Is Huel Healthy? What Science Says vs What Users Say
Huel has become the biggest meal replacement brand in the world. They’ve sold over 300 million meals in 100 countries and there are over 2 million “Hueligans” or regular Huel customers that swear by its benefits.
However, the complete food and powdered food concept is somewhat alien to many of us. Can meal replacements be truly healthy? Is Huel healthy? Can it really improve my diet?
In today’s article, we will look at how healthy Huel shakes really are from 3 different points of view:
- Expert review and Dietician review
- A look at Huel from the customer’s and anecdotal experience
- And a view from a scientific standpoint
Ultimately, we will try to answer the question: Is Huel healthy? so that you can consume your Huel meals in peace or start this new journey with no doubts.
Huel Health Claims
Perhaps, before diving into the question of how healthy Huel meal replacement shakes are, we should understand what they claim and how they could help you out.
First of all, the best meal replacement shakes or complete foods provide you with the following benefits:
- Nutritionally complete meals – they contain all the nutrients your body needs according to the current scientific understanding.
- Provide you with nutrients that you are lacking in your diet. These might include, fiber, protein, omega-3, vitamins, and minerals.
- Allergen free. Many complete foods are free of common allergens, such as milk, gluten, soy, nuts, etc.
- Extra nutrients. Besides essential nutrients, our bodies also benefit from phytonutrients, compounds that have key roles in our bodies like antioxidants or anti-inflammatory agents.
According to Huel’s site, consuming Huel meals have over 176 health benefits. These health benefits are due to the nutrients within their meals, like:
- Zinc –> helps with protein synthesis (1), metabolizing vitamin A (2), keeping your bones healthy (3), maintaining healthy hair (4), DNA synthesis (5), carbohydrate breakdown (6), and brain functions (7)…
- Protein –> helps with weight loss (8), reduces appetite (9), increases thermogenesis (10), and helps you build and maintain lean body mass (11)…
- Fiber –> improves your gut microbiome (12), balances cholesterol levels (13), lowers chances of chronic diseases like diabetes type 2 (14)…
These are but some of the health benefits of 3 out of 27 nutrients Huel offers.
Therefore, consuming meal replacement shakes can significantly boost your nutrient intake, and consequently, improve your diet. You will consume more nutrients per calorie than with many other regular foods.
Plus, because you will know how many calories you are drinking, it could also help you lose weight.
In more general and practical terms, here are some benefits Huel will provide you when you switch over:
- Improved your energy levels during the day. Thanks to the low GI, you won’t have any sugar crashes
- Help you manage a healthy weight.
- Help you lose weight. If you wish so, Huel can be a good meal replacement shake for weight loss.
- More regular flow. The high fiber and probiotics will improve your gut microbiome and help you have a more regular flow.
- Helps you build muscle, and strength and achieve your fitness goals. Huel shakes are excellent for muscle building thanks to their high protein content.
- Might improve your health markers (cholesterol levels, blood sugar, triglycerides, etc).
- Increased skin elasticity and hydration.
As discussed, many of these are due to an improved diet, but you will definitely notice them.
Is Huel Healthy By a Dietician
So, getting into the nitty gritty, what do nutrition experts think about Huel? Do they think drinking Huel is healthy?
Of course, the answer will depend on who you ask, but from what we gathered, most nutritionists and dieticians think Huel is a healthy drink.
You will find positive nutritionist Huel reviews on their site:
“As a dietitian, real food is ideal. Huel products have real ingredients, like oats, coconut oil, and pea protein. It is easy to prepare and have on the go. Other products on the market often contain fillers and lack the phyto-chemicals that whole foods or a product like Huel provides.”Michelle Meyer, RD registered dieticiam
“What I love about Huel is its versatility. It provides a comprehensive nutrient profile with a balanced blend of macronutrients along with the complete vitamin and mineral profile. It can be used as a meal for the busy working professional, competitive athlete, or weekend warrior.”Tavis Piattoly, MS, RD, LDN registered dietician
So what about more independent sources?
Nutritionally balanced powdered foods like Huel can be a convenient and useful meal replacement […] For when we are in a hurry, they are preferable to a meal made up of convenient snack foods which may be nutritionally poor and high in fat, sugar and/or salt.”Helen Gardiner, registered dieticial
So most nutritionists agree that Huel is healthy, in particular when compared to most other grab-n-go options and fast foods. That said, they also then recommend substituting 1-2 meals a day, max.
I would suggest that it could be used, if necessary, for up to one or two meals a day, maybe a few times a week, as part of a healthy balanced diet.
Is Huel Healthy from User’s Standpoint
Perhaps Huel’s best track record when it comes to deciding how healthy it is, it’s the anecdotal experience from its users.
They’ve been around since 2014, and they have sold over 300 million meals to over 100 million people. Therefore, it has clearly stood the test of the market. Even though that doesn’t automatically mean Huel is healthy, it clearly shows that it’s not poison or a substance that has any serious side effects.
There are tons of testimonials from Huel users on their forums, blogs, Youtube etc.
More interestingly, there are accounts of people who have used it regularly for years, sporadically, used it to lose weight or as a high-calorie drink to gain weight, and even reports of people who’ve used Huel shakes for all their meals.
The summary is very positive. Most testimonials remark that their bodies took a period of adjustment (mostly due to awful gas issues or “huel farts”), but that Huel has improved their energy levels, mood and bio-markers.
For instance, it’s remarkable the story of Jake, who’s been having Huel regularly since 2017 and has helped him with his irritable bowel syndrome.
Some adventurous people have also done Huel shakes for all their meals. Although this is not recommended by Huel or nutritionists, Huel powder has been designed to provide you with all the nutrients.
As pointed out in our comparison to Ka’chava to Huel, the one issue might be that Huel does not have as many phytonutrients sources (vegetables) and that you might lack some non-essential nutrients and variety in your diet.
Here’s a great rundown from Marc Freccero, who lived off Huel for a month.
Is Huel Healthy, What Does Science Say?
Interstingly, one of the best reports of a group of people living solely of Huel is in a 5-week study promoted by Huel themselves.
Despite the obvious bias of this study, there’s no denying that it was published in the acclaimed peer-reviewed Frontiers in Nutrition.
So what were the main findings of this study?
- Most participants did not eat enough calories during the day, but they still increased their nutrient intake
- Health parameters might have improved due to the energy restriction (body weight, blood glucose levels and cholesterol
- 22 micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) were measured and 5 significantly increased, while 6 significantly decrease. All participants were within recommended levels even if they started above or below.
- The Huel diet significantly increased vitamin B12 levels.
- Total and HDL cholesterol levels were lower for all participants
- Iron and haemoglobin levels improved
- Visceral adipose tissue and waist circumference decreased.
So what is the summary of all this?
These preliminary findings suggest that an intervention solely based on intake of Huel tended to improve overall dietary intake […] with further improvements to markers of cardiometabolic health and nutritional status also noted. The voluntarily elected lower energy intake for participants was seen through the four-week intervention when compared to baseline measurements is likely to have driven improvements in BMI, waist circumference and visceral adipose tissue. Being able to lose weight and maintain adherence to dietary requirements could be useful in the clinical setting and warrants further investigation.Conclusion from the researchers.
TL;DR, Huel based diet could be effective to improve your diet but more research is needed.
Huel Side Effects
Does this mean that Huel dairy-free meal replacement shakes are perfect and have no side effects at all?
Well, no. First of all, nutrition is very personal, therefore Huel might not fit certain individuals.
Furthermore, Huel does contain allergens like gluten or coconut. Huel Black is gluten-free, and the original powder is offered in a gluten-free version, but you need to pay extra.
Besides, one of the main benefits of Huel is being able to consume it regularly so that you can improve your diet. If you don’t like the taste or it does not sit right with you, you will not be able to adhere to Huel and it won’t work for you.
Anyhow, the most common side effects of having Huel are:
- Gas – or Huel farts
- Headaches – rarely reported, but could happen with artificial sweeteners
In very extreme cases, some users have reported skin rashes.
Most of these side effects are due to a radical change in your diet and higher intakes of dietary fiber which affects your gut microbiota and increases flatulence during the first few days. This is a common issue with many meal replacement shakes.
Conclusion – Is Huel Healthy? Yes
By the end of this article, I hope that we have cleared out the answer to the question if Huel shakes are actually healthy.
In summary, Huel is healthy, particularly when you are substituting a nutrient-poor diet for a Huel-based one. Studies have shown that it can improve many health markers including, cholesterol levels, blood sugar levels, and even body weight.
Anecdotal evidence also suggests that a diet that includes Huel can help with mood, energy levels, and even some chronic disease management like IBS.
Taking that into account, it’s worth considering that Huel does not recommend going 100% Huel, and most nutritionists recommend taking Huel as part of a healthy and varied diet.
This is partially due to the importance of having a variety of fruits and vegetables for your phytonutrients intake. That’s why we tend to recommend Huel alternatives like Ka’chava or LYFEfuel to those who can afford it.
More About Huel
We have covered Huel extensively on Latestfuels.
- Huel Review – All the info you need about the brand and their main powder
- Huel Black Review – The low-carb, high protein alternative
- Huel Ready to Drink Review – the best option to have on the go
- Huel Essential Powder Review – the cheapest Huel
- Huel Hot & Savory – warm chewable meals