Can one product really contain everything the body needs?

Powdered plant based foods claiming to contain everything the body needs are hitting the market, and if the companies behind them have their way you’ll soon be mixing up your nutritionally compete matrix style gruel for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Not an overly appealing thought but this is certainly the vision of Julian Hearn, the co-creator and CEO of a company behind one of these products. Julian is driven by both the potential health and environmental benefits this type of diet could deliver.

The environmental argument is pretty clear cut. Powdered foods have a long shelf life and use very little packaging meaning there’s likely to be less thrown in the trash. These products also tend to be vegan which can’t be a bad thing given that meat production accounts for more carbon emissions than all the road vehicles, trains and planes worldwide.

The health aspects are less clear. We’re constantly bombarded with news stories telling us that processed foods are linked to obesity and cancer, that dried foods are less nutritious, and that refined foods cause energy slumps and, in the long term, diabetes. But when you dig into the science behind these headlines, they quickly began to fall apart. Yes, in general processed foods are bad for us; most of them contain high levels of fat, salt and sugar, but does the act of processing food, by definition, produce unhealthy food? Almost certainly not. As the food critic Jay Rayner put it in an article for the Guardian, even Pork Belly from a high quality restaurant is processed “Count the stages: the sautéing, the deglazing, the braising, the cooling, the wrapping, the pressing, the cutting, the grilling”. The articles on dried and refined foods are as equally misinformed. On all these subjects the misalignment between scientific opinion and the media interpretation is staggering.

The human body is of course an extremely complex machine meaning there’s a danger in claiming any single product can be a nutritionally complete superfood, but at the end of the day a lot of our preconceptions about food are simply wrong.

In episode 6 of Version 3.0 we talk with Julian Hearn about the future of food, the challenges we face feeding an ever expanding population and whether powdered foods will play a part. Listen to the full episode of Version 3.0 here.