Huel Review: Are Meal Replacement Shakes Unhealthy?

Huel Review: Are Meal Replacement Shakes Unhealthy?


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Huel is one of the most popular meal replacement products. It's a powder that can be mixed into water or other liquids, and the brand describes their product as "nutritionally complete" and "the no-prep meal that doesn't compromise on your health."

But is Huel actually healthy or are these just marketing claims? What ingredients are actually in Huel? Are there any questionable filler ingredients like artificial flavors? And how do real users rate the taste and effects?

In this article we'll answer all of these questions and more as we review the ingredients in Huel Powder v3.0 based on medical research to give our take on whether the product is a healthy meal replacement option or if it's a waste of money.

We'll also review some of Huel's other products like Huel Black and Huel bars, explain which retailer has the best prices on Huel, and share real, unsponsored customer reviews of Huel products.

Ingredient Analysis - Is Huel Unhealthy?

Huel Powder v3.0 ingredients

Huel Powder v3.0 comes in a variety of flavors. The ingredients in the unsweetened and unflavored version are shown above, and this is the version we recommend to consumers planning to purchase from Huel. 

The brand's flavored powders contain sucralose which is an artificial sweetener. This ingredient was shown in a clinical trial published in the Nutrition Journal to have negative effects on blood sugar and insulin levels.

Oats and flaxseed are the only whole foods in this blend, and are both relatively nutrient-dense and healthy ingredients. One serving of Huel Powder provides 7 grams (g) of fiber according to the Nutrition Facts label, which is higher than most meal replacement powders we've reviewed, and fiber intake is associated with weight loss in medical research

Pea protein and brown rice protein are the main protein sources in this blend, and each serving contains 30 g of protein which is a relatively high dose and is enough to maximize muscle gain post-workout.

Sunflower oil is a less-ideal choice than extra virgin olive oil in our opinion for the fats portion of the blend, as a clinical trial on animals found that sunflower oil may cause more DNA damage than olive oil due to its polyunsaturated fats. 

The remaining ingredients in Huel are a blend of added vitamins and minerals like niacin and vitamin B6

While it makes sense for a meal replacement product to contain supplemental vitamins and minerals, to ensure that consumers who only use this meal replacement rather than eating whole foods get adequate levels of those nutrients, we generally recommend avoiding food products with added vitamins and minerals.

As we referenced in our review of the Feel Great System (another diet program containing supplemental vitamins and minerals), taking high levels of vitamins and minerals without a documented deficiency may cause blood levels of those nutrients to increase to unhealthy levels.

As a few examples, a day's worth of Huel provides 291% of the Daily Value (DV) of selenium, 244% of the DV of copper and 411% of the DV of molybdenum.

One benefit of this formulation is that it's free of unhealthy additive ingredients like artificial sweeteners and artificial flavors.

Overall we do not consider Huel Powder v3.0 to be particularly healthy, but we don't consider it to be unhealthy either. Healthiness exists on a spectrum and this is a better formulation than most meal replacement products we've reviewed on Illuminate Health.

We don't recommend the product due to the inclusion of added vitamins and minerals, and because we generally recommend eating whole foods for the majority of the diet.

Real, Unsponsored Huel User Review

A YouTube creator named "Miss Sarah E K" has a popular Huel review that includes taste tests, a product demonstration, an unboxing, and an overall review of nearly every Huel product:

Where to Buy Huel for the Best Price

Here's a price breakdown for two packs of Huel Powder v3.0 at the time of updating this article (consumers must buy a minimum of two packs on the brand's website which is why we chose this amount).

Amazon: $97.99 (link to official Amazon listing)

Brand website: $83.34

For consumers interested in just the Huel powder, the brand website currently has the best price. The Amazon listing is a "Starter Kit" that comes with a branded shaker and scooper.

Huel also offers discount codes on a Savings page on their website.

Can You Live Off Huel for a Month Straight?

A YouTube creator named "Hooper's Beta" tried using Huel as his only source of nutrition for 30 days, putting the "meal replacement" marketing to the test. He shares side effects he experienced, discusses the practice with a dietitian and even documents strength training gains at the gym while on the Huel diet:

Are Other Huel Products Better?

Huel Black Edition has a very similar formulation to Huel Powder. The main differentiator is the macronutrient ratios, with Huel Black containing 50% fewer carbs and 33% more protein than Huel Powder.

From a health perspective, these macronutrient differences don’t really make a difference in healthy individuals. We don't believe that protein intake of 40 g per serving is necessary, but it's not harmful either.

Huel Black contains green tea extract which is an ingredient we recommend avoiding when the dose isn't listed (as it isn't in this product). As we documented in our ProbioSlim reviews article, it's been shown in clinical studies that green tea extract at high doses can cause liver damage. For this reason, we would recommend Huel Powder v3.0 over Huel Black.

Huel Ready-to-drink only comes in flavored versions and also contains added sugar. We consider this product line less healthy than Huel's powder formulations.

Huel Bars contain flavoring agents and some contain added sugar, so again we would recommend Huel's powder products over these.

Our Clean Meal Replacement Recommendation

We recommend Bulletproof Collagen Powder as a meal replacement option both for formulation and price reasons.

First, let's discuss the formulation: Bulletproof's collagen powder only contains one single ingredient: collagen protein sourced from grass-fed animals. No questionable additives at all.

Bulletproof's product costs $43.95 and provides 25 servings, which equates to a per-serving price of $1.76. Huel Powder v3.0 costs $83.34 and contains 34 servings, which equates to a per-serving price of $2.45.

As the core structural protein in skin, supplemental collagen is also clinically proven to reduce visible signs of skin aging like wrinkles, which is a secondary benefit not offered by other types of protein like whey.

Interested consumers can check out Bulletproof Collagen Powder at this link to the product page on the brand's official website.

Neither Huel nor Bulletproof contains as many calories as a full meal, but a protein shake free of additive ingredients is a satiating, energizing and healthy option for when you're on-the-go.

Stay up-to-date on our research reviews

Conclusion

Huel makes decently formulated meal replacement products. We don't currently recommend any Huel products because of the added vitamins and minerals (some of which we consider to be included at too high of a dose), but we do consider this brand to be healthier than most meal replacement brands. 

For consumers intent on trying Huel, the unsweetened and unflavored version of Huel Powder v3.0 is the healthiest option in our opinion. It's free of any questionable additive ingredients other than the vitamin and mineral blend. It's currently cheaper to purchase this product on the brand's website than on Amazon.

Some other Huel products contain questionable additive ingredients like flavoring agents and added sugar.

A decent number of online customer reviews of Huel mention an unpleasant taste.




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