There's nothing wrong with eating cabbage soup if you enjoy it, but is it a good way to safely lose weight? Here’s what to know about the cabbage soup diet before giving it a go—and of course, it's best to get the green light from your doctor first, too.
What is the cabbage soup diet?
“The cabbage soup diet is basically a seven-day diet where you mainly consume cabbage soup two or three times a day with other allowed foods from the diet’s list on specific days of the week,” says Vandana Sheth, RDN, CDCES, FAND and author of My Indian Table: Quick & Tasty Vegetarian Recipes. The diet allows lots of cabbage (lots!), some other non-starchy vegetables and fruit, beef, baked chicken, brown rice, and unsweetened fruit juices.
Cabbage soup is generally made with a tomato-based broth, cabbage and other vegetables, like carrots and onions. “It’s really low in calories and basically just a broth soup. No one really knows where The Cabbage Soup Diet originated, but most sources say to follow it for seven days,” says Natalie Rizzo, MS, RD.
Besides having cabbage soup two or three times a day you can include these items per day, respectively:
Day 1: fruit except bananas
Day 2: no fruit allowed but can include vegetables—leafy greens preferred
Day 3: fruits and vegetables allowed except potatoes and bananas
Day 4: can include skim milk and banana
Day 5: baked chicken without skin or beef and up to six tomatoes are allowed
Day 6: beef and vegetables allowed, but no potatoes
Day 7: can include beef, rice, unsweetened fruit juices and vegetables
How to make cabbage soup:
You can create variations of the soup, but here is a basic recipe:
1/2 a large cabbage (torn into large pieces)
1 bunch of celery cut into small pieces
2 onions, diced
1-2 green bell peppers, sliced
3 carrots cut into bite-size pieces
8 ounces of mushrooms cut into bite-sized pieces
2 cans of diced tomatoes (choose low sodium, if possible to cut back on salt and fight bloat)
2 garlic cloves diced
Your choice of dried herbs
12 cups of water
Bring all the ingredients to a simmer in a large pot and cook on low for two hours total.
Does the cabbage soup diet help you lose weight?
This is basically a low calorie and high fiber diet so it may help with short-term weight loss, says Sheth. "However, it is too restrictive, and does not adequately provide all the nutrients we need,” says Sheth. “It is actually a fad diet rather than a sustainable way of eating."
However, if you lose a lot of muscle mass because of restrictive diets your metabolism may decrease, so it’s best to lose weight slowly by eating a variety of healthy foods, “I encourage my clients to incorporate more produce and protein at all eating opportunities rather than try fad diets to promote health and wellness,” Sheath explains.
And Rizzo agrees, saying, “I do not believe in fad or crash diets, and I believe the Cabbage Soup Diet to be just that." Plus, eating three bowls of cabbage soup a day is likely to put you under 1,000 total calories, which will result in extreme weight loss. Plus, the large amount of fiber may be uncomfortable and cause excessive gas.
This is essentially the same as going on a juice cleanse or fasting—both of which can be unsustainable, Rizzo adds. “Losing weight this quickly doesn’t promote healthy behavior change, which is the real key to successful weight loss. People who starve themselves on these types of diets tend to gain the weight back quickly and develop and unhealthy relationship with food and dieting,” Rizzo cautions.
Your best bet? Ditch this diet and enjoy cabbage soup for a whenever you want, rather than thinking it's the only meal you can eat.
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