Tag Archives: processed food

Soylent Ingredients and Nutrition Facts Review and Analysis

Before I get into my ingredients and nutrition facts reviews and analyses for Soylent’s protein products, let me say this …

I love the idea of Soylent: a convenient, inexpensive way to get a full meal.

If you take a closer look at the ingredients and nutrition panel though, there are a few red flags you need to be aware of if you care about the foods you put in your body. 

In this Soylent review, you’ll find out exactly why.

Click/tap the links below to jump to each section …

Get Instant Access to My 3 Healthy DIY Soylent Recipe Cards Here


What Is Soylent Made Of? Nutrition Facts and Ingredients Review

I’ve reviewed a lot of different protein powders. If there’s one single piece of advice I can offer when deciding for yourself whether a product is “healthy,” it’s this:

The nutrition facts and ingredients are the only objective sources of truth.

Let’s have a closer look at the nutrition facts for both Soylent bottle (liquid) and pouch (powder). We’ll start with Soylent Drink.

Soylent Drink 2.0 is the current version of their liquid ready-to-drink bottle, which is now available in three flavors: Original, Cacao, and Nectar. 1.8 is the current version of the powdered formula. Here are the nutrition facts labels for each:

Soylent 2.0 Drink Nutrition (Original):

soylent 2.0 nutrition

Soylent 2.0 Drink Nutrition (Cacao):

is soylent healthy

Soylent 2.0 Drink Nutrition (Nectar):

soylent nectar nutrition facts

Soylent 1.8 Powder Nutrition Facts:

soylent 1.8 powder nutrition facts

Upon first glance, you might think these are healthy.

Here’s where this review gets a little ugly though if you’re a Soylent fan.

Each “meal” has between 9 and 15 grams of added sugar. Newly proposed recommendations provided by the WHO encourage limiting added sugar to less than 5% of your total energy intake each day. That’s just 100 calories’ worth of sugar (or around 25 grams) for someone who eats 2,000 calories per day!

So 60% of the sugar you’re supposed to eat in an entire day is in a single serving of Soylent Powder!

According to Soylent’s website:

The Soylent recipe is based on the recommendations of the Institute of Medicine (IOM) and is regulated as a food by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Uh, call me crazy, but where does the IOM (or any other respectable health organization) recommend 15 grams of added sugar in a single meal?!

But this isn’t even the worst part.

We haven’t gotten to the ingredients yet …

Soylent Ingredients

First, I’ll call your attention to this graphic from Soylent’s website:

soylent review
Thanks, Soylent, for being “transparent” about your low standards for ingredients. Source: www.soylent.com

As you can see, the ingredients in Soylent are:

  1. Not organic (which means there’s a high likelihood there are chemical pesticides and herbicides in your meal replacement shake)
  2. Not kosher-free
  3. Not GMO-free (Soylent actually says their products are “proudly made with GMOs“)
  4. Not allergen-free

Here are the complete ingredient lists for Soylent’s current releases of their Drinks and Powder:

Soylent 2.0 Drink (Original):

soylent ingredients - bottle

Soylent 2.0 Drink (Cacao):

soylent drink - cacao

Soylent 2.0 Drink (Nectar):

soylent nectar ingredient list

Soylent 1.8 Powder Ingredients:

soylent powder ingredients

These sounds more like chemistry experiments than real food.

There’s a lot of cheap fillers and additives in those ingredients lists but I want to call your attention to a few, in particular, you might want to consider avoiding …

Click on the links below to read about the potential dangers and side effects of the following Soylent ingredients. I’ve summed up each in parentheses too.

  • Soy Protein Isolate (cheap protein source usually produced from GMO and chemical-ridden soybeans; derived using petroleum-based hexane; common allergen and cause of inflammation)
  • Natural Flavors (the 4th most common ingredient on food labels; consist of a “natural” extract combined with potentially hundreds of chemical compounds that food companies don’t have to disclose, thanks to the FDA)
  • Maltodextrin (GMO corn-based starch used to thicken processed foods)
  • Soy Lecithin (GMO soy-based thickener/emulsifier that may promote inflammation)
  • Sucralose (artificial sweetener that caused cancer in animal studies; still approved by the FDA for some crazy reason)

What Does Soylent Taste Like?

I didn’t case for the taste for either Soylent bottle (2.0) or pouch (1.8). It’s kind of like a thick, malty mush. Not gag-worthy by any means but not good either. The Cacao and Nectar Drinks tastes better but that’s because they use so-called “natural” flavors (see link above).

I’ve heard that earlier versions were too sweet so they reduced the sweetness level in the latest version. It’s still too sweet for my liking.

Its grey color is a little off-putting for me but this may not be an issue for others.

I realize this is only my opinion about how Soylent tastes and not a very objective answer. If you’d like to hear what others have to say, check out the answers to this question on Quora: What does Soylent taste like?

Soylent Price

One of Soylent’s biggest draws is its cost—it’s pretty cheap. This comes as no surprise when you look at their list of unhealthy, processed junk ingredients.

Here’s how much Soylent costs:

Soylent Drink 2.0 Original Price: 

$34 for 12 bottles ($2.83 per 400 kcal serving) or $32.30 for 12 bottles with a monthly subscription ($2.42 per 400 kcal serving)

Soylent Drink 2.0 Cacao Price:

$39 for 12 bottles ($3.25 per 400 kcal serving) or $37.05 for 12 bottles with a monthly subscription ($3.09 per 400 kcal serving)

Soylent Drink 2.0 Nectar Price: 

$39 for 12 bottles ($3.25 per 400 kcal serving) or $37.05 for 12 bottles with a monthly subscription ($3.09 per 400 kcal serving)

Soylent Powder 1.8 Price:

$64 for 35 meals ($1.83 per 400 kcal serving) or $154 for 35 meals with a monthly subscription ($1.54 per 400 kcal serving).

Soylent Recall

It seems like every time I blink, there’s another Soylent recall …

Soylent recalled their 1.6 Powder in late 2016 after it made a lot of people sick.

Then 1.7 was released after a messy dispute with one of their ingredient suppliers.

Just a month later, they released version 1.8, adding “soluble corn fiber,” which they claim is a “truer source of fiber to the consumer,” whatever that means.

Then 1.8 was recalled due to “undeclared allergens.”

Mistakes happen in the food industry, I get it. But that’s a lot of recalls in a short amount of time.

Soylent Review: The Final Verdict

My Soylent review can be summed up in three words:

Not. Real. Food.

Sure, it satisfies your daily calorie requirements—but it may do your body more harm than good because of all the artificial, processed, junk ingredients.

Look for a meal replacement powder with ingredients sourced from organic whole foods instead.

This is the first of a two-part series. Check out the next post: Healthy DIY Soylent Recipes with Organic, Real Food Ingredients

Is Stevia Natural? Here’s the Bitter Truth

A few years ago, I discovered a seemingly miraculous “all-natural” sweetener called Truvia. It seemed too good to be “true” (pun intended): mild taste, didn’t cause cancer, derived from plants, and none of the fat-promoting calories of regular sugar. I wanted to know: what the heck is stevia? Is stevia natural and safe? And what are the best and worst types of stevia?

Turns out powder from the real stevia plant is a far cry from the “stevia” found in nearly every food product on store shelves.

If you eat food that contains stevia on-the-regular, you’re going to want to pay close attention as we cover a very brief history of stevia along with its health benefits and the best and worst types of stevia.

What is Stevia?

The Stevia rebaudiana plant hails from South America (Paraguay), where its leaves have been used for centuries to sweeten beverages and make tea.

is stevia natural

Is Stevia Safe?

There are over 400 studies that showcase stevia’s ability to lower blood sugar, promote weight loss, prevent cavities, and maybe even help prevent certain types of cancer.

But there aren’t a whole lot of studies on its long-term health effects. One study showed when rats were fed high dosages of stevia, it reduced their sperm production. This led the FDA to reject the stevia plant for use as a food ingredient in the 1990s.

However, several highly-processed, chemically-extracted compounds from the stevia plant were approved and granted FDA “generally recognized as safe” (GRAS) status: rebaudioside A in 2008, stevioside and rebiana extracts in 2009, and purified stevioside in 2011.

It’s yet another puzzling example of the U.S. food system at work.

What Types of Stevia Are Healthy and Natural and Which Aren’t?

If you prefer to eat real food instead of chemically-altered versions of real food, it’s probably a good idea NOT to listen to government agencies influenced by “Big Food” lobbying groups. Use this simple list (ranked from best to worst) when buying products with stevia instead.

BEST

Organic Whole Leaf Stevia (or “Green Leaf Stevia” or “Ground Stevia Leaf Powder”) – Whole leaf stevia powder is simply dried, ground leaves from the actual stevia plant … and that’s it. This is the least processed of all types of stevia and the type that has been used for centuries as a natural sweetener and health remedy. It definitely has an earthier, slightly bitter taste because it’s in its natural state, but you only need a tiny little pinch to sweeten your favorite recipes.

MEDIOCRE

Stevia Extract (or “Stevia,” “Stevia Leaf Extract” or “Organic Stevia”) – Many brands (particularly those marketed as “healthy” and “natural”) use stevia extract. Don’t fall prey to the hype though—this type of stevia still goes through rigorous processing (and often bleaching) to extract certain compounds from the stevia plant. Plus, most food processors add an excipient (filler) that’s usually derived from a genetically modified product (i.e., maltodextrin, a processed starch made from GMO corn).

WORST

Truvia, PureVia, Stevia in the Raw – These are the types of stevia to avoid because of the extensive processing and added GMO ingredients.

Truvia, for example, goes through a patented 42-step processing method.

All commercial brands of “stevia” use chemical solvents, GMO derivatives, and/or other processed sweeteners. I wouldn’t touch the stuff. Eat Local Grown has a nice breakdown of several chemically-derived forms of stevia to watch out for.

Avoid these types of processed, GMO-laden "stevia"
Avoid these types of processed, GMO-laden “stevia”

The Bottom Line: Is Stevia Natural?

organic whole leaf stevia powder
This is what real, all natural stevia powder is supposed to look like!

Organic, whole stevia leaf powder in its natural state is a healthy, green, all-natural sweetener.

But the stevia most food companies use is a chemically-altered, bleached, stripped down version that’s likely to contain GMO fillers. Any time you see “stevia”, “stevia extract”, or even “organic stevia” on a food’s ingredients list, you’re getting a processed, inferior sweetener that’s NOT real food.

Dr. Josh Axe has a nice breakdown of the best and worst types of stevia for your health.

My advice:

Stick with organic whole leaf stevia leaf powder in moderation.

That is the only type of stevia that is 100% natural, safe, and healthy! And you only need a teeny tiny bit of it.

P.S. We only use organic, green, real food stevia powder in Pure Food Protein. Learn more about why each of our ingredients are safe, clean, and healthier than any other protein powder on the market and grab a sample bag for just $5 (including shipping) for a limited time.

How to Find the Healthiest Plant Protein Powder in 3 Simple Steps

You remember those “Where’s Waldo” books? The ones where you had to find the little guy in the striped shirt in the middle of a colorful, chaotic scene filled with Waldo imposters?

That’s kind of what it’s like trying to figure out if all those protein powders marketed as “healthiest” and “all-natural” are actually good for you.

In other words, if you don’t know what to look for and where to look, chances are your protein powder may not be so healthy after all*.

Here’s why …

Supplement brands and their marketing teams spend LOTS of money on “Waldo imposters” (pretty graphics, clever marketing language, deceptive psychological tricks, etc.).

I know this because I was one of the guys they paid to help them create their marketing campaigns.

Here’s the truth they don’t want you to hear:

Most food supplement marketing is deliberately designed to distract you from scrutinizing the one piece of information that actually matters: the ingredients they put into their products.

In this article I’m going to show you how to see right through their b.s. and find the healthiest protein powder for you.

The Problem With Most Protein Powder Brands Marketed As “Healthy” and “All Natural”

When it comes to protein powder supplements, there’s one objective source of truth you can use to determine if a product is the right fit for your health needs: the ingredients list.

Here are a few ingredients, in particular, I found in some of the so-called healthiest plant protein powders (Vega, Garden of Life, SunWarrior, Orgain, and PlantFusion all have one or more of these):

  1. Natural flavors. Natural flavors are the 4th most common ingredient on food labels. Unfortunately, they’re anything but natural. They can actually contain up to hundreds of chemicals and preservatives. Here are a few of the more common ones:
    • Propylene glycol (found in antifreeze)
    • BHA, a known carcinogen
    • Genetically modified plants (GMOs) like corn and soy
    • Insects and bizarre animal products (such as beaver’s anal secretions)
  2. Sugars. Sugar comes in many forms these days, as you well know. Most proteins have some type of sweetener added–whether it’s artificial or “natural” is open to interpretation. For example, some companies use sugar alcohols like xylitol and market them as natural. Sugar alcohols originate from plants, but they’re chemically altered and may cause major digestive distress. Many protein powders that use more “natural” sugars like agave claim to be the healthiest … but they have half a day’s worth of sugar per serving (Shakeology is one example). Choose a protein powder that has 1 gram of sugar or less per serving from all-natural sources.
  3. Additives and Fillers. Avoid anything that ends with “dextrin” (like maltodextrin, a cheap, highly processed food additive usually made from genetically modified (GMO) corn. Protein companies use it to make their products mix easier. Soy and sunflower lecithin are common  additives used to thicken protein powders and other foods. To make soy lecithin, soybean oil (GMO unless it says “organic” or “non-GMO verified”) is extracted from raw soybeans using a chemical solvent (usually hexane), then dried and bleached.
  4. Allergens. Dairy, soy, and gluten are among the most common allergens you’ll find. If you’re chugging down whey protein shakes and it’s causing GI issues, STOP. Whey protein works for some people. But for the majority, the cons outweigh the pros.
  5. Gums. Gums are thickening agents that improve the texture of protein powder blends. Xanthan gum, a common one, is produced by bacterial fermentation of a sugar-containing medium. Unfortunately, that medium is usually a potentially allergenic or GMO-containing substance such as corn, soy, dairy, or wheat. On top of that, xanthan gum has been shown to have a laxative effect … you might wanna wear a diaper if your protein powder has it. Be wary any time you see a “gum” listed on the ingredients list of your favorite protein brand.

3 Simple Steps to Help You Find the Healthiest Plant Protein Powder for You

My rule of thumb: stick with plant based protein powders that have mostly (or all) organic ingredients you recognize as real food.

Conclusion: Most Protein Powder Brands Claiming to Be All Natural Are Anything But

Shopping for the right protein powder brand for you starts with identifying your health goals.

Are you looking for a clean, all-natural ingredients? Then scrutinize that ingredients list and avoid all the stuff I mentioned above.

Do you want to lose weight and/or build some lean muscle? Then choose a powder with 20+ grams of protein per serving and 3+ grams of fiber.

If you’re looking to compare 20+ different protein powders, check out this post.

*Disclaimer: I sell an all-natural, plant-based protein powder called Pure Food.  

How to Find the Best Gluten Free Dairy Free Protein Powder

gluten free dairy free protein powderI know lots of peeps that don’t eat dairy or gluten, two of the most common allergens that can cause all types of health issues.

This (obviously) means they shop for protein powder brands that are gluten and dairy free too.

Today I want to dispel a common myth though:

Just because you’re buying something without dairy or gluten, doesn’t mean it’s “healthy.”

In this article, I’ll break down exactly why that is and show you five questions to ask to find a gluten and dairy free protein powder that’s actually good for you.

Here we go …

99% of Gluten Free Dairy Free Protein Powders Are Complete Junk (Even the Organic Ones)

That’s because most of the time, the bestselling protein powder brands are highly processed, pseudo-health foods that can actually do more harm than good.

Today, there are lots of companies vying for the title of healthiest protein powder. But how do you see through the marketing hype and objectively assess which powders are worthy contenders?

First, you consult the only two pieces of objective information on the food label: the nutrition facts panel and ingredients list.

A lot of times, gluten free and dairy free protein powder manufacturers will add a bunch of chemical fillers, sugar, and/or other unhealthy ingredients to make the product taste better. 

Here are the “Big Five” questions you should ask to find the healthiest dairy free and gluten free protein powder (or any high protein plant-based foods, for that matter):

5 Questions to Ask to Find the Healthiest Protein Powder WITHOUT Dairy and Gluten

  1. How much sugar is added? Sugar—no matter if it’s from cane honey, maple syrup, molasses, or coconuts—turns to fat in your body. Eating too much sugar increases your risk of dying from heart disease too. I recommend avoiding all protein powders with added sugar. If your protein is gluten-free and dairy-free yet contains a bunch of sugar, that pretty much defeats the purpose of taking a protein powder.
  2. Which artificial sweeteners do they use instead of real sugar? You don’t see a lot of fake sugars like saccharin, aspartame, acesulfame potassium, and sucralose in vegan protein powder blends. But look out for the supposedly “all-natural” sweeteners. Xylitol and erythritol are highly processed “sugar alcohols” that can cause gut imbalances. Whole stevia leaf powder in its natural state is a healthy, green, all-natural sweetener. But the stevia most food companies use is a chemically-altered, bleached, stripped down version that’s likely to contain GMO fillers (often with allergens like corn and soy).
  3. What types of protein do they use? Vegan protein powders made from organic pea, rice, hemp, sacha inchi, and pumpkin seed are generally healthy sources of protein. Whey and casein proteins are milk-based and have lots of side effects so obviously aren’t good choices for those looking for a dairy free option. And if your vegan protein powder isn’t organic, you’re drinking pesticides with your protein smoothie.
  4. How are their ingredients processed? This is a tricky one because protein manufacturers are hesitant to disclose this information (which is the first sign they’re hiding something). Most vegan protein powders—even the organic ones—are processed using high temperature methods that destroy vital nutrients in the plant and render much of the protein useless. If you have a severe allergy to gluten or dairy, you’ll want to avoid brands that are manufactured in a facility where other gluten- and/or dairy-containing products are produced. There are now several reputable organizations that “certify” protein powders as gluten-free. This shouldn’t be a deal breaker unless you have a disease like celiac though.
  5. What other ingredients do they add? This is where most protein powders—especially the ones you may have thought are healthy—fail miserably. Here are a few common unhealthy ingredients to look out for:
    • Natural flavors. Here’s all you need to know: up to 90 percent of natural flavors are made of allergens like dairy, soy, corn, and gluten … as well as chemical solvents and preservatives, says David Andrews, senior scientist at the Environmental Working Group.
    • Many protein powders that claim to be all-natural have gums like carrageenan, guar, xanthan, locust bean. These cheap, processed fillers often have other additives and can lead to gut imbalances.
    • Lecithins. To make most lecithins, oil is extracted from soybeans or sunflowers using a toxic chemical called hexane.

The Bottom Line About Dairy Free and Gluten Free Protein Powders

There are lots of protein powders available these days without gluten and dairy. But a lack of those two allergens doesn’t make a product “healthy” or “clean,” like most of these brands claims to be.

Learn how to read and understand the ingredients list and nutrition facts label. It’s the only way to see through the marketing hype and know if your gluten and dairy free protein powder is healthy.

Check Out My Best Plant Protein Powder Comparison Chart to Compare 20 Plant-based, Gluten Free / Dairy Free Protein Powders

What Are Natural Flavors?

what are natural flavorsOne of the most common questions I get from readers is:

What are natural flavors, and are they bad for me?

Natural flavors are the fourth most common ingredient on food labels today. The only ingredients you’ll see more often: salt, water and sugar.

In this article, I’ll tell you:

  1. What natural flavors are, and
  2. Four science-backed reasons you should avoid foods that have them

Away we go …

What are natural flavors?

The FDA allows food companies to use the term “natural flavors” to describe any food additive that originated in nature.

If they originated in nature, what’s the problem? you may be asking.

According to David Andrews, Senior Scientist at the Environmental Working Group (EWG), this:

[Natural flavors] will often have some solvent and preservatives—and that makes up 80 to 90 percent of the volume. In the end product, it’s a small amount, but it still has artificial ingredients.

Natural flavor is now the fourth most common ingredient listed on food labels! Click To Tweet

This is a major issue for anyone who considers themself a clean, healthy eater.

Here are my top four reasons to avoid natural flavors

Reason #1: natural flavors are 90 percent chemical junk

As you learned above, 80 to 90 percent of the ingredients that make up natural flavors contain chemical solvents and preservatives. These include the cancer-causing chemical BHA, propylene glycol (found in antifreeze), and genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

Reason #2: natural flavors are basically perfumes for your mouth

Cleaning products, perfumes, and cosmetics contain a combination of chemicals called “fragrances.” In processed food, this chemical mixture is called a “flavor.” Because smell comprises 80 to 90 percent of the sense of taste, fragrances and flavors are often alarmingly similar in chemical composition.

Reason #3: natural flavors are designed by Big Food to be addictive

There are four huge corporations that control the $24 billion market for both flavors and fragrances: Givaudan, Firmenich, IFF and Symrise.

In a fascinating 2011 interview that aired on 60 Minutes, scientists from Givaudan, one of the aforementioned power players in the food flavoring world, admitted their number one goal when creating flavors was to make them addictive!

Scientists have admitted that natural flavors are designed to be addictive. Click To Tweet

Reason #4: The FDA lets flavor companies call the shots

Incredibly, the FDA frequently allows food companies to develop their own food additives without providing oversight or safety reviews of their chemical concentrations. These companies are smart: they hire expensive lawyers to ensure they’ve followed the archaic FDA processes when developing their flavors … and generally the FDA leaves them alone.

Scientist David Andrews sums it up once again:

The truth is that when you see the word “flavor” on a food label, you have almost no clue what chemicals may have been added to the food under the umbrella of this vague term. For people who have uncommon food allergies or are on restricted diets, this can be a serious concern.

What you can do about it

Natural flavors are not natural, no matter how much food companies try to convince you otherwise.

But they’re so prevalent in so many foods it’s really hard to avoid them.

The simple solution is to stop buying foods that contain natural flavors. You can also contact the FDA expressing your concern. Or reach out to your elected officials and tell them you think this is unacceptable and you’d like more oversight of these types of ingredients in the foods you eat.

At the end of the day, eating more fresh foods that come from nature and packaged foods with only ingredients you recognize as real food is the easiest way to avoid natural flavors.

Like what you read here?
Click here to get a FREE downloadable version of our natural flavors report

Watch What Happens When Dutch Dude Gives Up Sugar and Alcohol, and Artificial Ingredients

It’s no secret overindulging in sugar, booze, and processed food can make you fat, sick, and eventually dead much quicker.

Cutting out this stuff is hard, no doubt … but doing so will lead to drastic changes in your health.

Sacha Harland, a Dutch dude who makes web videos for a living, decided to cut out sugar, alcohol, junk food, and all foods with artificial ingredients.

He captured his journey in this six-minute video clip.

Much of his story is predictable: guy goes to doctor, has high cholesterol, makes healthy changes, realizes the error of his ways, turns life around, etc.

But what stands out to me about Sacha’s journey is something I think we all can learn from. Sacha realizes his taste buds have been trained to crave junk food. After 30 days though, his cravings for salty and sweet crap are gone.

Plus he’s dropped a few pounds, lowered his cholesterol, and has more energy.

So here’s my advice for anyone who struggles to cut cravings for certain foods: make a commitment to eat zero foods with artificial ingredients for 7 days.

This likely means you will have to prepare and/or cook your own meals and pick out packaged foods that don’t have any ingredients you don’t recognize as real food. It’s hard. 100 Days of Real Food has this helpful grocery and meal plan list.

Give your body a week and see what happens.

Once you experience how much better you feel, you’ll want to do it for another week. This is how I cut out sweets, refined grains, and soda. It works, and the look better/feel better part is pretty sweet, too.