What is the Cabbage Soup Diet?

Cabbage is a healthful, low calorie food, but it doesn't "burn fat" or lead to weight loss any better than other foods you might consume in a typical calorie-controlled diet.. Image: www.fruitsandveggiesmatter.gov

Question: What is the Cabbage Soup Diet?


The Cabbage Soup Diet is a fad diet popularized many years ago, and again in the 1990s via the Internet. The diet requires its users to eat cabbage soup several times a day and is highly restrictive in that it only allows a few other low-calorie foods each day in addition to the soup. The plan is intended to be followed for no more than seven days. The Cabbage Soup Diet is a highly restrictive diet that requires the consumption of cabbage soup several times daily with the addition of a few specified low-calorie foods.

It was passed along via word-of-mouth for many years and again became popular in the early days of the Internet when it was posted on message boards. It is essentially just a very low-calorie diet.

Since the diet is so low in calories, it states clearly that it is to be followed for no longer than seven days. The diet promises a 10-pound weight loss by the end of that week.

What is the Cabbage Soup Diet Like?

The only clear guidelines most versions of the diet provide is a list of specific foods to eat each day in addition to cabbage soup. Every day the dieter must consume multiple bowls of fat-free cabbage soup (the recipe is provided) and a selected group of low-calorie food choices. (This includes small amounts of fat-free milk, fruit, vegetables and lean meat, depending on the version of the plan.) Meals must be prepared and consumed in the home since it would be difficult to order the foods required on the plan at a restaurant.

What are the Drawbacks of the Cabbage Soup Diet?

Monotony is a huge drawback with the Cabbage Soup Diet. Not many people like cabbage soup enough to actually enjoy it once a day for an entire week, much less four times! A typical day includes cabbage soup and unlimited fruit while another day allows cabbage soup and bananas with skim milk.

When protein is allowed, it's limited to a small total amount -- such as 16 ounces -- for the entire day.

In addition to being very difficult to adhere to, the diet plan is not based on any nutritional or medical benefits. There is no scientific proof that cabbage or cabbage soup has any of the "fat burning" properties that are often touted in the diet's description.

The plan offers no advice on dealing with emotional eating or developing skills that are required for long-term weight loss such as changing eating habits or controlling portions once the plan has ended.

Another drawback for many people is the flatulence and possible stomach upset that the constant consumption of the cabbage soup can bring on.

Most versions of the diet typically do not include any advice on exercise. What's more, it's unlikely that anyone following a plan like this would have enough energy to exercise due to the low-calorie intake.

The Dangers of the Cabbage Soup Diet

What is of most concern is that many versions of the diet barely allow 1,200 calories a day, which is the minimum amount of calories that anyone can safely consume.

(The calorie count in some versions of the plan is so low that they could be considered a fast rather than a diet.) No one should follow a diet plan under 1,200 calories, and any plan providing so few calories should be avoided. Doing so could lead to serious health issues.

It's the extremely low-calorie intake that is responsible for the weight loss experienced in this short time. The main drawback of losing this much weight, this quickly, is that most of the weight is not in fact fat, but water. As soon as cabbage soup dieters return to normal eating, they gain all of the weight back (plus more, most likely).

The Bottom Line on the Cabbage Soup Diet

This plan is not feasible for most people and is of little to no use to someone who has more than a couple pounds to lose. Even worse, many versions of the Cabbage Soup Diet could be unsafe. Please talk to your doctor before beginning this or any other restrictive diet plan.

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