After assessing the discussion here and here, I’d like to revisit the benefits/downsides of an Oat + [Something] mixture as Huel’s primary ingredient. Isomaltulose specifically is argued for here, but I’m open to other candidates.
Proposition: an oat and isomaltulose mix gives us the best of both worlds, and avoids unnecessary risks.
The nature of the mixture:
- enough oats to cover the manganese and iron requirement (whichever is higher)
- use isomaltulose for the rest, and supplement micronutrients etc. as needed
Though it seems counterintuitive, it’s better to get the majority of the energy in “pure” form (and be nutritionally deprived). The reason is we know exactly what we’re getting: a disaccharide carbohydrate in the case of Isomaltulose. There’s no risk, but also no gain, and that’s the basis for my argument.
Natural foods are known to be great, but only as part of a varied diet. Too much of anything is bad, as the saying goes. A Huel based diet has far more oats than a “balanced, varied diet”. We don’t know if oats are good in these higher quantities, or in isolation. Most arguments for using natural foods falsely assume this.
Consider, for example, that oats may contain some unknown nutrients. These may be healthy in a varied diet, but Huel may be overdosing these as it contains much more oat than is normally consumed. Who knows what the long-term effects of that are?
As another example, oats may have an unknown harmful substance (let’s call it X). Maybe a varied diet has small enough quantities of X that there’s no visible effect, or perhaps other elements of a varied diet mitigate X (how vitamin C counteracts phytic acid, for example). A Huel based diet possibly contains too much X or doesn’t contain the ‘antidote’. Again, we can’t know, because this is unknown.
Generally speaking: any argument that appeals to the unknown is double-edged. Unknown good, sure, but what about the unknown bad? Just because oats are natural doesn’t mean they’re good. We only have the certainty of safety in normal doses in varied diets. We don’t know in the case of Huel, it’s but a blind risk.
And seeing as oats are already overdosing what we do know (manganese, iron, phytic acid), I don’t have confidence in the unknown aspect of oats.
Isomaltulose, on the other hand, is a particular molecule that is well understood. We know exactly how it’s digested and how the body handles it (see this review). We know it contains no nutritional value (downside), but we also know it contains no nutritional risk (upside).
Personally, I’d give up the potential benefit of too many oats if it meant avoiding the potential bad. Huel should have some oats, but the current quantity carries risks not worth taking. The well-understood, low-risk route of primarily using Isomaltulose is, in my opinion, the better option.
N.B. the GI wouldn’t change much, either, seeing as Isomaltulose is 32.