The Cabbage Soup Diet review

The Cabbage Soup Diet review
By Kathleen M. Zelman, MPH, RD, LD
WebMD Feature
Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks
If eating a bottomless bowl of cabbage soup, along with a few other low-calorie foods, for a solid week
appeals to you, the Cabbage Soup Diet is sure to lead to quick weight loss. However, since the food
choices are so limited and the calories so low, boredom and inadequate nutrition are inevitable.
There is no single Cabbage Soup diet, but multiple versions of this very restrictive diet have been
circulating 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 plan is not in any way personalised. There are no recommendations
about exercise, no behavioural tips, no advice on changing bad habits - just a strict list of what to eat
each day of the week. Meals will need to be eaten at home because these foods won't be found on most
restaurant menus.
The Cabbage Soup Diet plan promises a 4.5 kg (10-pound) weight loss in one week and dieters are
restricted to one week at a time on the plan. If they want to lose more, they are advised to wait a while
before commencing another week on this super-low-calorie diet.
The Cabbage Soup Diet: What you can eat
The seven day Cabbage Soup Diet plan promises all you can eat - as long as you stick to the small list of
allowed foods on alternate days, along with two daily bowls of fat-free cabbage soup. Other specific foods
that must be eaten include fruit, vegetables, skimmed milk and meat. Dieters are also advised to drink
plenty of water and avoid alcohol.
Here's a sample Cabbage Soup Diet plan:
Day 1: Cabbage soup and all the fruit you want except bananas. Drink unsweetened tea, black coffee,
cranberry juice, or water.
Day 2: Cabbage soup, all the low-calorie vegetables you want (except beans, peas, or corn) and a baked
potato with butter.
Day 3: Cabbage soup and a mixture of the above fruit and vegetables.
Day 4: Cabbage soup, up to eight bananas and two glasses of skimmed milk.
Day 5: Cabbage soup, a little over half a kilogram (20 ounces) of beef, chicken or fish, up to six fresh
tomatoes and at least six to eight glasses of water.
Day 6: Cabbage soup, up to three beef steaks and unlimited vegetables.
Day 7: Cabbage soup, up to two cups of brown rice, unsweetened fruit juices and unlimited vegetables.
The recipe for the cabbage soup varies slightly among different versions of the diet. However, it generally
includes cabbage and assorted low-calorie vegetables such as onions and tomatoes, and is flavoured
with onion soup mix, bouillon and tomato juice.
Here's a typical recipe:
One packet dry onion soup mix
Two stock cubes, either chicken or beef
One celery stick (not the whole stalk), diced
One/two head green cabbage, diced
Three carrots, sliced
Two peppers, sliced
Six large spring onions, or one large yellow, white or red onion, diced
Two tins of tomatoes, diced or whole
Cooking oil spray
Salt, pepper, parsley, garlic powder, soy sauce to taste (or any other seasoning you like)
Spray a large pot with cooking oil spray and sauté all vegetables except cabbage and tomatoes until
tender. Add cabbage and about 2.9 litres of water. Toss in stock cubes, soup mix and seasonings. Cook
until soup reaches desired tenderness. Add tomatoes.
Dieters beware; you may encounter some gastrointestinal discomfort from the highly sulphurous cabbage
and other "windy" vegetables.
The Cabbage Soup Diet: How it works
The Cabbage Soup Diet is essentially a modified fast, containing so few calories that dieters will lose
weight rapidly whilst 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 diet makes no scientific claims on how it works. While several versions exist common to all is the
premise that if you eat lots of cabbage soup when you're hungry, it will keep you satisfied enough to
sustain this very low-calorie diet for a week.
Dieters may very well lose the promised 4.5 -6.8 kgs (10-15 pounds) but the problem is that most of the
weight lost will primarily be from fluids, not fat and will return once the dieter resumes eating normally.
Factor in the monotony of eating virtually the same foods every day for a week and dieters may tend to
eat even fewer than the already 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 medical
supervision. 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, provides a
mere skeleton of the nourishment your body needs each day.
The Cabbage Soup Diet: What the experts say
There is little debate as to whether this is a sound diet plan. Indeed, it has all the components of a diet
Dale Rees is spokesperson for the British Dietetic Association. He told us via e-mail: "If you can follow
this restrictive, prescriptive and regimented diet for the whole seven days without feeling some abdominal
discomfort, plenty of flatulence, feeling tired and sick to the back teeth of cabbage soup; then I take my
hat off to you!"
Will it work? "Well you will see the scales move in the right direction, but this type of weight loss is not all
it is cracked up to be. Firstly a lot of the weight loss will be water as your body switches to starvation
mode and uses up the liver's glycogen stores. This storage of energy is bound to water. This is a short
term reserve and if a dieter wanted to carry on the diet for more than one week there is a high risk that
included in any weight loss will be lean tissue mass, as the body uses other sources for the deficit in
fuel. Your body will not only use the ready to burn fat stores, but muscle too."
He calls the Cabbage Soup diet plan a "quick fix fad" diet and says there are a number of other problems
associated with following it. "The most worrying for me is the lack of nutritional value. If followed for more
than seven days the risk of malnutrition is high. Looking at the nutritional breakdown of a cabbage soup
recipe found on the internet you can see this is a diet severely lacking in energy."
Dale Rees says the diet is comparable to very low calorie diets used to treat clinicalobesity. However,
these use fortified meal replacement packs and it's recommended they're used under professional
supervision as the risk to health is high.
He cautions: "Diets which provide a reduction of more than 1,000 calories a day in energy requirements
mean the body also significantly reduces its resting metabolicrate. Which means that you will regain
weight quickly as your body readjusts to eating normally.
"Another concern is the amount of salt that the soup can provide. In the example there is 60% more than
the recommended level. The soup recipe is also lacking in iron and calcium. Both these nutrients are
already a concern for UK women and deficiency of both nutrients is widespread.
"Over the seven days it is suggested that you add certain foods, such as 20oz of beef [just over half a kg]
or eight bananas. For someone, who is already eating vast quantities of cabbage soup, actually being
able to eat these foods seems highly unlikely. Not to mention the feelings of nausea. The diet is also
deficient in protein, carbohydrate and essential fats.
"However we should remember that including cabbage in your normal diet is a good step
forward. Cabbage provides a phytochemical called sulforaphane and has other beneficial properties that
help in the fight against free radicals.
"Generally people who follow this diet for a week will see weight loss. However, they will soon quickly put
that weight back on when they return to their normal eating habits. No lifelong lessons are learned
around healthy eating, quality food and good nutrition. The bottom line is that the best way for
successful, effective and sustained weight loss is a balanced, healthy diet combined with physical
activity. For individuals to achieve this, they need to be empowered and educated, with support and a
little patience to help them persevere. The cabbage soup diet could be dangerous."
He provided this nutritional chart to show the deficiencies of the Cabbage Soup Diet:
Energy, macronutrient, salt, iron and Calcium on days you Recommended Amounts
have the Cabbage Soup Recipe
for the average woman daily
506 calories
2,000 calories
26 g
45 g
70 g
85 g
230 g
10 g
10 mg
14.8 mg
600 mg
700 mg
The Cabbage Soup Diet: Food for thought
If you want to give this modified fast a try, check with your doctor first. Some people have reported feeling
lightheaded while on the plan.
If you get the go-ahead, head to the supermarket, buy all the ingredients for the soup, stock up on fruit,
vegetables, skimmed milk, fish, chicken or meat (depending on which plan you follow) -- and plan on
staying home. Consuming mass quantities of cabbage soup may cause you to be too windy to go out in
You will lose weight on the Cabbage Soup Diet, but you can plan on seeing those pounds return. This
diet plan does nothing to help change the behaviours that lead to weight gain.
Keep looking for a programme that contains all the components of a healthy lifestyle, including regular
physical activity and is suitable for long-term weight loss.