Cabbage Soup Diet: Scrutinizing The Soup-Centric Weight Loss Strategy

Many people are looking for a short-term weight loss diet or at least a way to lose weight quickly.

After all, if you have a lot of weight to lose, it can be difficult to stay patient and lose weight in a steady but controlled fashion.

The Cabbage Soup Diet is an extremely restrictive fad diet intended for short-term quick weight loss.

In this diet guide, we will discuss what the Cabbage Soup Diet plan involves, how to follow it, the principles behind this meal plan, and potential Cabbage Soup Diet benefits and drawbacks.

Let’s jump in!

Cabbage soup.

What Is the Cabbage Soup Diet Plan?

The Cabbage Soup Diet is a rapid weight loss diet designed to be followed for a short time—usually one week—rather than sustained as a lifestyle eating pattern.

The Cabbage Soup diet weight loss plan has been around for decades, coming in and out of popularity since the early 1980s.

The genesis of the Cabbage Soup diet remains somewhat elusive.

However, you may hear the Cabbage Soup diet plan referred to as the Sacred Heart Diet or the Mayo Clinic Diet because early diet proponents tried to claim that these world-class hospitals developed this plan as a weight loss diet for patients preparing for bariatric surgeries. 

However, both institutions have denied any association with the Cabbage Soup diet plan for weight loss.

As the name suggests, the Cabbage Soup meal plan consists almost entirely of homemade cabbage soup with few additional options besides skim milk, non-starchy vegetables, and fruits.

For this reason, it is extremely restrictive, is not a balanced diet as it does not provide a balanced mix of macronutrients or micronutrients, and does not provide an adequate number of calories or nutrients to be safe, sustainable, or healthy.

Cabbage.

How Much Weight Can You Lose On The 7 Day Cabbage Soup Diet?

Proponents of the Cabbage Soup diet plan claim that you can lose up to 10 pounds (4.5 kilograms) in seven days.

Generally, advocates of the Cabbage Soup diet plan suggest that you use it as a kickstart to a longer-term weight loss diet or suggest trying the Cabbage Soup diet plan for a rapid, short-term way to “slim down“ prior to an event.

This is because even people who recommend the Cabbage Soup diet plan understand that it should never be followed as a long-term dietary pattern.

What Can I Eat On the Cabbage Soup Diet?

The Cabbage Soup diet consists almost entirely of homemade cabbage soup.

Because you will eat numerous bowls of cabbage soup for up to seven days, it is recommended that you make homemade cabbage soup in bulk and then portion it out for your meals rather than make individual bowls for every day.

Cabbage.

Although you will see slightly different weight loss cabbage soup recipes, here is a general cabbage soup weight-loss diet recipe:

Cabbage Soup Diet Recipe

Ingredients:

  • 1-2 large heads of white cabbage or about 5 cups cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 2 large white onions diced
  • 4 cloves garlic crushed and minced
  • 2 green bell peppers
  • 2 15-ounce cans of no salt added diced tomatoes. Do not drain the liquid.
  • 1 bunch of celery or 6-8 stalks
  • 3 carrots peeled
  • 1 12-ounce package of mushrooms 
  • 8 cups of low-sodium vegetable broth or chicken broth
  • Salt and black pepper to taste
  • Optional fennel seeds, basil, or oregano

Directions:

  1. Chop all vegetables into 1-inch cubes.
  2. Add all of the ingredients to a large pot and bring them to a boil.
  3. Reduce to medium heat. 
  4. Let the cabbage soup simmer for 30-40 minutes or until the vegetables are tender, about 30–45 minutes.
  5. Season to taste.

How Do You Follow the Cabbage Soup Diet Plan?

There are several 7-day cabbage soup diet plans for weight loss.

While cabbage soup makes up the bulk of what you can eat on all of the most common 1 week cabbage soup meal plans, most iterations also allow for a few other low-calorie foods on certain days.

Here is an example of a 7-day cabbage soup diet weight loss meal plan:

Cooked cabbage.

Day 1:

Eat as many servings of homemade cabbage soup and low-sugar fruits such as berries, melon, grapefruit, plums, apples, pears, oranges as you would like. No bananas are allowed.

Drink at least 8 glasses of water or other unsweetened tea.

Day 2:

Eat as much homemade cabbage soup and non-starchy vegetables as you would like. Cooked greens such as spinach, kale, beet greens, and collard greens are preferred.

You can also have all of the raw or cooked low-carb veggies like broccoli, cauliflower, asparagus, celery, cucumbers, zucchini, peppers, radishes, and mushrooms as you would like. Avoid peas, potatoes, corn, winter squash, and beans.

Drink at least 8 glasses of water or other unsweetened tea.

Day 3:

Combine the meal plans for days 1 and 2 so you can have as much soup, fruit, and non-starchy vegetables as you would like. However, you cannot have potatoes, corn, peas, beans, or bananas.

Drink at least 8 glasses of water or other unsweetened tea.

A person drinking a glass of milk.

Day 4:

Enjoy unlimited cabbage soup and skim milk.

Drink at least 8 glasses of water or other unsweetened tea.

Day 5:

You are allowed to eat 10–20 ounces (280–567 grams) of beef, chicken, or fish and up to six fresh tomatoes. Eat as much cabbage soup as you would like.

Drink at least 8 glasses of water.

Day 6:

You can have unlimited soup, non-starchy vegetables (leafy greens are preferred), and another portion of lean protein such as fish, chicken, or lean beef.

Day 7:

You can have cabbage soup, non-starchy vegetables, unsweetened fruit juice, and brown rice.

Is the Cabbage Soup Diet Good for Weight Loss and Health?

Overall, the Cabbage Soup Diet is not a safe, sustainable, or healthy weight loss diet.

However, there are a couple of potential Cabbage Soup Diet health benefits, including the following:

A person drinking water.

#1: Weight loss

Because the Cabbage Soup Diet is a very low-calorie diet and puts the average adult into a significant caloric deficit, you will lose weight.1Weight Loss Depends on Less Calories, Not Nutrient Mix. (2015, May 22). National Institutes of Health (NIH). https://www.nih.gov/news-events/nih-research-matters/weight-loss-depends-less-calories-not-nutrient-mix

‌The Cabbage Soup eating plan calories are a little hard to estimate because there isn’t a set cabbage soup recipe, and you can have unlimited fruits, vegetables, and soup. Therefore, people will consume a different number of calories on the Cabbage Soup Diet.

However, health experts estimate that the first several days of the meal plan provide about 1,000 calories per day. As you add meat, the calories increase to approximately 1,200 per day. This represents a significant caloric deficit for most people.2Navaro, D. A., Raz, O., Gabriel, S., Shriqui, V. K., Gonen, E., & Boaz, M. (2017). Functional Foods in fad diets: A review. Functional Foods in Health and Disease7(9), 702. https://doi.org/10.31989/ffhd.v7i9.346

‌#2: Easy to Follow

The Cabbage Soup Diet meal plan is easy to follow. You don’t have to count calories, and there is a very structured routine.

#3: Healthy Foods

Cabbage is high in dietary fiber and may help regulate insulin levels.3Uuh‐Narvaez, J. J., & Segura‐Campos, M. R. (2021). Cabbage ( Brassica oleracea var. capitata ): A food with functional properties aimed to type 2 diabetes prevention and management. Journal of Food Science86(11), 4775–4798. https://doi.org/10.1111/1750-3841.15939

The other foods on the 7-day Cabbage Soup Diet meal plan are mainly fruits and vegetables, which are high in antioxidants.

#4: Whole Foods

The Cabbage Soup Diet meal plan is free of ultra processed foods and highly refined ingredients.4National Institutes of Health. (2019, June 4). Eating highly processed foods linked to weight gain. National Institutes of Health (NIH). https://www.nih.gov/news-events/nih-research-matters/eating-highly-processed-foods-linked-weight-gain

Chopped cabbage.

Are There Any Risks Associated With The Cabbage Soup Diet?

‌However, despite the potential benefits of the Cabbage Soup Diet plan for weight loss, there are many inherent problems with the Cabbage Soup Diet.

  • It does not provide a sufficient number of calories. According to Harvard Health, adults should have a minimum daily calorie intake, unless otherwise guided by a healthcare professional, of 1200 calories a day for a woman and 1500 calories a day for a man.5Publishing, H. H. (n.d.). Calorie counting made easy. Harvard Health. https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/calorie-counting-made-easy#:~:text=However%2C%20calorie%20intake%20should%20not
  • Loss of muscle mass6Müller, M. J., Enderle, J., & Bosy-Westphal, A. (2016). Changes in Energy Expenditure with Weight Gain and Weight Loss in Humans. Current Obesity Reports5(4), 413–423. https://doi.org/10.1007/s13679-016-0237-4 if you are on the diet for too long as your body starts to try to conserve energy through a process known as adaptive thermogenesis. This will make it even more difficult to lose and sustain weight loss moving forward. Plus, metabolizing muscle tissue and “protein sparing” that occurs with extreme caloric restriction can cause other health problems.
  • Can lead to disordered eating and nutritional deficiencies. Plus, you will likely regain most of the weight lost since much of it will be water weight, not fat.

Although it sounds appealing to follow any diet that claims you can lose 10 pounds in a week, the Cabbage Soup Diet plan is not sustainable, safe, and healthy.

If you are looking for a nutritious, healthy diet, consult a registered dietitian for professional advice.

A nutritionist helping a patient.

References

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Amber Sayer is a Fitness, Nutrition, and Wellness Writer and Editor, as well as a NASM-Certified Nutrition Coach and UESCA-certified running, endurance nutrition, and triathlon coach. She holds two Masters Degrees—one in Exercise Science and one in Prosthetics and Orthotics. As a Certified Personal Trainer and running coach for 12 years, Amber enjoys staying active and helping others do so as well. In her free time, she likes running, cycling, cooking, and tackling any type of puzzle.

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