I pride myself on taking a scientific view of the world; I’m the last person you’ll find playing fixed odds gambling machines, engaging in Astrology, or paying off my student loan (yes that’s right!).
So when Jonny, my prolific fad dieting friend, came raving to me about Huel, a new powdered food he was now taking instead of eating breakfast and lunch which contains “everything the body needs”, I assumed my usual logical position. I argued that processed foods have been linked to obesity and cancer, that dried foods were less nutritious and that refined foods caused energy slumps and Diabetes. I regurgitated these ‘facts’ based on the countless articles I’ve passively read on nutrition over the years. I say passive as I’ve never actively set out to understand the science behind the articles which appear in the press on a near daily basis.
Jonny takes a more straightforward approach to his decision making. In general he doesn’t care about evidence, he’ll try any new product and if he perceives a benefit, regardless of whether it’s just the placebo effect, he’ll continue to buy it.
As I began to dig into the science behind my nutritional beliefs, they quickly began to fall apart.
Under normal circumstances this would probably have been the end of the discussion – we’d have agreed to disagree and moved on. However, on this occasion Jonny invited the co-creator and CEO of Huel, Julian Hearn, to be a guest on the Version 3.0 podcast which we host. Ahead of recording the podcast I undertook some research to substantiate my views; my main concern was ensuring I could backup my opinion if locked in an argument with Julian about his product. But this is when something unexpected happened.
As I began to dig into the science behind my nutritional beliefs, 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”. I found that my views on dried and refined foods were equally misinformed. I was not only shocked at how wrong my views were, but also at the misalignment between scientific opinion and the media interpretation.
Aside from the above, I still believe there’s a risk in claiming any product is a comprehensive, one fits all solution. The human body is an extremely complex machine meaning we always need to employ a certain level of caution when making decisions about our diet, but at the end of the day my preconceptions about Huel were ill-founded. Huel aside, I just hope that when Jonny inevitably comes and tells me about his next food fad I can be a little more open minded.
Listen to the full conversation below/