The Cabbage Soup Diet
There is no single Cabbage Soup Diet. Many versions of this very limited diet have been around for years. A few books have documented different variations of this simple, anonymously written diet plan, which surprisingly has survived the test of time.
The Cabbage Soup Diet is a strict list of what to eat each day for a week. Of course, cabbage soup is the main item. A few other low-calorie foods are also on the list.
You're only supposed to do a week at a time. Still, because the menu is so limited, you may get bored. And because you won't make any lasting changes in your eating habits, you may go right back to your old habits afterward.
The Cabbage Soup Diet: What You Can Eat
The seven-day Cabbage Soup Diet plan includes two daily bowls of fat-free cabbage soup and a short list of fruit, vegetables, skim milk, and meat. The plan encourages drinking plenty of water and avoiding alcohol.
The cabbage soup recipe varies slightly among different versions of the diet. But it basically includes cabbage and assorted low-calorie vegetables such as onions and tomatoes, and is flavored with onion soup mix, bouillon, and tomato juice.
The Cabbage Soup Diet: How It Works
The Cabbage Soup Diet has so few calories that people will lose weight rapidly on the week-long plan. There is nothing magical about cabbage or cabbage soup that fosters weight loss. It's the low-calorie nature of the diet plan that does the trick.
The problem is that most of the weight lost comes from fluids, not fat, and you'll get it back when you start eating normally.
There are two other big issues: boredom and not enough nutrition.
First, boredom: Are you OK with eating virtually the same foods every day for a week?
More importantly, the calories on the plan are dangerously low (approximately 800-1,050) calories per day. Experts agree that any diet under 1,200 calories per day is unsafe unless you're under a doctor's care. It's almost impossible to get all the nutrients you need and satisfy hunger in so few calories. A bottomless bowl of cabbage soup, along with a restricted list of allowed foods, doesn't give your body the nourishment you need each day.
"It is a monotonous, short-term fix, severely lacking in nutrients, which will result in a weight loss that is primarily water and not the essential fat loss that is so important to improving health," says Connie Diekman, MEd, RD, director of university nutrition at Washington University in St. Louis.
Diekman worries that diets like the Cabbage Soup Diet keep people in the "yoyo" cycle of losing and regaining weight.
As a registered dietitian, she urges dieters to find another plan that is balanced, varied, and includes regular physical activity. The only positive aspect of the Cabbage Soup Diet plan is that it may get people to eat more vegetables, Diekman says.