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The Cabbage Soup Diet

The Promise

Fans claim you can drop 10 pounds or more in a week. Some people use it to kick-start their weight loss plan, or to trim a few pounds for a special event.

But before you stock up on cabbage, know that this crash diet won't help you in the long run, and it doesn't give your body the nutrients it needs to stay healthy.

What You Can Eat

Just like the name says, the bulk of this diet is fat-free cabbage soup, eaten two to three times a day with other allowed foods assigned each day. Here's what you can add:

  • Day 1: Fruit, except bananas
  • Day 2: Vegetables like leafy greens (not starchy), but no fruit
  • Day 3: Fruits and vegetables
  • Day 4: Bananas and skim milk
  • Day 5: Beef (or baked chicken without the skin) and tomatoes
  • Day 6: Beef and vegetables
  • Day 7: Brown rice, unsweetened fruit juices, and vegetables

There are different recipes for the soup, which is recommended every day of the diet. They all have similar ingredients, such as tomatoes, green peppers, mushrooms, onions, and bouillon.

Level of Effort: Medium

Limitations: Your menu options are severely limited on this diet. It gets very boring, very quickly. If you want to try it again, it's recommended that you wait 2 weeks first.

Cooking and shopping: Get out your soup pot. You will need to make the cabbage soup and cook some of the vegetables recommended in the plan. Your shopping list will be very short for the week.

Packaged foods or meals? No.

In-person meetings? No.

Exercise: The cabbage soup diet doesn't include exercise, and working out at high levels isn't a great idea on such a low-calorie diet. Your body just won't have enough gas in the tank for exercise.

Does It Allow for Dietary Restrictions or Preferences?

There's not a lot of room to tweak the diet, since it's so rigid.

It is low in fat, because you eat mostly vegetables. But it's not vegetarian or vegan, since some meat is allowed.

What Else You Should Know

Cost: The only cost is for the ingredients, which you buy yourself. Some web sites promoting the diet say you should take a supplement to make up for the nutrients you'll be missing from food.

Support: None. You do this diet on your own.

What Dr. Melinda Ratini Says:

Does It Work?

You'll lose weight, but only in the short run. This is strictly a lose-weight quick scheme.

You'll likely get less than 1,000 calories a day on the limited menu. That's far fewer than the 2,000 daily calories recommended for most adults.

Since you're getting so few calories, the pounds come off quickly, but mostly you'll lose water weight. And chances are, you'll gain it all back as soon as you start eating a normal diet again.

Health experts don't recommend following very low-calorie diets unless you're under a doctor's care. A better bet is to aim to lose 1 to 2 pounds each week on a healthy, well-balanced diet.

Is It Good for Certain Conditions?

Because it includes so few carbs, this diet could wreak havoc with any diabetes treatment plan.

Salt is not addressed on the plan, so if you've been told to cut back on the sodium, you'll have to hold back on using the salt shaker when making the soup or cooking your food.

Since you'll likely regain any weight that you lose, the diet won't have a lasting positive impact on heart disease, cholesterol, or high blood pressure.

The Final Word

Though this diet is fast, cheap, and simple, it's not easy to stick with. It will likely leave you feeling hungry, weak, and bored. You might even feel sick. And if you follow the Cabbage Soup Diet for more than a week, you could run short on key nutrients.

Nor does the diet encourage the necessary lifestyle changes you need to make in order to be healthier and have lasting weight loss.

The drastic weight loss you might experience with The Cabbage Soup Diet can cause health problems and can be dangerous even when it’s done under a doctor’s supervision.

Never start this diet without talking to your doctor first. If she thinks you need a very low-calorie diet, she'll likely show you a much healthier way to go about it.

WebMD Diet A-Z Reviewed by Michael Dansinger, MD on March 27, 2016

Sources

SOURCES:

News release, University of Florida.

Cabbage Soup Diet: "7 Day Plan."

National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI): "Aim for a Healthy Weight."

National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK): "Very Low-calorie Diets."

Columbia University: "Reduced fat and calorie diets: How low is too low?"

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