This is a post summarizing the differences between Huel v3.0 and Huel v3.1, for those of us who eat it for 100% of our calories. Very different concerns exist for us compared to those who have Huel only for breakfast or a few times a week.
I’ll be using the Unflavoured & Unsweetened version for reference whenever it is not mentioned otherwise.
I wish Huel had written this themselves…
Removal of lycopene
Lycopene is not an essential nutrient, it is an antioxidant, There is still a lack of conclusive evidence that lycopene supplementation is beneficial in an already healthful diet. Most of the research is centered around its effect on cholesterol and cancer, specifically prostate cancer. A diet of 100% Huel (even without lycopene) is already beneficial regarding cholesterol and doesn’t contain ingredients frequently associated with causing prostate cancer or some other diet-related cancers.
Additionally, the importance of non-nutrient dietary antioxidants has also not been conclusively established yet, because the human body produces huge amounts of antioxidants itself (uric acid being the most potent one).
If you’re still concerned about lacking antioxidants despite what I wrote, Huel already contains lots of them from the primary ingredients. For any (questionable) additional benefits, only adding lycopene should not be enough to ease your concerns and many other different antioxidants would need to be supplemented.
However, lycopene is not harmful, and its removal from Huel can legitimately be seen as a downgrade. Huel team also did a very poor job where it looked like they were trying to hide its removal because it wasn’t disclosed at first in the changes.
(Some people also have bad reactions to consuming lycopene, so this makes Huel suitable for a larger number of people which is a benefit to the company. It also removes the sometimes seen complains and support burden about there being “streaks of blood” in Huel, which can be offputting to some)
Conclusion: If you eat 100% Huel v3.1, there’s no need to supplement lycopene.
Removal of Bacillus Coagulans
Bacillus Coagulans is not an essential nutrient, it is a probiotic bacteria. There is still a lack of conclusive evidence that probiotic supplementation is beneficial in an already healthful diet. Huel provides lots of fiber and other substances (together known as prebiotics) that promote the growth of beneficial bacteria that already exist in the gut.
Huel has never disclosed how much of this particular strain of bacteria CFUs are present in 2000kcal, however it is very likely below the amount in medical-grade products like VSL#3 (hundreds of billions to trillions per day). There is a lack of evidence that the tiny amount of bacteria in consumer-grade probiotics can have a lasting effect on the massive amount of bacteria already existing in the gut.
Additionally, there are many questions regarding whether the bacteria can survive all the way to the customer for the entire duration until the best before date. On paper, this particular strain is supposed to survive, but Huel has not presented any test results that it was the case in the Huel powder. Good probiotics companies go through great lengths to present test results and try to give guarantees that their products indeed contain the stated amounts of bacteria, the correct strains, and that they survive at that potency for the whole time.
If you’re still concerned about lacking probiotics despite what I wrote, adding only this single strain at undeclared potency should not be sufficient to ease your concerns and many other bacterial strains, in much greater numbers would need to be supplemented.
However, Bacillus Coagulans is not considered harmful for most people, and its removal from Huel can legitimately be seen as a downgrade. Huel team also did a very poor job where they were mixing up terminology about probiotics/prebiotics.
(Some people also have bad reactions to consuming probiotics, so this makes Huel suitable for a larger number of people which is a benefit to the company)
Conclusion: If you eat 100% Huel v3.1, there’s no need to supplement probiotics.
Replacement of acerola cherry with isolated vitamin C
The use of acerola cherry instead of isolated vitamin C was seen by many as an appeal to nature, and wasn’t received well because nothing about consuming Huel can be considered natural anyway.
Acerola cherry is more expensive than isolated vitamin C, and doesn’t provide any additional benefits, it was purely marketing. The vitamin C in the form of L-Ascorbic Acid as present in Huel v3.1, in the stated amounts, is sufficient to stay healthy.
The removal of acerola cherries cannot be legitimately seen as a downgrade.
(An argument could be made for increasing the amount of vitamin C in Huel in general, but that’s not the point of this topic. If you want to increase it yourself, vitamin C powder is very cheap to purchase online and you can add more of it to Huel yourself, with no realistic danger due to its well-known safety profile.)
Conclusion: If you eat 100% Huel v3.1, there’s no need to supplement additional “natural” sources of vitamin C.
Replacement of kombucha with isolated B vitamins
The addition of kombucha was seen by many as an appeal to nature, and wasn’t received well because nothing about consuming Huel can be considered natural anyway.
There is little evidence that kombucha provides any benefits in an already healthful diet. Some of the B vitamins in Huel already come from the primary ingredients like oats, and the additional isolated B vitamins are sufficient to stay healthy.
(Some people also have bad reactions to consuming kombucha, so this makes Huel suitable for a larger number of people which is a benefit to the company. Additionally, it removes concerns and support burden about the presence of alcohol in Huel, likely making it easier to pass the Halal certification)
Conclusion: If you eat 100% Huel v3.1, there’s no need to supplement additional “natural” sources of the B vitamins or consume kombucha.
Increase in sugar
Huel almost doubled the amount of sugar between v3.0 and v3.1. At 2000kcal/day of the U/U powder, it’s an increase from 2.9g to 5.5g, and this change has not been mentioned in the first reveal of v3.1.
This likely comes from the increase in the amount of tapioca in Huel (and the change from Tapioca Flour to Tapioca Starch). Tapioca contains no important nutrients, it simply makes Huel smoother if you want to shake it and not blend it. This goes a little against Huel mission statement “Nutrition first, taste a close second”.
However, sugar is not harmful per se, the biggest issue is its overconsumption, which doesn’t happen when eating Huel for 100% of daily calories. The other ingredients in Huel noticeably slow down any blood sugar spikes too, and the glycemic index should still be favorable.
(An argument can be made that even this increase in sugar content can have negative effects on teeth health, and that lower sugar is always better for overall health too)
Conclusion: If you eat 100% Huel v3.1, the increase in the amount of sugar is not something to worry about yet, but this trend needs to be carefully watched.
Decrease in salt
Using U/U powder for reference, at 2000kcal/day the amount of salt has decreased from 3.6g to 2.5g. This corresponds to a decrease in sodium from 1440mg to 1000mg.
Salt (sodium) is an essential nutrient, and the amounts present in Huel v3.1 are already in the range where negative health effects can be observed in some people.
Fortunately, salt is very cheap and trivial to purchase, and you can add it to Huel yourself. However, you need to be careful with measuring it so that you don’t add too much.
(An argument could be made that this makes Huel no longer complete nutrition)
Conclusion: If you eat 100% Huel v3.1, you must consider supplementing salt because Huel may no longer contain sufficient amounts for you depending on your lifestyle and genetics.
Increase in protein
Huel stated an increase in protein in v3.1, however using U/U as reference, it is just an increase from 146g to 150g at 2000kcal/day. An increase of 4g/day is hardly noticeable and is clearly just a marketing attempt to make v3.1 look better.
Huel already contains enough protein to enable maximum muscle synthesis if muscle building is your goal.
Any possible concerns about large protein consumption do not change between 146g to 150g of protein per day.
Conclusion: If you eat 100% Huel v3.1, an increase of 4g of protein per day is negligible.
The decrease in caffeine in the coffee-flavored Huel
The amount of caffeine has decreased from 88mg per 100g to 34mg per 100g of Huel. This is a significant decrease.
I don’t personally consume this flavor of Huel. If you want more caffeine, then caffeine pills are a very cheap option to increase caffeine consumption without having to spend time preparing coffee yourself or increasing coffee intake (and likely additional sugar/milk if that’s how you’d consume it).
Replacement of oats with oat flour
It hasn’t been mentioned by Huel what this change means, if anything. It may simply be a change in how they describe the ingredients, or they may have found a cheaper supplier of oat flour instead of having to grind the whole oats themselves. Clarification from Huel team would be appreciated.
Addition of guar gum
This hasn’t been mentioned by Huel yet, however it is a very typical stabilizer/thickener with no negative health effects as long as you drink Huel with sufficient water.
This is also probably the explanation for the increase in fiber from 36g to 39g at 2000kcal/day. More soluble fiber is generally a good thing, unless it reaches very high amounts, and this isn’t a very high amount.
Conclusion: If you eat 100% Huel v3.1, the addition of guar gum is of no concern, and this slight increase in fiber can be beneficial.
Removal of zeaxanthin
It hasn’t actually been removed, it’s likely omitted from the ingredients list at The Huel Powder Formula Explained as a mistake. You can’t see it listed in the ingredients like in v3.0, but it is still listed in the Additional Information section for every v3.1 flavor.
It’s unlikely that zeaxanthin comes from the primary ingredients in Huel, so it should be listed in the ingredients if it is specifically added to Huel.
Can the Huel team please fix this?
Conclusion: Huel needs to have someone proof-read everything.
Decreases in the amounts of micronutrients
The decreases in Vitamin K, Phosphorus, Magnesium, Molybdenum, Choline are negligible, all are still contained in sufficient amounts at 2000kcal/day to maintain health.
Conclusion: If you were not concerned about the amounts of micronutrients before, you shouldn’t be concerned with the amounts now.
Decrease in omega-3, increase in omega-6
The decrease in omega-3 from 19g to 15g at 2000kcal/day can be a source of worry, because Huel contains no EPA/DHA and so they can only be converted (inefficiently) from ALA.
Omega-6 decreases the conversion rate too (because both omega-3 and omega-6 compete for the same pathway), and in Huel v3.1 the amount of omega-6 has increased from 17g to 18g at 2000kcal/day.
However, some believe that in the absence of dietary consumption of EPA/DHA, while eating a diet containing ALA, the conversion is upregulated to maintain an adequate EPA/DHA status. The research is however inconclusive.
The research about the ideal omega-3:omega-6 ratio is also inconclusive, though generally tending to somewhere in the region of 1:1
The decrease in omega-3 can legitimately be seen as a downgrade however.
Conclusion: You might want to look into EPA/DHA supplementation, there are some algae based ones, however many people report being unable to handle the taste.
Addition of faba bean protein
I don’t know what effect this will have, we’ll only know in a few months at best.
There are some concerns about Glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase deficiency (G6PDD), but I don’t know if it is a concern for isolated faba bean protein. Some people might discover that they have this genetic mutation thanks to Huel.
Huel v3.1 is still suitable for a 100% diet if you’re careful about it.
Huel team did a poor job with many mistakes (such as claiming removal of calcium methylfolate, not mentioning some changes, pre/probiotic confusion) during initial reveal of v3.1, which is not something I’d expect from a professional company that has been on the market for many years. We need to watch them in the future to make sure this doesn’t indicate lack of care about what they present and produce.