Soylent: Is it Really Food?

Meals. They are necessary, can be fun and nutritious at times, and sometimes enjoyable even. But they can also be a pain in the neck, messy, time consuming, expensive and not very tasty. I am one of those folks who likes to lean toward fast and convenient when it come to my meals, but for me fast and convenient usually means unhealthy, which is why I set out to find a solution. Of course, I had an ulterior motive to disrupting my dietary routine. I was traveling East to visit family in New York and waned to drop 7 - 10 pounds before I went. I needed a sustainable crash diet without adding too much to my exercise routine, so I decided to give Soylent a try.Soylent

First a little background. I tried Soylent a few years ago when it first came out. It was pretty simple: you made up a batch of the mixture, using the Soylent powder along with a small vial vegetable oil ( I guess this was to satisfy the human body's fat requirement). I was provided a nifty plastic jug that help roughly a day's worth of the mixture. That jug sat in the fridge waiting for consumption. Easy, convenient and no mess. The Soylent guys had accidentally invented a replaceable nutrient formula while working on a software start-up. They were running low on their initial seed round cash and needed sustenance to get them through the last few months of their product development. Very Silicon Valley. Anyway, they researched what exactly the human body needed, and engineered a powdered formula, that when mixed with water (and a little oil) yielded a complete dietary supplement. I imagined it to be a hi-tech version of astronaut food or camping food: freeze dried and yucky. But is wasn't yucky, it just wasn't very tasty and I didn't make it through my fist box of around 35 meals. But, in the last year I have been keeping tabs on Soylent and saw that they were offering up new products (pre-mixed 8 ounce bottles) and new flavors like Cacao and Strawberry. It was time for a second attempt.

Days 1 - 5

For the first few days I carefully measured out each one of my 'meals', which was 1/3 a cup of powder mixed with 3/4 a cup of water. There is no vial of oil for formula version 1.9. At 400 calories per serving, I was able to maintain a pretty manageable program of 2 cups of black coffee in the early morning, followed by meals at 10am, 2pm and 6pm. Sometimes I had a 4th meal during the course of a day, depending on hunger and exercise, and ate a handful of protein (chopped up chicken breast) a few times. All told, these first 5 days went fine and I had dropped three pounds. I consumed no alcohol during these first 5 days, and began to feel the onset of ketosis around day 5.

Days 6 - 10

I began dispensing with the careful measurements and just started eyeballing the mix. Dump some powder in a glass, fill it with water, stir in some ice (it tastes better chilled), and drink. A meal in about 3 minutes. I was starting to notice that I felt less bloated during this time. I was eating no real food, so I was consuming no extra sodium, which meant I drank less water. My total weight loss by the end of day 10 was about six pounds. As with any diet, much of the success depends on the dieter's ability to fight through the hunger pangs, which I did by staying busy with writing and other work related projects. So far I was pleased with my efforts.

Soylent Ingredients

Day 11 - 14

While consistently fighting off the hunger, I felt good toward the end of my experiment. I had on 'cheated' a few times and had lost some weight. I had four meals a day during these last few days and felt like I could sustain this new diet I had conceived. I drank almost no alcohol during the 14 days, maybe 2 glasses of wine, and I suspect drinking more would mess things up. I believe this won't work for people who drink a glass of a wine a day or even 5 drinks a week.

Summary

A Soylent meal contains 20 grams of plant-based protein and I think this works even thought is strays from the dietary guidelines suggested by the US Government. I would recommend at least considering this diet if you don't have the time or patience to prepare healthy meals in your kitchen. I found Soylent to be functional, and even good tasting. As always, do your research and check with your doctor.

 

 

 

 

Slim-Down Summer Foods

Summer is a great time to diet, because when the mercury rises, your appetite tends to crash. (And of course, seeing yourself in a swimsuit can be all the motivation you need!) Still, at this time of year ice cream cones call your name and BBQs beckon; overdo it with either of these -- or other seasonal treats -- and you’ll enter fall a little, um, fuller-figured. The good news? Plenty of the foods that are prevalent this time of year tantalize your taste buds, offer important nutrients, and help you shed pounds. Here, seven to keep you slim and satisfied.

Slim-down summer food: Watermelon. “Not only is watermelon sweet and refreshing, but it's also low in calories at only 45 per cup of diced melon,” says nutritionist Elizabeth Fassberg, president and founder of EAT FOOD, a food and nutrition consultancy. Because it's mostly water, this juicy summer treat is also very filling. An added bonus? It's a good source of vitamins C and A, lycopene, and the water it contains is hydrating -- something that’s important on sweltering days.

Slim-down summer food: Gazpacho. This tomato-based, vegetable soup is served cold so it’s very refreshing. “Because it’s chock full of vegetables, gazpacho is filling but not high in calories,” says Fassberg. “It’s also full of flavor -- especially when the tomatoes are local and tasting sweet as sugar.” On top of this, it’s packed with different vitamins, minerals and fiber.

Slim-down summer food: Summer lettuce. “When it’s fresh from the farmer's market it has so much flavor that you'll want to make salads instead of rich, heavy foods,” says Fassberg. “Also, lettuce has almost no calories because of its high water content and depending on the type you choose, can contain vitamin A, vitamin K, folate, vitamin C and fiber to help fill you up!” Just watch the dressings since that's where the majority of calories come from. Steer clear of those that are cream-based.

Slim-down summer food: Whole grains like bulgur, barley, quinoa or millet used in cold salads. “Whole grains have more fiber and more nutrients than plain grains like pasta and white rice,” says Fassberg. “Because they're rich in fiber, you'll only need a small portion to feel satisfied.” They also have a lot more flavor than their less healthy counterparts. Enjoy them mixed with roasted beets and a bit of goat cheese or on top of your favorite green salad.

Slim-down summer food: Homemade herbal iced tea. “Our bodies give us the same cue for hunger that they do for thirst,” explains Fassberg. In other words, often when you think you’re hungry, you may just be dehydrated and need a good, long drink. Having a jug of iced tea all chilled in the fridge and ready to grab can help stave off the urge to devour the calorie-heavy snacks in the pantry. Simply steep your favorite flavor herbal tea bags in hot water, let this cool at room temperature, and then pour into a pitcher and chill in the fridge.

Slim-down summer food: Fish on the grill. Summertime is synonymous with grilling time. And it’s a good thing because this form of outdoor cooking can be a low-calorie way of making delicious meals. “There’s lots of flavor without needing to add too much fat which means the foods you grill typically have fewer calories,” says Fassberg. Fish is an ideal BBQ choice because it’s lean protein, doesn’t have a ton of calories and is very satisfying.

Slim-down summer food: Corn on the cob. This sweet, seasonal staple is ideal when you get it local from the farmer’s market. “It’s also very filling, because of the fiber, fun to eat and takes some time to eat,” says Fassberg. “Often, we eat so fast we don’t realize we are actually full before we stop eating. If we slow down, our bodies and brains have a chance to work together and we stop eating before we are overly full.”  Fresh corn on the cob also contains antioxidants, manganese, vitamin C, B3 and B5.

Get Your Folic Acid Fix

Most of us know the prenatal perks of folic acid: Taking this B vitamin during early pregnancy helps prevent serious brain and spinal cord defects in developing babies.

However, new research suggests that it may help prevent autism, too. According to a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association, women who take folic acid, or folate, before and during their pregnancy are 40 percent less likely to have an autistic baby.

Even if you’re not in baby-making mode, that’s no reason to forego folic acid. Vitamin B9, as it’s also known, prevents birth defects only when taken at least a month before getting pregnant and during the first few weeks of pregnancy (before a woman usually knows she’s pregnant). Because nearly half of all pregnancies are unplanned, it's important that all women get their folic acid fix -- even if they’re not planning on expanding their family any time soon.

Besides the bonuses it can provide a baby, folic acid does your body good, too. You need it to produce red blood cells, prevent anemia and keep your DNA (the building blocks of your cells) functioning properly.

Only about 25 percent of women get the recommended amount of 400 mcg of folic acid a day. Telltale signs that you might not be getting enough: gray hair, mouth sores, gingivitis and fatigue.

Here’s how to get the recommended daily allowance.

Supplement your diet

Women who are pregnant or trying to become pregnant require 600 mcg of folic acid a day. Everyone else needs 400 mcg. The easiest and most surefire way to get your daily dose of folic acid: take a multivitamin, says registered dietitian Sarah Krieger MPH, RD, LD/N, spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. “I tell any girl or woman who has the chance of becoming pregnant to take a regular multivitamin,” she says. If you have a hard time remembering your pills, try taking them at the same time every day, like when you’re brushing your teeth.

Do it with food

If you’re not the vitamin-taking type, you may be able to get the folic acid you need by eating a healthy, well-balanced diet. However, cautions Krieger, because the body doesn’t store folic acid, it’s one of those vitamins that needs to be replenished daily.

According to Krieger, many brands of breakfast cereal are fortified with folic acid. Many healthy cereals offer 100 percent of your daily folic acid needs. Enriched flour, bread, and pasta products may also contain folic acid; check the nutrition labels to be sure.

You can also get your folic acid fix by eating plenty of fruit, vegetables, whole grains and legumes. Some of the best sources include leafy greens like spinach and romaine lettuce; legumes, like beans, lentils and peanuts; asparagus; broccoli; liver; orange juice and tomato juice.

Here’s an example of what one day’s worth of folate (400 mcg) looks like:

  • Half a cup of cooked spinach (33%) or half a cup of black beans (32%)
  • One cup of orange juice (11%) or one ounce of dry-roasted peanuts (10%)
  • Half a cup of cooked asparagus (17%) or half a cup of chopped broccoli, cooked (20%)
  • One serving of romaine lettuce (29%) or one-quarter cup of hummus (26%)
  • One cup of diced cantaloupe (8%) or one small orange (7%)
If these foods don’t tempt you, create your own folate-rich diet plan. To do so, Krieger recommends using the SuperTracker tool at choosemyplate.gov.

Better Nutrition: 6 Healthy Pizza Recipes

Pizza is delicious, though not always kind to your waistline -- or your ticker. After all, cheese is the number-one source of artery-clogging saturated fat in the American diet.  And if you pile on pepperoni and sausage, you’re looking at 400 calories per slice.  Still, pizza doesn’t have to be a diet disaster, says renal dietitian specialist and consultant Susan Weil Ernst, RD, CSR of Scottsdale, Ariz. “It’s important to include comfort-type foods in your diet so you don’t feel deprived,” she says.

Homemade pies can have plenty of nutritional value if you’re willing to go beyond the usual meat-lover toppings. In fact, according to Tad Brown, pizzaiolo and owner of Fired Up Pizzeria in Durango, Co., unprocessed, whole foods and fresh ingredients are the backbone of traditional Naples-style pizza.

Here are six healthier pizza recipes that you can sink your teeth into, guilt-free. But, first, a few rules to bake by:

To cut down on fat intake, Ernst suggests using a moderate amount (roughly 1/4 cup) of low-fat or nonfat cheese, which has calcium to strengthen teeth and bones, and protein to fill you up. Go heavy on vitamin- and phytonutrient-rich vegetables. Lean meats like low-sodium turkey sausage or grilled chicken will keep carnivores happy without the salt and saturated fat.

Look for whole-wheat or gluten-free crusts in your supermarket’s freezer section. If you’re short on time, use whole-grain pita bread, tortillas, or even a portobello mushroom as the crust, Ernst says.

Lemon Rucola: Top your crust with tomato sauce (Brown makes his own using only San Marzano tomatoes, a little salt and fresh basil), and fresh mozzarella cheese. The higher quality the cheese, the more flavor it’s going to have, so you don’t have to use as much of it (and hydrogenated oils won’t pool on top). Bake at 350°F until the cheese starts to melt at the edges (about 15 minutes). Top with arugula, fresh lemon juice, cracked pepper and a touch of shaved parmesan. Serve immediately.

Bianca Prosciutto: Instead of cream sauce, this white pizza uses heart-healthy extra virgin olive oil; its monounsaturated oil may help reduce the risk of heart disease. Drizzle less than a tablespoon of oil over your dough, then top with fresh mozzarella and bake at 350 until the cheese starts to melt at the edges. Top with arugula, fresh chopped tomato and less than an ounce of prosciutto (about two paper-thin 8-inch strips). Because prosciutto can be high in salt, we recommend using it sparingly. Luckily, a little goes a long way, and it still has less saturated fat than other typical meat toppings.

Santa Barbara Style: Evelyn Jacob, co-author of The Schwarzbein Principle Vegetarian Cookbook, recommends this flavorful pesto and poblano pizza. First, make the pesto sauce by blending 2 cups of packed fresh sorrel leaves or spinach, ½ cup loosely packed fresh basil, 3 Tb. lightly toasted pine nuts or walnuts, 1/3 cup pure-pressed extra virgin olive oil, 2 garlic cloves and salt and pepper in a food processor. Spread over the crust, then top with caramelized onions, sauteed mushrooms, zucchini, roasted poblano chiles and goat cheese. Bake at 350°F for about 15 to 20 minutes, until cheese is browned on top and crust is crispy. Top with lightly toasted pine nuts.

To make roasted poblanos: With tongs, hold the pepper over a burning flame, such as your stovetop or grill. Turn the chiles regularly to ensure that all sides get evenly blackened. Remove from heat and put in a bowl with a lid to allow the steam to permeate the peppers.  Put on rubber gloves and peel the thin almost transparent looking skin, discarding the seeds. Do not hold under water to peel since that dissipates much of the smoked flavor of the chiles. Slice as desired.

Mediterranean: A Mediterranean diet is high in plant foods and monounsaturated fats and may help prevent cancer, diabetes and heart disease. For Jacob’s Mediterranean pizza, peel an eggplant (a source of heart-healthy fiber) and slice, brushing both sides with a little olive oil, and bake at 350°F about 20 minutes until soft, turning once. Cut into cubes. Top crust with tomato sauce, eggplant, chopped kalamata olives, artichoke hearts and grated Manchego and pecorino cheeses. Bake at 350°F for 15 to 20 minutes, until cheese browns.

Southwest Pizza: Jacob recommends this sweet and spicy pie for meat lovers.
Top crust with 1/4-cup BBQ sauce (preferably one made with agave or organic cane sugar instead of corn syrup), shredded roasted chicken, caramelized onions, and your choice of cheese. Bake at 350°F for 15 to 20 minutes, until cheese is browned. Sprinkle with fresh chopped parsley.

Dessert pizza: Ernst says fruit is one of her favorite, and often-ignored, healthy pizza toppings. Shave about 1 tablespoon of dark chocolate (at least 70 percent cocoa so it’s packed with potent antioxidants called flavonoids, which keep cholesterol from gathering in blood vessels) over a crust, spread with nonfat cream cheese, then top with walnuts and fresh berries. Bake at 325°F for 10 minutes.  If you’re so inclined, pair with a glass of red wine, which has antioxidants that may prevent heart disease (remember: moderation!). Buon appetito!

What to Eat to Stay Healthy All Winter

This winter, a whopping 20 percent of Americans will come down with a bad case of the flu. But you don’t have to be one of them! Research shows that, in addition to getting your flu shot, eating certain foods can help you avoid the flu -- as well as colds and illness in general. Here’s what to add to your grocery cart.

Yogurt

Probiotics, the healthy bacteria in yogurt, literally crowds out invading bad bacteria that’s trying to get into your system. That’s why, in one study, people who consumed a yogurt drink that contained Lactobacillus reuteri over an 80-day period took 33 percent fewer sick days. To make sure you’re getting a good dose of probiotics, look for the words “live bacteria” and “active cultures” on the label. Bonus: Yogurt is rich in calcium, which is essential for strong, healthy teeth.

Garlic

This favorite flavor-booster contains allicin, a compound that fights off bacteria. According to a large British study, people who downed a daily garlic capsule for three winter months were two-thirds less likely to catch a cold. If they did get sick, they suffered for about four fewer days. Adding cooked garlic to your food might be even more effective.

Tea

According to a Harvard study, drinking black or green tea can rev up your immune system’s T cells so they destroy bacteria more quickly. And the antioxidants in green tea are great for your teeth. A large Japanese study found that every cup reduces gum inflammation.

Salmon

Omega-3 fatty acids, found in this flavorful fish, help cells remove toxins and take in nutrients more efficiently. And a recent study published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association found that people who consumed the most omega-3s decreased their risk of gum disease by 22 percent.

Chicken Soup

Don’t wait until you’re sick to serve up some soup. Cysteine, an amino acid released from chicken during cooking, helps calm the usual over-the-top response your immune system has to cold germs that causes many of the worst symptoms from a stuffed-up nose to a wracking cough. And it doesn’t have to be homemade. A University of Nebraska study published in Chest found that most supermarket brands prevented and alleviated cold symptoms just as effectively.

What foods do you stock up on in the winter? Share below or @Completely_You