Cabbage soup diet: Your complete guide to the weight loss plan, plus whether it actually works

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  • Four experts share their thoughts.

    So, you want to know whether the Cabbage Soup Diet actually works for weight loss.

    Similar to the Cambridge Diet, the Cabbage Soup Diet has been a dieting buzzphrase for years. Why? Well, largely because it’s known as a quick fix and promises to help you lose as much as ten pounds in just a few days.

    Before we get started here, two things. Number one: you don’t need to lose weight, unless you are in a mentally positive space and want to do so to improve your wellbeing. If it comes from a place of self love, weight loss can help boost your overall health. However, if you feel pressured to lose weight or feel like you’re approaching it from a negative headspace, know you are enough as you are.

    “Remember, being healthy is not solely defined by weight loss,” shares registered nutritionist Lauren Windas of Ardere. “Healthy is not simply one size. While there is nothing wrong with wanting to look a certain way, changing your body composition is best achieved when you come at it from an organic place of wanting to feel better and healthier, rather than solely aesthetics,” she shares.

    Secondly, before we get the expert take, we’d hazard a guess that any weight loss plan that focuses nearly entirely on cabbage and soup isn’t exactly going to tick any of the boxes a healthy, sustainable diet should tick. Quite the opposite. But we’ll let the experts have the final say.

    Keep reading for everything you need to know about the Cabbage Soup Diet and as three registered nutritionists and a personal trainer share their takes on the extreme plan.

    Cabbage Soup Diet: your complete guide

    So, what is the cabbage soup diet? 

    The clue is in the name, really. You spend a week (but no more), eating unlimited amounts of low-calorie cabbage soup, which you cook yourself at home. The cabbage soup makes up your staple diet for the week but you are also allowed a small selection of other foods (such as some fruit, or a baked potato), all designed to help you shed fat fast. People claim to have lost 10lbs in a week on this quick-results diet plan.

    It’s a seven day diet designed as a fast-track way to lose weight,” explains Windas.

    How does the Cabbage Soup diet work? 

    Essentially, the diet is designed to put you in a calorie deficit, which is necessary for weight loss, the nutritionist explains. “The nutrient profile consists of plenty of fibre but extremely little fat, protein and complex carbohydrates,” she shares.

    Think about it: you’ll be eating not more than, say, 500 calories a day, which is a whole 1500 less than the NHS guidelines for a woman maintaining weight, and 900 less than the NHS guidelines for a woman looking to lose weight.

    Pros of the Cabbage Soup Diet:

    There’s no denying that cabbage itself is packed with health benefits, as nutritionist at Lifesum Lovisa Nilsson explains. “Cabbage is healthy, as it contains plenty of fibre and antioxidants such as vitamin C,” she shares. But does that mean you should only eat cabbage? No.

    Windas points out that such a low calorie content will likely help you lose weight temporarily. “The choices are so limited that you’re not likely to over-consume these foods thus keeping you in a calorie deficit and enabling weight loss,” she shares.

    Do note here: The large intake of cabbage will mean a large intake of fibre. Which is good, sure, but could make those prone to bloating and increased flatulence, like IBS sufferers, struggle.

    Cons of the Cabbage Soup Diet: 

    Essentially all you can eat on the cabbage soup diet is, ahem, cabbage soup, fruit and vegetables. Yep.. “While weight loss may be possible in the initial phases of the diet, this could be due to water loss rather than fat loss,” she explains.

    Plus, the diet cuts out several essential food groups important for energy and brain function, like protein and fat. Think about how hard your body works to keep you alive every day and what will happen if you suddenly cut your energy consumption by three-quarters.

    “The diet is so restrictive, it’s just not sustainable,” Windas shares.

    “Weight will likely be gained back quickly as soon as you start eating normally again,” she adds.

    Personal trainer and fitness coach Scott Laidler agrees, saying: “Weight loss is temporary and most people will re-gain any lost weight quickly. Because the Cabbage Soup Diet has such a low calorie intake and virtually no protein, almost all weight lost on this diet will be water and muscle, not body fat. This is a real shame because gaining all that weight back can be crushing psychologically, which can lead to comfort eating and loss of motivation to exercise which in turn leads to more weight gain.”

    The lack of calories can also leave people feeling lightheaded. Laidler says: “Without being used to this level of restriction, most people will experience a lack of energy, headaches and even dizziness, so doing serious exercise whilst on the diet would be out of the question.”

    See what we’re getting at here? Diets like the 4:3 diet, the Dukan diet, the Sirtfood diet, and, ultimately, the Cabbage Soup Diet, all have one thing in common: they are highly restrictive and drastically reduce your calorie intake, which could actually backfire if you’re looking to lose weight for good.

    Cabbage Soup Diet: Two bowls of soup on a table

    Has there been any scientific research done on the Cabbage Soup Diet? 

    Sadly not, although Windas shares that there has been lots of research on low calorie diets in general.

    “Your body reacts to drastically restricted your calorie intake by going into a starvation mode,” she explains. Which means? “It’ll lower your metabolic rate and reduce the number of calories you burn per day, which can be counterproductive towards weight loss,” she shares.

    All in all, the Cabbage Soup Diet isn’t the healthiest weight loss plan available out there. Nilsson says: “Cabbage soup is nutritionally unbalanced as a meal, and it is vital we consume essential nutrients such as proteins, vitamins B and even healthy fats. By following this diet for a lengthily period of time, you are depriving your body of the nutrients it needs and thus defeating any long-term health benefits and maintaining a healthy lifestyle.”

    If you are determined to give the diet a go, Lovisa has some advice for you. “Supplement the soup with, for example, rye bread and some form of protein. You may also find that you get bored of eating cabbage for your meals every day, so I would suggest adding and changing flavours to make each meal more interesting.” Got it?

    Would a nutritionist advise you try the Cabbage Soup Diet?

    Bottom line? No.

    “While the diet may appear healthy on the surface due to it centring around healthy vegetables, I wouldn’t recommend it,” Windas shares. “It’s restrictive and unsustainable, low in protein, fats, and complex carbohydrates, and lacks dietary diversity, which our gut bacteria thrives on to keep our bodies healthy,” she shares.

    If you do want to lose weight, it really is as simple as making sure you’re in a weight deficit and eating foods you still enjoy, so you don’t end up in a restriction-binge cycle.

    Cabbage soup diet: A close up of a cabbage

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    The Cabbage Soup Diet recipe:

    • 6 large onions, chopped
    • 2 green peppers, diced
    • 2 cans of tomatoes (diced or whole)
    • 250g mushrooms, sliced
    • 1 bunch celery, chopped
    • 1/2 head cabbage, chopped
    • 3 carrots, sliced
    • 1 package dry onion soup mix
    • 1 or 2 cubes bouillon (optional)
 Salt and pepper
    • For added flavour: Cayenne pepper, curry powder, mixed herbs or any other seasoning.

    Instructions:

    1. Use spray oil to sauté the chopped onions in a large pot.
    2. Add the green pepper pieces and heat for a minute.
    3. Add the chopped cabbage leaves, sliced carrots, celery and mushrooms.
    4. Sprinkle over a little cayenne pepper or curry powder.
    5. Add 12 cups of water and any additional stock cubes.
    6. Cook over a medium heat until the soup is the vegetables are tender and the soup is the right consistency.

    The Cabbage Soup Diet meal plan:

    Day 1: Unlimited cabbage soup and fruit (excluding bananas). Water and sugar-free fruit juice to drink.

    Day 2: Cabbage soup and additional vegetables. One jacket potato with butter for dinner. No fruit at all.

    Day 3: Unlimited cabbage soup plus any fruit and vegetables you choose (excluding potatoes or bananas).

    Day 4: Unlimited cabbage soup and skimmed milk. Plus up to eight bananas.

    Day 5: Unlimited cabbage soup and 565g of beef and 6 tomatoes. Drink 6-8 glasses of water today to flush extra uric acid from your body.

    Day 6: Unlimited cabbage soup and limitless beef and vegetables (excluding potatoes).

    Day 7: Unlimited cabbage soup with a little brown rice, vegetables and sugar-free fruit juice.

    We’re not sure if it’s for us. Remember, weight loss is achievable – and will likely be more long lasting – if you approach it from a healthy, sensible place.

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