bit about GMO and 'unnecessary chemicals' though. All organisms contain genes, and all domesticated species will have had their genes 'modified' by selective breeding. Genetic modification doesn't introduce 'unnatural' genes and doesn't modify genes in a way which nature couldn't, it is just a mechanism for doing so in a selective and controlled fashion. There are issues around ownership and profiteering from this, but they don't make the food less safe. And everything is comprised of chemicals; being 'natural' doesn't have any bearing on safety - there are plenty of places in the world where the groundwater contains high levels of naturally occurring arsenic, but I certainly wouldn't want to drink it.

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Boffin

Re: Organic?

Ermm... I don't think it's so clear-cut.

That has nothing to do with GM, it only demonstrates one of the many problems with large scale monoculture.

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@Tom 35

Quite a lot of the good health food shops will make you peanut butter from just peanuts. The first time I tried it was from a shop in Wisbech (of all ungodly places)

It is possible to make your own, although you do need a good food processor and some form of oil to help bind it (unless you have a press, and then you can go 100% peanut) see http://www.wikihow.com/Make-Peanut-Butter for more info.

As for Soylent, I'm tempted :-)

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Re: Organic?

There's no need for added salt or sugar

I make my own peanut butter at home, and let me assure you there is a need. Although I use honey rather than sugar, without some sort of sweetener and salt it's just plain not very good.

On a side note, look up Alton Brown's peanut butter recipe on foodnetwork.com and give it a shot. We tried it a couple years ago and haven't bought peanut butter since.

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Boffin

Re: Organic?

Yeah right, like spirits and witches and the evil eye were not blamed for illness caused by poor food choice in the past. Also millions of people have been eating GM food for a couple of decades now. Show me the bodies in form of attested epidemiology that they are harmful to humans.

How many billion person years of healthy GM food consumption will it take to persuade you it is safe? I ask this in perfect seriousness. It's getting long past time that we should be seeing people dropping like flies, in the US, China and elsewhere. Especially in comparison with organic freaks like you and you can bet the epidemiologists are watching. There's big interest and probably a professorship for someone to be able to prove harm from them.

Contrary to what you might think there is no central authority in biology that holds us all to the party line.

For eg I'm a sceptic wrt the BSE - vCJD link. My assessment is the mouse panels do not show what they think they do and the rise is simply because we started to look and tested everyone possible. If you seek you will find.

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Re: Organic?

What is all this fascination with peanut butter, one of the most fatty and energy dense foodstuffs you can lay your hands on. Of all the foodstuffs you could be munching on, peanut butter is probably about the worst.

I had crunchy peanut butter a couple of years ago, and haven't bought peanut butter since.

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Re: Organic?

What is wrong with fatty and energy dense? Provided you are aware of that of course and incorporate it into a balanced diet.

Also, as for the added salt - anyone who believes food shouldn't have any salt added needs to learn to taste properly. You don't need much salt (processed food generally contains too much) but you do need some.

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Re: Organic? @Tom Wood

Oh so very agreed on all points. I do eat fatty/energy dense products, but it is mostly when my regular intake is low or when I'm actually doing energy sapping stuff like exercise, carrying stuff, you know ... physical stuff. And yes, some stuff does need salt, which is why the "war on salt" seems so stupid from my point of view.

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Re: Organic?

"You don't need much salt (processed food generally contains too much) but you do need some."

Yes people need salt, but you get more then enough even if you try to avoid it. Adding salt to stuff is just a mater of what you are used to, I know people who put salt on everything, I add salt to almost nothing (I do add some to the water when cooking some things). I don't like a lot of processed foods because they taste too salty to me.

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FAIL

Re: Organic?

"It's getting long past time that we should be seeing people dropping like flies"

I'd bet that the ancient Romans had a similar conceit about their innovative lead water pipes. Just like the Romans were ignorant about the extent of their ignorance about the dangers of lead, we are ignorant about the extent of our ignorance about the effects of all the fun chemicals we ingest on our overall health. For example, while it is true that the human digestive system does not absorb glyphosate (the main ingredient in Roundup) readily, the bacteria in our digestive systems are affected by it. We do not yet fully understand the effect these bacteria have on our health. This is one example, there are many more if you choose to keep your mind open.

So I choose not to be a test case. This leaves more corn syrup and incredible soy substitutes for you to enjoy.

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Angel

Re: Organic? The Fey Monsanto (well, fey LCL.)

You did see the bit where, like muscle-building shakes, it's undrinkable unless chilled? Not that hurricane season doesn't have an office in late fall, methinks your next electric car might as well come with the molecular gastronomy (heatpump, sous vide baths, etc.) option.

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Boffin

Re: Organic?

@Euripides Pants "So I choose not to be a test case. This leaves more corn syrup and incredible soy substitutes for you to enjoy."

Firstly I'm not asking you to be a 'test case' just not try and veto my choice to make a rational, informed decision to do otherwise. Back at the start of GM we bought FlavrSavr tomato paste and good stuff it was too. But Greens and Luddites threatened to firebomb supermarkets if they continued to stock it (and note the police did nothing about those threats) so out choice to eat it was taken away. Here whenever there is a GM trial to answer questions of risk vs benefit they have to have major security systems in place lest people like you come and grub it up.

BTW it's not the glyphosate you need to worry about, it's the detergents it's formulated with that are necessary to get it into plants. But all are deactivated by soil bacteria and you do not spray a crop with glyphosate near to harvest, there is no point. You are clutching at straws and ignoring DOSE.

And if you think I happily eat corn syrup you are deluded. There is a middle road that avoids both manifest and provable harms, such as too much sugar and other high GI carbs and also the marketing hype that is 'organic' food. Sadly I often have little choice as many gluten free products are also 'organic'. I would gladly pay less not to have that label applied.

I remember when the 'organic' movement started to take off. We used to eat tofu, it was cheap. Then literally overnight the packets began to bear the label 'organic' and tripled, no hyperbole, in price. Same brands, just relabelled. So we stopped eating tofu regularly because we could not longer afford to and non 'organic' tofu could not be found. It's a marketing scam free of anything like an evidence base.

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Re: Organic?

I make my own peanut butter at home, and let me assure you there is a need [for sugar]

I eat peanut butter without any added sugar and it tastes fine to me. I wouldn't want it to be overly sweet (equally I think mixing it with jam would be horrible). But each to his own. Some people think tea cannot be drunk without sugar in it, whereas I find it far too sweet (again).

anyone who believes food shouldn't have any salt added needs to learn to taste properly

Anyone who thinks salt needs to be added to everything needs to learn to taste properly. Salt levels are something you get used to. If you add salt to everything, then everything will taste bland without it. I don't add salt to my food and if anything my tastes are more sensitive as a result. I get more than enough salt in my diet already.

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Hangover cure?

So does that mean you had to get completely pissed to face the stuff?

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MrT
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Re: Hangover cure?

Maybe 'Sodka' or 'Voylent', or whatever it ended up being called, is a self-curing tipple.

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food 3.0

I propose that you should add a 1/2 bottle of vodka to the evening glass, then not only do you save the time taken to prepare your evening meal, you also save 2 hours down the pub.

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Pint

Protein Shake 2.0??

Interesting product, but isn't it basically a better balanced, more "wholesome" protein shake?

I like their plan to make something plain that can be flavored up, but I still can't help thinking that Id be bored of it in a month.

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Alert

don't chuck out your vintage food quite yet

You aren't seriously suggesting there are people on this site who keep food in their kitchens that's more than 50 years old?

Okay I admit to having a jar of cayenne pepper that dates back to 1993 … and I do use it in small quantities (to use it up, I hate wasting food) but as I understood, for something to be considered "vintage" it had to be several decades old.

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Happy

Re: don't chuck out your vintage food quite yet

Vintage only means 'old' for eBay, it is one of the many arbitrary definition they've been forced to (mis)use to keep people honest. Otherwise, vintage simply means the year a wine was bottled (2013 is a vintage). It is sometimes, rarely, used to refer to something that is outmoded or no longer in style. Otherwise it's just a marketing term like 'improved' that doesn't have any legal meaning.

Antique has a legal meaning with an age associated with it, but the threshold varies wildly from state to state (here in the States). For works of art, furniture and household goods it can range from over 60 years old to over 100 years old, with 100+ being the most common break point. For cars 25 years old is the norm.

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Re: don't chuck out your vintage food quite yet

Interestingly, in New Zealand, old vehicles are classified as "vintage" (for road registration and the like) if more than about 40 years old --- I can't find the exact number of the Land Transport website.

Which, now that you mention it, is a little odd considering the other (correct?) meaning of the word.

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Mushroom

Re: don't chuck out your vintage food quite yet

Most sites where one can sell old stuff define "vintage" as 20+ years.

Foodwise still quite a stretch, yes, unless one counts wine or beer (isn't beer sometimes called "liquid bread"?) . . .

Except for Necco wafers, which I understand are so artificial as to be almost indestructible. I swear I remember a story some years back about a stash of decades-old Necco wafers that were still perfectly edible, and apparently almost indistinguishable in taste from new ones. Anyone else recall the article or have a link to it?

Bon appétit ancienne,

[atomic bomb because it's labeled "Eat this" and because the ancient Neccos were probably found in a fallout shelter]

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@TechnicalBen

It'll be certain chemicals in the fruit and veg that have that biochemical effect. There's no reason we couldn't synthesise those in a lab and stick it in something like Soylent and, as long as it remained significantly bioavailable, then it would do the same job.

Of course there may be other things in fruit and veg that increase the bioavailability of it and it may be cheaper to grow an apple than synthesise the compound but chemicals is chemicals however you get them.

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Re: @TechnicalBen

but chemicals is chemicals however you get them.

You obviously don't know your chemistry. There are an awful lot of molecules out there that are easily available from biological sources but extremely difficult to synthesise: left-handed and right-handed isomers for a start. And that's only the start - finding out which substances work together is even more difficult. Add environmental and biological factors - does your body have the right enzymes for this?

That there is a market for this kind of pseudo-science is obvious from all the comments for people looking for a silver bullet solution. But there really is no substitute for a varied diet with lots of fresh fruit and vegetables.

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Re: @TechnicalBen

The practice of isolating specific isomers is very common among pharmaceutical companies as a way to "extend" patents. Take a look at the Omeprazole to Esomeprazole "conversion" that was done, along with the marketing material "proving" that the Esomeprazole version was more effective, when the evidence shows that the acidic environment of the stomach converts either version of the chemical into the bioactive version.

That's not to say handedness isn't important: there is a predilection towards left and right handedness depending on the class of biological chemicals you are looking at. However, the isolation and synthesis of the desired version isn't exactly the stuff future Nobel Prizes will be built upon.

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WTF?

Maybe they should come up with different varieties

perhaps some Soylent Red, and Soylent Yellow... I bet Soylent Green will be all the rage though...

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Pint

Soylent Green!

It's Sheeple!

Couldn't help myself. Idea seems neat, but come on, marketing should get fired! (or get a raise)

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Go

Re: Soylent Green!

I'd say give them a raise. Using the name "Soylent", with all its loaded connotations, has given them more free media publicity, viral awareness, and public discussion than they could have gotten in a decade of multi-million dollar astroturfing for a less memorably-named product. Without the "Soylent" moniker, it would have been just another tasteless meal-replacement shake among the thousands of similar diet products out there.

As one example, I wonder how much it would cost to hire Team Register to carry out a week-long, 24/7, sponsored trial and review of a dietary product, with all the related articles appertaining, like the one they've just done for Soylent for free? I imagine it would be in the tens of thousands of dollars, minimum, for a sponsored effort of this scale.

And that's just The Register. The cost to plaster it all over all the other news sites, forums and mass-media I've seen it discussed on would run into the multiple millions. Instead, they've garnered massive worldwide free publicity, just by using a name from a famous dystopian story.

Makes me think Samsung should market their new gesture-recognising OLED TVs as "telescreens", or perhaps Monsanto should promote their next GM crop plants as "triffids"!

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Medicinal

" that Soylent is not explicitly positioning itself as any kind of medical product,"

because at that point the FDA, MHRA, EMA and all sorts of national authorities would prick up their ears?

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WTF?

"Rheinhart would find himself eating crappy fast food – noodles, pizza, other things that you'll find in any young male's fridge – and he says he was "frustrated" by this kind of poor diet."

Uh ... learn to shop and cook? It ain't exactly rocket science. Humans have been doing it for tens of thousands of years, if not hundreds of thousands. After moving potable water, learning to hack the locally available current food-stuffs into "good eats" is probably the second most important hack that lead to civilization.

Why bother getting all technological & shit? Especially for a completely monotonous variation on human calorie intake? Do these idiots ever have fun at parties?

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FYI

Idiots with $770,000 in the bank can thoroughly enjoy parties. You are, however, right to suggest that parties aren't the prime motivatation for getting all 'technological & shit'.

I cannot, obviously, speak for others, but my own 'technological & shit' career has featured little in the way of parties, dollars or, for that matter, fun. So I can speak from experience when asserting that being able to cook is an admirable skill but significantly less important than being able to put food on the table.

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Re: FYI

Cooking your own food is always cheaper than junk food. If you budget really is stretched then it can be a bit bland or boring but things like lentils are hard to beat on a price/nutrition basis.

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Megaphone

Nothing new, really

As the soylent guy I was uncomfortable especially with the lunch options at most of my changing work locations (too much fast food, or too low quality of the food). However, what he found out through (self)experimantation has long been found out by people who need to feed patients that cannot eat through normal means. And they produce well-tasting spin-offs for non-patients, too.

I'm a bit overweight, so I also wanted a method to control my calory input. Just keep it a little under what I actually consume, to promote a slow, long term loss of weight. Worked pretty well over the last year, I'm losing about a kilogram per month.

So this is what my routine on a work day looks like (on weekends I just eat normally, my wife cooks then for both of us):

I start the day with a chocolate croissant from a dealer at the train station (around 400 kcal) at 07:15 to lighten up my morning mood :-). At around 10:00 when I start to feel light hunger, I down a 200ml can of Fresubin 2kcal chocolate flavoured energy drink, giving me another 400 kcal. This Fresubin stuff (just my personal preferred choice for taste reasons) is what the nutritionists call "fully balanced" meaning that with three cans of that all my vitamins, minerals etc. are fully covered.

Lunch around 12:30 is a wholemeal bun with some spread (tuna, egg, or whatever tickles my fancy, i try to avoid the high kcal ones), an apple and a carrot - another 400kcal. In the afternoon another 400kcal can, then one more in the evening and that's it, apart from 1-2l of sparkling water over the day. 2000kcal input. At my height, weight and sport level (2-4 hours of light sport during the week), my daily need is around 2500. I sometimes cheat with a little treat or a nonalcoholic beer after sports, but in general it's working in the right direction (as opposed to working in the wrong direction when I didn't control my calory intake).

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Save your money

...and either:

a) Eat a normal diet

b) Make up some porridge, mix in some honey and then drink a vitamin tablet with a glass of milk *

*This is a healthier equivalent of the ingredients of Soylent, which is mainly sugar, oats, milk protein and miscellaneous chemicals and additives, including minerals and vitamins.

I would not want to be on Soylent long term, yes you can technically live on it but it is hardly a substitute for a proper diet and almost certainly will lead to health problems longer term.

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Anonymous Coward

what was the poop like, are we going to be heading to a water end so to speak?

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FAIL

If you could have been bothered to read the fine article (both this and the last on the topic) he made it quite clear that his excrement was firm, perhaps even a bit more so then he would have desired.

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