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The cabbage soup diet is just that: eating a very limited diet primarily made up of cabbage soup for a week, in order to achieve a quick weight loss. There are no overarching dietary philosophies and no exercise guidelines that go along with this diet. It is simply a day-by-day list of what to eat.
There are a number of variations of the cabbage soup diet. These variations differ mainly in what should accompany cabbage soup on any given day. There are many websites where you can find cabbage soup recipes that are specifically for this diet. Versions of the diet can be found in books and online. Typically, the diet menu looks something like this:
The foods on the list may be eaten for breakfast, lunch, dinner, or for a snack. You are also encouraged to drink four to eight glasses of water and take a multivitamin tablet every day while on the diet.
Also, it’s worth knowing that, although the cabbage soup diet is sometimes called the Mayo Clinic Diet, Sacred Heart Hospital Diet, or American Heart Association Diet, it’s not affiliated with any of these institutions.
The cabbage soup diet promises rapid weight loss of about 10 pounds in the week you are on the diet. The diet makes no claims to change lifestyle or encourage weight maintenance or healthy habits. It is promoted as a "vanity diet," a quick way to lose a few extra pounds to look good for a special occasion. The only promise of the cabbage soup diet is rapid, short-term weight loss, due to severe caloric restrictions.
There is very little that is good about this diet, except for the fact that you will be eating quite a few vegetables in the cabbage soup along with fruit each day. You will lose weight, but in an unhealthy and possibly dangerous way. No health expert has backed the cabbage soup diet, and no one has taken responsibility for creating it. It is far from being balanced nutritionally and verges on being a week of starvation. There is no exercise component and no long-term outlook. In fact, you're likely to gain back any weight you lose with the cabbage soup diet almost immediately after going off of it.
When researching this diet, we had to look no farther than an actual cabbage soup diet website to find a reason to pass on this one. This was posted on the site: "[Some people] report feeling light-headed, weak, and have suffered from decreased concentration." We appreciate the honesty, but this diet is potentially dangerous due to the severe dietary restrictions involved. It is more like a modified fast than an actual diet. The reduced calories, protein, and fat will not be tolerated by all who attempt it.
Children, adults with any health complications, and anyone with special dietary needs should not start the cabbage soup diet. No one should follow the diet for more than seven days. If you are considering it, we strongly encourage you to talk to your doctor before you start.
While you will lose weight on this diet, it is likely you will gain it back for a number of reasons. First of all, you are not going to cut that much fat off your body. The weight you lose will be mostly water weight and muscle mass. You're essentially throwing your body into starvation mode, which causes your body to slow metabolism and store body fat. When you start eating normally again, you'll gain back the weight faster than you lost it. The cabbage soup diet makes no effort whatsoever to address the lifestyle changes that may be necessary to maintain weight loss over the long term.
It's also important to remember that there's nothing special about cabbage in particular, and there's no such thing as a "negative calorie" or "fat-burning" food. Cabbage is just an example of a very low-calorie food. Also, eating a lot of cabbage may make some people prone to excess abdominal gas.
Written by: JC Jones and Elijah Wolfson
Medically reviewed on: Mar 21, 2016: Natalie Butler, RD, LD
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