What are superfoods and why should you eat them?
The term “superfood” is a fairly new term referring to foods that offer maximum nutritional benefits for minimal calories. They are packed with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.
No standard criteria or legal definitions classify any food as a superfood at this time. However, most superfoods are plant-based.
In this article, we define what qualifies as a superfood, provide some common examples and their benefits, and provide tips on how to include them in the diet.
What are superfoods?
Superfoods are foods that have a very high nutritional density. This means that they provide a substantial amount of nutrients and very few calories.
They contain a high volume of minerals, vitamins, and antioxidants.
Antioxidants are natural molecules that occur in certain foods. They help neutralize free radicals in our bodies. Free radicals are natural byproducts of energy production that can wreak havoc on the body.
Antioxidant molecules decrease or reverse the effects of free radicals that have close links with the following health problems:
Superfoods are not cure-all foods. Dietitian Penny Kris-Etherton explains:
“A lot of people have unrealistic expectations about these foods, thinking they’ll be protected from chronic diseases and health problems. They may eat one or two of these nutrient-dense foods on top of a poor diet.”
Including superfoods as part of daily nutritional intake is great but only when consuming a healthy, balanced diet overall. Eat a “super diet” rather than to concentrate on individual foods.
Studies have demonstratedTrusted Source that superfoods high in antioxidants and flavonoids help prevent coronary heart disease and cancer, as well as improving immunity and decreasing inflammation.
Regularly eating fruits and vegetables also has strong associations with a lower risk of many lifestyle-related health conditions and overall mortality.
The nutrients they contain help promote a healthy complexion, nails, and hair and increase energy levels.
They can also help maintain a healthy weight.
2022 will be a year of health, wealth, and good sex (with triple-vaxxed partners, ofc). We all deserve it after the absolute sh*tshow that was the year 2021, aka 2020 the sequel. And although I can’t promise that you will be seeing more commas in your bank account or anything of that nature, I can guarantee you will feel a *bit* healthier after stocking your fridge and entire pantry with this year’s top superfoods. We have all the yummy secrets to eating the healthiest—and trendiest—foods in the new year.
But before you can take the official title of health goddess and culinary trendsetter, let’s talk about what exactly makes a food ~super~. Merriam-Webster defines superfood as “a food that is rich in compounds such as antioxidants, fiber, or fatty acids, considered beneficial to a person’s health.” So basically, they’re foods, ranging from broccoli and salmon to blueberries, that are full of nutrients and offer a multitude of health benefits. I guess this kind of makes superfoods the badass superheroes of any complete diet.
Now that we all know the deal with superfoods, let’s get into what you clicked on this link for! Check out our superfoods list of 10 superstar ingredients that you will be reaching for in place of your beloved avocado, which didn’t make the list this year. (Don’t worry though, you are still totally allowed to order avo toast at New Year’s brunch!)
There is a good chance you haven’t heard of Mankai, aka the world’s smallest veggie. I sure the hell didn’t know about this tiny superfood until Samina Kalloo, RDN, CDN, nutrition communications lead for Pollock Communications, clued me in on its protein and vitamin-packing powers.
Despite its micro size, Mankai has all nine essential amino acids, vitamin B, iron and over 60 nutrients, says Kalloo. “Plus, with only one in 10 Americans getting enough vegetables, Mankai is an easy and impactful nutrition solution,” Kalloo adds.
Eat it: Unlike a lot of other greens, Mankai has a neutral taste and texture, making it the perfect addition to your morning smoothie, your fave pasta dish, or guac recipe, says Kalloo. And for all the gorgeous, gorgeous girls who love soup out there, Kalloo recommends adding Mankai cubes to your broth for the heartiest of comfort meals.
You and your S.O.’s texts shouldn’t be the only spicy thing in your life. Turmeric, a spice that you probably already have in your cupboard, can reduce inflammation, improve memory, lower the risk of some chronic diseases, and fight against free radicals (aka what contributes to aging), says Kalloo.
Eat it: Turmeric is super versatile and can be added to nearly anything and everything. Add a dash to your scrambled eggs in the a.m. Sprinkle on top of your yogurt for a midday snack. And for dinner, try sautéing your favorite veggies with turmeric or adding it to soup. Keep in mind that just a little bit of turmeric goes a long way, says Kalloo.
Pro tip from a dietitian: When cooking with turmeric, add a dash of black pepper to enhance the absorption of the curcumin (the active compound in turmeric), says Chelsea Golub, MS, RDN, CDN.
You might be familiar with tahini if your late-night munchies include hummus and pita chips. Tahini, a main ingredient of hummus made from grounded sesame seeds, originates in the Middle East, but has made its way to the aisles of Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods.
“It’s a great source of polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fatty acids, which means there are lots of anti-inflammatory and heart protective benefits. Also, it provides protein, fiber, iron, copper, calcium, and other minerals that we need in our diet,” says Golub.
Eat it: Give a more savory glow up to a classic, the PB&J, by swapping out peanut butter for tahini to make a T&J. To doctor up your jarred tahini for extra creaminess, Golub recommends mixing in lemon, water, and salt. Add in your favorite seasonings (did someone say Everything but the Bagel?) for a yummy veggie or pita dip.
4. Pomegranate Seeds
It can be a little bit perplexing figuring out what exactly to do with pomegranates or the seeds. But their health benefits def outweigh any lingering confusion you may have. As an antioxidant powerhouse, pomegranate seeds can protect your cells from damage and help prevent disease, says Golub. They are abundant in fiber which aids digestion, in addition to containing vitamin C, vitamin K, and folate, Golub says.
Eat it: Of course, you could always make some nature’s cereal à la Lizzo’s viral Tik Tok: fresh berries, coconut water, ice cubes, topped with pomegranate seeds, served in a bowl for an energizing breakfast. Crunchatize a cup of Greek yogurt, your Sweetgreen order, or a morning bowl of oatmeal by adding a small handful of pomegranate seeds, suggests Golub.
I love matcha, but I think we can all agree it is time to give her a rest. Moringa (nicknamed the “miracle tree” for being drought resistant—how cool is nature!?) is predicted to have a major moment in 2022 as a popular alternative to matcha, says Rachel Bukowski, senior team leader of product Development at Whole Foods Market. Originating in Africa, the moringa leaf is one of the most nutrient-dense plants, packed with vitamin C, vitamin E, beta carotene, and protein, officially making it a superstar ingredient, adds Deane Falcone, PhD, chief scientific officer of sustainable agriculture group Crop One Holdings.
Eat it: Add a teaspoon of moringa powder to your go-to smoothie bowl recipe for a vibrant green color that is truly IG worthy. Moringa tea is also a great way to get nutrients first thing in the morning! And if you happen to have a sweet tooth next time you are strolling the aisles of Whole Foods, be on the lookout for moringa-infused desserts like Moringa Mint Chip Frozen Coconut Cream (perfect for all those who are lactose intolerant or vegan!) and Maple Toffee Crunch Chocolate with Moringa, says Bukowski.
Soybeans have a high concentration of isoflavones, a type of phytochemical. Phytochemicals are compounds that occur naturally in plants.
Some research demonstrates that isoflavones in soy help reduce the amount of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) or “bad” cholesterol in the blood.
A few studies have shown that soy may prevent age-related memory loss. Soy isoflavones might also reduce bone loss and increase bone mineral density during menopause, as well as decreasing menopausal symptoms.
7. Fermented Foods
Unlike the pair of skinny jeans that are now sitting in the back of your closet, fermented foods will be trending yet again in 2022. Holding their title as the number one superfood trend for the fourth year in a row, according to a survey conducted by Pollock Communications and Today’s Dietitian, fermented foods like kimchi, pickles, miso, and yogurt are not going anywhere. The reigning superfood category is linked to improved digestive health and reduced inflammation, Kalloo says. Fermented foods are probiotic-rich, meaning they contain good bacteria to keep your gut happy and healthy.
Eat it: Golub loves to dress up plain Greek yogurt with other superfoods like berries, hemp seeds, or tahini for the perfect protein-packed parfait. “Dairy gets a bad rap…I always say that if you aren’t lactose intolerant, there’s no need to eliminate dairy from your diet,” says Golub.
If your body isn’t a dairy-friendly zone, there are still a ton of other fermented foods you can incorporate into your day-to-day meals. “Add kimchi to an egg scramble or serve it up in a burrito or taco. Toss sauerkraut into coleslaw or other chopped salads. And don’t forget about pickles, which make a great addition to sandwiches and salads,” recommends Kalloo.
8. Cruciferous Vegetables
Cruciferous (just a fancy word to describe plants within the cabbage family) vegetables are probably a part of your diet already. These veggies include kale, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, broccoli, and arugula, among others. With plenty of antioxidants, vitamin K, folate, and fiber, these vegetables are pretty damn super. “Increased consumption in these veggies may be related to decreased depression and improved cardiovascular conditions,” says Golub. So I guess mom was right all along—eat your veggies to live a long and happy life!
Eat it: I know, it is so much easier to UberEats dinner after a hellish day of work, but you can make a delicious and good-for-you meal in no time using some cruciferous veggies and your preferred protein. On a baking sheet, add your protein and a couple handfuls of your vegetable of choice. Drizzle olive oil (adding a healthy fat like olive oil increases the vitamin and mineral absorption and makes digestion easier, says Golub), zhuzh it up with your fav seasonings, and pop it all in the oven for a yummy yet delivery-fee-free dinner.
9. Ancient Grains
Yes, ancient grains do not sound like the most appealing superfood, but they are actually so much cooler than you think. These grains (which include amaranth, teff, quinoa, and farro, among others) are not only nutrient-dense and rich in phytochemicals that may help combat chronic disease, but they are also earth-friendly, says Kalloo. You can nourish your body and Mother Earth at the same time!
Eat it: Amaranth, quinoa, and farro are just a few ancient grains that you can likely find in your local supermarket. And they are actually pretty affordable (yes, superfoods can be super budget-friendly)! Quinoa is an especially versatile ancient grain with endless possibilities. Add it to your tacos or burrito bowls for a Taco Tuesday upgrade everyone will love. Oh, and don’t forget the margs!
10. Hemp Seed
We are unlikely to see marijuana legalization throughout the country in 2022, but we will be seeing more hemp seeds in the new year. Hemp seeds, which come from the cannabis sativa plant, are the perfect addition to literally anything you eat. With an abundance of omega-3 fatty acids and vitamins, these little seeds support heart health, brain function, and keep your immune system in tip-top shape, which will also be essential, says Kalloo and Golub.
Eat it: Hemp seeds are an easy way to beef up the nutritional value of any meal, says Kalloo. Try sprinkling hemp seeds on your salad (bonus if your base is a cruciferous vegetable like arugula or brussels sprouts!), topping off a bowl of oatmeal for a fulfilling breakfast, or adding to your favorite baked goods for an omega-3 boost to a sweet treat, says Golub.
11. Avocados Offer Heart-Healthy Poly- and Monounsaturated Fat
Avocado is a key component to a modern-day brunch staple, avocado toast, and contains a bevy of nutrients worth celebrating.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), ½ an avocado provides 29 milligrams (mg) of magnesium, or about 7 percent of the DV. Magnesium plays a role in regulating blood pressure and blood sugar, and magnesium deficiency is associated with a higher risk for type 2 diabetes, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Avocado also provides fiber (6.75 mg per ½ fruit, offering 24 percent of DV), along with heart-healthy polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fat. An advisory published by the American Heart Association in the June 2017 issue of Circulation noted that replacing saturated fat (from sources such as butter) with the fats found in foods such as avocado can help reduce the risk for heart disease.
12. Berries Help Keep the Brain Healthy and May Fend Off Alzheimer’s Disease
Blueberries are at the top of almost every superfood list, but just about any edible berry is worthy of superfood status. While all differing in nutritional value, blackberries, blueberries,raspberries, strawberries, cranberries, acai berries, Goji berries, and raspberries, to name a few, are low-calorie, high in fiber, and packed full of antioxidants that help fight against cancer-causing free radicals, notes a study published in March 2018 in Frontiers in Pharmacology.
Blueberries in particular have a high number of anthocyanin pigments, which not only give them their rich color, but also act as powerful antioxidants that may lower the risk of diabetes, heart disease, and degenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s, according to a review published in July 2019 in Advances in Nutrition.
We’ve all been there: crying while chugging a bottle of Ocean Spray cranberry juice to help combat a painful UTI (IYKYK), but cranberries actually do so much more than just soothing symptoms of a urinary tract infection. On top of being loaded with antioxidants and vitamins C, E, and K, these little crimson-colored berries support gut health by making sure bacteria don’t adhere to other cells, says Kalloo.
Eat it: Beyond the holiday season (#TeamHomemadeCranberrySauce) and the occasional UTI, you probably don’t eat cranberries all that often. Next time you order a salad, ask for dried cranberries to be sprinkled on top for some added sweetness. Cranberries are a great addition to tuna and chicken salad too, says Kalloo. And if you are feeling inspired by your recent Netflix binge of The Great British Bake Off, preheat your oven and whip up a batch of white chocolate cranberry cookies.
13. Seafood Provides Omega-3 Fatty Acids for a Healthy Ticker
Unlike many animal products high in saturated fats, such as red meat and processed meats, that can raise the risk of heart disease, fish is full of protein and rich in healthy fats. Omega-3 fatty acids — namely the type you get from seafood including fish — are particularly beneficial to our bodies, notes the NIH. These types, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), are used more efficiently than the third type of omega-3, alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), which comes from plant sources such as flaxseed and nuts, past research has shown. Overall, omega-3s can help play a role in reducing your risk of heart attack and stroke, alleviating depression, and aiding infant development, according to the NIH.
A study published in January 2019 in the journal Nutrients found omega-3 fatty acid intake across the United States was lower (and much lower in women and children) than the recommended amounts, which, the authors wrote, is “putting vulnerable populations at potential risk for adverse health outcomes.” The AHA recommends consuming at least two servings (3.5 ounces) of fish per week, noting that fattier fish like salmon, sardines, mackerel, and herring are especially healthy.
14. Garlic and Onions Contribute to Healthy Blood Pressure Levels
They may be pungent (some even bring us to tears), but allium vegetables — chives, onions, garlic, leeks, and the like — deliver potent health benefits. Plus, they’re delicious. Once used to ward off the evil eye, garlic also has antibacterial and antiviral properties, according to an article published in April 2018 in Scientific Reports.
Studies have found allium vegetables may play a role in preventing cancer, and garlic in particular may benefit people living with diabetes, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure, according to an meta-analysis published in August 2019 in the journal Food Science and Nutrition.
15. Mushrooms May Complement Breast Cancer Treatment, Though More Studies Are Needed
For centuries, mushrooms have been considered a superfood and are still used in traditional Chinese medicine to cleanse the body and promote longevity. Researchers have long studied the antibacterial, antioxidant, and anti-inflammatory properties of mushrooms, and mycotherapy — the use of mushrooms as medicine — is used as a complementary treatment for breast cancer. While clinical research is lacking, lab and animal research has yielded promising data on the use of mushrooms to help prevent and treat breast cancer, according to a study published in May 2018 in the journal Oncotarget. More studies in humans are needed.
16. Nuts and Seeds Supply a Powerful Punch of Plant Protein and Can Help Regulate Weight
Wellness gurus tout different superpowers for each nut — almonds for heart health, cashews for cognition, Brazil nuts for cancer — but all are a great source fat, fiber, and protein (ones encased in sugar or salt are on the less healthy side), notes the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Seeds like flaxseeds, chia seeds, and hemp seeds are easy to incorporate into your diet and are packed with vitamins and minerals.
While nuts are high in fat, they also keep you feeling full longer, and studies, such as an October 2018 article published in the European Journal of Nutrition, have linked nuts to a lower risk of weight gain and obesity. Walnuts are at the top of the “supernut” list, with their antioxidant power helping to prevent diseases like certain types of cancer, according to a study published in November 2017 in the journal Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition.
17. Dark, Leafy Greens May Play a Role in Preventing Colorectal Cancer
Generally, nutritionists like Wolfram say the darker the color of a vegetable, the more nutrients it contains. Dark, leafy greens like arugula, kale, collard greens, spinach, lettuce, and Swiss chard get their vibrant colors from chlorophyll, which keeps plants healthy, and the dietary fiber found in dark greens can decrease the risk of colorectal cancer, according to the American Institute for Cancer Research. Carotenoids, another type of plant pigment, also act as antioxidants that fight off potentially cancer-causing free radicals in the body, notes Harvard Medical School.
18. Citrus Fruits May Help Prevent Age-Related Eye Disease
Citrus fruits have been crowned as superfoods because of their fiber and vitamin C content. The sweet and sour bite of citrus fruits like grapefruit, oranges, lemons, and limes is also low in calories and high in water. One study published in July 2018 in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that adults ages 50 and older who ate oranges every day had a 60 percent less chance of developing macular degeneration compared with those who didn’t eat oranges.
19. Dark Chocolate Is a Healthy Dessert That May Boost Your Mood
Unlike its sweeter milk and white chocolate counterparts, dark chocolate may offer health benefits. The cacao in dark chocolate is full of antioxidants, which may play a role in cancer prevention, heart health, and weight loss, according to a study published in December 2016 in the Journal of Neuroscience. A 1 or 2 ounce serving of dark chocolate (with a minimum of 70 percent cacao) a day may have other health benefits, such as improving cognition, preventing memory loss, and boosting mood, reported a study published in April 2018 in The FASEB Journal.
20. Sweet Potatoes Are a Gluten-Free, Healthy Source of Carbs That Help Fight Disease
Sweet potatoes have long been on the superfoods list, and for good reason. Carrots, beets, parsnips, potatoes, and yams are all types of root vegetables that have sustained human life for hundreds of years — and through many a harsh winter.
Nutritious, easy to grow, and with an exceptionally long life span (some can last months, if stored properly), root vegetables are packed with healthy carbs and starches that provide energy, according to the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
A review of research on sweet potatoes published in November 2016 in Food Research International suggested that this root veggie may contribute to preventing diabetes, obesity, cancer, and other health conditions thanks to their anti-inflammatory, antioxidative, and antimicrobial properties.
As a bonus, root veggies including sweet potatoes are also gluten-free, making a great dietary alternative for those with celiac disease, noted a study published in May 2016 in the North Carolina Medical Journal.
21. Beans and Legumes May Help Reduce High Cholesterol
As far as superfoods go, the beans and legume family possess the power of plant-based protein. Unlike food from many animal sources, beans and legumes are low in saturated fats — which can raise cholesterol levels and contribute to heart disease — and yield health benefits that animal products don’t, according to the AHA.
Chickpeas, edamame, lentils, peas, and the thousands of other bean types are densely packed with nutrition, and research has found the high levels of fiber and vitamins in them can help with weight loss and regulating blood sugar levels, according to an study published in October 2015 in the journal Clinical Diabetes. Peanuts are also in the legume family as well, making this nut look-alike a great, low-carb snack, notes the Harvard Medical School.
Tea contains few calories, helps with hydration, and is a good source of antioxidants.
Catechins, potent antioxidants found primarily in green tea, have beneficial anti-inflammatory and anti-carcinogenic properties.
A study published in the Journal of Physiological Anthropology examined the effects of green tea, white tea, and water consumption on stress levels in 18 students.
The study suggestedTrusted Source that both green and white tea had reduced stress levels and that white tea had an even greater effect. Larger studies are necessary to confirm this possible health benefit.
Green tea may also have an anti-arthritic effect by suppressing overall inflammation.
The high omega-3 fatty acid content in salmon and other fatty fish, such as trout and herring, can decrease the riskTrusted Source of abnormal heartbeats, reduce cholesterol and slow the growth of arterial plaque.
24. Wine and grapes
Resveratrol, the polyphenol found in wine that made it famously “heart healthy”, is present in the skins of red grapes.
A few studies have shown promise that resveratrol can protect against diabetic neuropathy and retinopathy. These are conditions caused by poorly controlled diabetes where vision is severely affected.
One 2013 studyTrusted Source found that it reduced the effects of neural changes and damage associated with diabetic neuropathy.
Researchers have also found resveratrol to be beneficial for treating Alzheimer’s disease, relieving hot flashes and mood swings associated with menopause, and improving blood glucose control. However, large studies using human subjects are still needed to confirm these findings.
Another flavonoid that occurs in grapes, quercetin, is a natural anti-inflammatory that appears to reduce the risk of atherosclerosis and protect against the damage caused by LDL cholesterol in animal studies. Quercetin may also have effects that act against cancer.
However, more studies using human subjects are necessary before researchers can confirm the benefits beyond all doubt.
Although wine does contain antioxidants, keep in mind that eating grapes would provide the same benefit alongside additional fiber. The American Heart Association recommends that people limit alcoholic beverages Trusted Sourceto no more than two drinks per day for men and one drink per day for women.
25. Other superfoods
Superfoods gaining popularity include:
A person can incorporate these foods into a varied healthy diet when available. However, do not overspend or search too widely trying to find them.
The secret is that any leafy green vegetable or berry in a grocery store will provide many of the same benefits an individual will find in the premium-priced superfoods.
Buy your produce in season and from local sources to ensure the highest nutrient content. Do not discount the humble apple or carrot either — all fruits and vegetables are essentially superfoods.
Replacing as many processed foods as possible with whole foods will drastically improve health.
These tips can help you get more superfoods into your diet:
-Look at the colors on your plate. Is all of your food brown or beige? Then it is likely that antioxidant levels are low. Add in foods with rich color like kale, beets, and berries.
-Add shredded greens to soups and stir fries.
-Try replacing your beef or poultry with salmon or tofu.
-Add berries to oatmeal, cereal, salads or baked goods.
-Make sure you have a fruit or a vegetable every time you eat, including meals and snacks.
-Have a daily green or matcha tea.
-Make turmeric, cumin, oregano, ginger, clove, and cinnamon your go-to spices to amp up the antioxidant content of your meals.
-Snack on nuts, seeds (especially Brazil nuts and sunflower seeds) and dried fruit (with no sugar or salt added).
Try these healthy and delicious recipes developed by registered dietitians:
Taking superfoods in supplement form is not the same as getting the nutrients from the real foods.
Many supplements contain ingredients that can cause a strong biological effect on the body. Supplements might also interactTrusted Source with other medications. Taking supplements could result in vitamin or mineral toxicity, affect recovery after surgery, and trigger other side effects.
Tips for using supplements
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warns that combining or taking too many supplements can be hazardous. Only use supplements that the FDA has approved.
Tips for safe use include the following:Trusted Source
-Use non-commercial sites for information, such as the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and FDA.
-Beware of claims that a product “works better than a prescription drug” or “is totally safe.”
-Remember that natural does not always mean safe.
-If using supplements, the FDA recommendsTrusted Source choosing high-quality products that have been tested by a third party.
Always check first with a health provider before starting to use a supplement.
Soylent Green Predicted 2022, Including Impossible Meat Substitutes
Charlton Heston paid for a cannibalistic cautionary tale set in 2022 with Soylent Green, now we can get fries with it.
Why settle for tacos when Tuesday can be Soylent Green Day? Far more nutritious than Soylent Red or Yellow, the green stuff is made with a secret ingredient that makes it a real delicacy. Of course the line “Soylent Green is people” is now an insta-spoiler meme and trope. But when Charlton Heston first uttered that anguished warning, it might as well have been a supermarket can-can sale promotion. Store shops in the 1973 science fiction classic Soylent Green were so mobbed on Tuesdays that riots started every week in this dystopian vision of 2022.
The historical montage which opens Soylent Green, based on real photographs from the 20th century, shows how industry and population colluded to form a dystopian future where too many people struggle for too little food, gag at the air, and wear masks on a daily basis. The face covering in the montage actually increases exponentially as the 20th century tumbles past into our own modern nightmares. Sludge and filth cover the perimeter of human existence in Soylent Green, and plague and famine eat humanity out from the inside.
There was a time once, says Sol Roth, played by the elegant Edward G. Robinson in his last cinematic role, when the world was beautiful. People were always rotten, but the world was beautiful. Soylent Green was set in the year 2022, and saw that beauty become faded, and the people jaded. While many of the predictions laid out in the opening montage have borne themselves out, other predictive promises have not been filled.
Directed by Richard Fleischer with a screenplay by Stanley R. Greenberg, Soylent Green was based on Harry Harrison’s 1968 novel Harry Harrison Make Room! Make Room!, which is set in 1999. Soylent Green assumes the earth would be too overpopulated for sustainable coexistence by 2022, and put the world’s population calculations at a then-frightening 7 billion people. We hit 7.9 billion in 2021, so hurray for our team, as we are already ahead of the curve!
Heston, who saw man as merely a superior monkeys’ uncle in 1968’s Planet of the Apes, and the earth go zombie in The Omega Man in 1971, had real concerns about overpopulation when he commissioned the script for Soylent Green. During the 1970s, fears of a “population bomb” were rampant, and warnings came from such disparate sources as Public Broadcasting System specials and songs like Jethro Tull’s “Locomotive Breath.” It was a common belief humanity was breeding too much for the natural world’s ability to sustain it.
While Soylent Green underestimated the overall world population of today, it did inflate some of its numbers. In the beginning of the film, we learn that New York City’s population is 40,000,000. Manhattan island might sink under the extra weight before this could happen. But the nightmare was also averted in the interim as fertility rates plummeted on a global scale, and China issued its national one-child policy to counter the growing birth rates which the world found so frightening at the time. Some of the eastern hemisphere is currently facing an aging population crisis because of the efforts to curb youthful sexual enthusiasm.
Soylent Green was one of the first mainstream films to bring climate change into public consciousness. Heston’s character, NYPD detective Thorn, explains how a year-long heatwave created by the greenhouse effect poisoned the water, polluted the soil, decimated plant and animal life, and burned everything up. Only the wealthy can get their hands on real food, especially produce. It is, however, available on the black market. A jar of strawberry jam costs $150. In one very effective scene, Thorn and Sol savor a thin steak, an apple to the core, and a leaf of lettuce.
The food shortage prediction is actually true, depending on economic and geographic factors. Mass production means we make enough foodstuff to feed the entire world population, with a surplus. Yet some people starve and others suffer from obesity. The one-percenters don’t shoot themselves off into the stratosphere in the film’s 2022; they isolate themselves in luxury penthouses.
In the film, Det. Thorn is investigating the murder of Soylent Corporation executive William R. Simonson. The dead man’s safe place includes not only the most deliciously decadent edibles, but it has the latest in post-post-modern “furniture.” That’s what sex slaves to the wealthy are called in the film; and the ever-dazed, tarot card-reading Shirl, played by Leigh Taylor-Young, could service parties in Stanley Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut (or the most insane conspiracy theories of QAnon followers today).
Soylent is one giant corporation which has the power to exacerbate global hunger. It is like Amazon, Wal-Mart and probably Tyson Chicken combined, and the top earners live in protective custodial-ship to the starving masses. Half of New York City is unemployed and living in poverty, and when they take to the streets, it is only slightly more frightening than the militaristic police response to protestors we’ve seen in the past few years. The reason it is more frightening is artistic. It is because the scenario looks so commonplace. The cops don’t mount tanks and urban assault vehicles in Soylent Green. They don’t scoot activists into unmarked minivans. They come in with dump trucks and bulldozers and ship them off in “scoops.”
While all of the footage and futuristic illusions were born of early 1970s cinematic imagination, some of the technological advances are surprisingly familiar. The video game Shirl is playing when we first see her looks remarkably like the Asteroid game Atari would introduce in 1979.
While we don’t have government-sponsored euthanasia clinics, the immersive cinema of the 20-minute nature video Sol drifts off to before being ground up in Soylent Green can be had today in HD, 3D, and 5G. Immersive cinema has gotten smaller, not bigger. The earth, however, still turns on its own axis.
The scene where Tim Van Patten’s character walks Robinson off to his final resting place was the very last scene the legendary actor would ever shoot. He died hours after filming it, according to Patten, of bladder cancer, age 79. His greatest regret was the loss of the world’s natural beauty.
Long shots and aerial views in Soylent Green show a dense cover of smog, burning ash, and other visible airborne contaminants as Hollywood lost its golden sheen in the ‘70s. Fifty years later, the U.S. still gets more than 80 percent of its energy from fossil fuels, and on a clear day, you can see there have been less clear days. In the movie, smoke from forest fires is visible from miles away. The footage from 1973 echoes news clips we currently see every year as fires burn longer and larger in the American west. Science is still ignored. Conglomerates still profit from banking on the promise of soot yet to come.
At the start of the murder investigation in the film, Heston’s detective comes across the top-secret “Soylent Oceanographic Survey Report: 2015 to 2019,” which finds the oceans are dying. This is the reason Soylent steaks are branded with new colors. The main ingredient of Soylent Green is plankton, just like Mr. Krabs’ Krabby Patties on SpongeBob SquarePants. This is sadly coming to pass. Acidification in the ocean is endangering plankton, putting all fish life in peril.
The ominous words “Soylent Green” have appeared on the menu in The Simpsons, Family Guy, and South Park. It has become synonymous with the darkest solution to world hunger, in a world which averted the most dire predictions. This is because the prognosticators behind Soylent Green did not take into account the tech boom, and other advances.
A software engineer named Rob Rhinehart did indeed invent a protein bar called Soylent in 2013, but it didn’t have the green. It was taken off the market three years later. Agricultural technology will make mass-produced lab-grown food available within a generation. It is important to note, however, that while the world has become politically cannibalistic, there are no government-sponsored human meat rendering plants currently waiting for suicidal volunteers.
But it’s 2022, where can I get Soylent Green now?
Believe it or not, a version of Soylent Green is readily available. You can get Soylent Green at D’Agostino or Whole Foods. Harrison’s book describes Soylent steaks as a meat substitute made from soy and lentils. This has not only become true blue American cuisine, it is a burgeoning business. The organic food market yields $61 billion in green every year, and with high-tech domestic vegetable gardens available to order online, you can make Soylent Green at home. You might not want to call it that though. People will think it is people, and people who eat people are not the luckiest people in the world.
Soylent, produced by Soylent Nutrition, Inc., is an American company that produces meal replacement products in powder, shake, and bar forms. The company was founded in 2013 and is headquartered in Los Angeles, California. Originally sold exclusively online in the United States, Soylent has expanded distribution to stores, such as CVS Pharmacy, 7-Eleven, Walgreens, Kroger, Target, and Walmart, and is available in Canada.
Soylent is named after a food in Make Room! Make Room!, a dystopian science fiction novel (which was the basis of the movie Soylent Green) that explores themes of population growth and limited resources. Founder Rob Rhinehart promoted the product as part of global food security and providing a cheap means to consume necessary calories.
The company developed a following initially in Silicon Valley and received early financial backing from GV, the investment arm of Alphabet, Inc., and venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz. In 2021, the company announced it had become profitable starting in 2020.
A Soylent package, along with the powder and resulting drink
In January 2013, American software engineer Rob Rhinehart purchased 35 chemical ingredients—including potassium gluconate, calcium carbonate, monosodium phosphate, maltodextrin, olive oil—all of which he deemed to be necessary for survival, based on his readings of biochemistry textbooks and U.S. government websites. Rhinehart used to view food as a time-consuming hassle and had resolved to treat it as an engineering problem. He blended the ingredients with water and consumed only this drink for the next thirty days. Over the course of the next two months, he adjusted the proportions of the ingredients to counter various health issues and further refined the formula. Rhinehart claimed a host of health benefits from the drink and noted that it had greatly reduced his monthly food bill, which fell from about US$470 to $155, and the time spent behind the preparation and consumption of food while providing him greater control over his nutrition.
Rhinehart’s blog posts about his experiment attracted attention on Hacker News, eventually leading to a crowdfunding campaign on Tilt that raised about $1.5 million in preorders aimed at moving the powdered drink from concept into production. Media reports detailed how operations began for Soylent Nutrition, Inc. in April 2014, using a relatively small $500 system to ship the first $2.6 million worth of product. In January 2015, Soylent received $20 million in Series A round funding, led by venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz.
Soylent is named after a food in Harry Harrison‘s 1966 science fiction novel Make Room! Make Room! In the novel, most types of soylent are made from soy and lentils, hence the name of the product, a combination of “soy” and “lent”. The word also evokes the 1973 film adaptation Soylent Green, in which the eponymous food is made from human remains. Rhinehart also says he chose the name, with its morbid associations, to pique curiosity and deeper investigation, since the name was clearly not chosen with a traditionally “flashy” marketing scheme in mind.
Soylent was only available for purchase and shipment within the United States until June 15, 2015, when the shipping to Canada began. In October 2017, Canada disallowed further shipments of Soylent due to a failure to meet Canadian food regulations on meal replacements. Shipments to Canada resumed in 2020.
In July 2017, Soylent was sold offline for the first time at 7-Eleven stores in and around Los Angeles. By April 2018, Soylent was sold in over 8,000 U.S. 7-Elevens and was available at Walmart, Target, Kroger, and Meijer.
The makers of Soylent claim it contains the nutrients necessary for a healthy lifestyle.
Some people have experienced gastrointestinal problems from consumption of Soylent, particularly flatulence.
Lead and cadmium content
On August 13, 2015, As You Sow filed a notice of intent to pursue a lawsuit against the makers of Soylent, claiming that Soylent was in breach of California’s Proposition 65 for not adequately labelling its product given the levels of lead and cadmium present in the drink. Although Soylent contains levels of lead and cadmium far below the national safety levels set by the FDA, it does contain 12 to 25 times the level of lead and 4 times the level of cadmium permitted in California without additional labeling. A lawyer who has worked on settlements of Proposition 65 suits described the case as “alarmist”, as the levels are well below FDA limits of what is allowed in food products. However, as Soylent is marketed as a complete meal replacement, many customers consume the drinks three times a day, equating to 36 to 75 times the lead and 12 times the level of cadmium without the Prop 65 label.
Soylent’s website displays the Proposition 65 warning required by California. Soylent Nutrition, Inc. published the position that the levels of heavy metal content in Soylent “are in no way toxic, and Soylent remains completely safe and nutritious”. Soylent Nutrition, Inc. also published an infographic and spreadsheet based on an FDA study of heavy metal content in common foods, comparing two selected example meals to servings of Soylent with a similar amount of caloric intake. Both of the company’s chosen comparison meals include high levels of cadmium and arsenic, along with levels of lead similar to those of Soylent; although one of them includes tuna and the other includes salmon, providing over 97% of the arsenic in each proposed meal, with spinach providing 74% of the cadmium in the higher-cadmium meal and fruit cocktail providing 71% of the lead in the higher-lead meal.
In 2016, the company announced it would halt sales of the Soylent Bar due to reports of gastrointestinal illness, including nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. The company asked customers to discard any unconsumed bars and said it would offer full refunds. On October 21, 2016, the company triggered a product recall.
On October 27, 2016, the company also halted sales of Soylent Powder. The company said tests on the bar had not shown contamination but also said that some powder users had reported stomach-related symptoms from consuming the powder.
The company initially suspected soy or sucralose intolerance. However, on November 7, 2016, Soylent instead blamed algal flour for making people sick and said it planned to remove algal flour from future formulations of the powders and bars, which it did in the next formulation version 1.7 introduced on December 15, 2016. The drink-based products use algal oil, not algal flour, so were deemed to be safe for users.
cosmopolitan.com, “The Top 10 Superfoods of 2022 Have Officially Been Announced.” By Olivia Wagner; everydayhealth.com, “15 Superfoods and the Scientific Reasons to Eat Them: ‘Superfood’ is a marketing term, and in reality, the best diet is one that is balanced. But some foods stand out more than others for their sterling nutritional profile.” By Anna Brooks; medicalnewstoday.com, “What are superfoods and why should you eat them?” By Natalie Olsen and Megan Ware; denofgeek.com, “Soylent Green Predicted 2022, Including Impossible Meat Substitutes: Charlton Heston paid for a cannibalistic cautionary tale set in 2022 with Soylent Green, now we can get fries with it.” By Tony Sokol; en.wikipedia.org, “Soylent (meal replacement).” By Wikipedia Editors;