The cabbage soup diet is a diet that makes its followers to eat cabbage soup a few times a day for one week. On the diet, you can as well consume a few other low-calorie foods—like any fruit (but not bananas), beef, vegetables, and skim milk—on particular days.
As an outcome of the diet, your calorie intake will decrease so that you reach the calorie shortage necessary for weight loss.
The diet promises a 10-pound weight loss by the end of the week. But it is unknown how many dieters in reality follow the diet long enough to reach that outcome.
What Experts Say
The cabbage soup diet promises quick weight loss, but experts agree it’s not a sustainable option. Protein and vegetables are a focus, but any weight lost is likely to be gained back. Plus, cutting food groups can lead to nutrient imbalances.
—Leyla Shamayeva, MS, RD
This strict diet has been popular among dieters for years, but its origins are unknown. It became widespread in the 1980s and has been called Military Cabbage Soup, TJ Miracle Soup Diet, and Russian Peasant Diet, among other names.
How It Works
The cabbage soup diet has several various versions, but the basic premise is a recipe for homemade, fat-free cabbage soup and a list of particular, low-calorie foods to eat on various days in addition to the soup.
The basic soup recipe includes a head of cabbage, canned tomatoes, onions, garlic, and other vegetables, along with broth, water, or tomato juice. The diet lasts for 7 days. Every day you will eat several portions of cabbage soup and the allotted foods for that day.
It is not advised to keep to the diet for more than a week. If you have success on the diet and wish to repeat it, specialists recommend you to hold on two weeks between cycles.
Since soup recipes differ, there isn’t one standard set of nutrition facts for cabbage soup, but on average, a bowl has about 50 to 100 calories. If you use a particular recipe, you can use a recipe analyzer to get a complete set of nutritional data.
Remember that cabbage soup can be very high in sodium, giving nearly 100 percent of your recommended daily dose if you eat several portions.
The good news, nevertheless, is that because the soup is made with a lot of vegetables, you’ll get a few grams of fiber in each portion—about 3 to 5 grams—which can help you to stay fuller longer. Most recipes also include a bit of protein (about 5 grams), roughly 13 grams of carbohydrate, and only about 1 gram of fat.
This is also similar to the M-Plan diet where you eat a mushroom-based meal 3 times a day with the plan to lose weight.
What to Eat
The cabbage soup diet has a one-week meal plan that allows particular foods only on particular days, plus at least one portion of the soup. While there are many various versions of the diet, here is one example:
Day 1: Unlimited fruit (except bananas)
Day 2: Unlimited fresh, raw, or cooked vegetables, except for dry beans, peas, and corn. Large baked potato with butter for dinner.
Day 3: Unlimited fruit (except bananas) and vegetables.
Day 4: Up to eight bananas and unlimited skim milk.
Day 5: Between 10 ounces and 20 ounces of beef or poultry and up to six fresh tomatoes.
Day 6: Unlimited beef and vegetables.
Day 7: Unlimited brown rice, unsweetened fruit juice, and vegetables.
Aim for a few portions of soup and at least eight 8-ounce glasses of water daily. Avoid real and artificial sugar and alcohol for the weeklong plan.
Homemade cabbage soup
Unsweetened cranberry juice
Regular or diet soda
There is no particular timing or fasting required for the cabbage soup diet, but, there are particular foods allowed on particular days, as outlined above.
Resources and Tips
The one most significant part of the diet is the soup. There are a few various recipes available online that are variations of the basic recipe. Here are some tricks to make it simpler and add variety so you don’t get bored with eating the same basic soup for seven days.
Use pre-shredded cabbage: Instead of shredding cabbage by hand, buy a bag of pre-shredded cabbage or coleslaw mix.
Make it purple: Switch things up by adding red cabbage, which has more antioxidants.
Add chunky vegetables: Rough-cut zucchini, squash, cauliflower, or carrots will change the basic texture of the soup to add variety.
Spice it up: If you like hot and spicy food, add Tabasco sauce, Sriracha, or cayenne pepper and chili powder to the soup.
Go Italian: Add Italian seasoning mix, basil, or oregano to the soup, or use canned tomatoes with Italian seasonings.
Use a mix: Some people like to flavor the cabbage soup using onion soup mix.
Make it a curry: For an Indian flair, add curry, cumin, cardamom, cloves, ginger, or other flavorful spices.
Pros and Cons
The cabbage soup diet is believed to be a fad diet that can provide fast, short-term weight loss, but is not necessarily healthy.
- Fast weight loss
- Pretty simple to follow
- Not nutritionally or medically healthy
- Repetitive meals can be dull
- Short-term results not lasting
Supporters of the cabbage soup diet say you can lose 10 pounds in seven days, but there is a lack of evidence to prove those statements. While no research has studied its effectiveness, the diet consists of mostly low-calorie foods, and reduced calorie diets are known to foster weight loss.
The diet is also simple to keep to, with easy rules that take the guesswork out of dieting. With unlimited amounts of cabbage soup, the diet can be filling. As a short-term diet, you only need to keep to it for a seven days.
While the plan may give fast weight loss outcomes, it is not a long-term solution for managing your weight.
The top complaint among people following the cabbage soup diet is that it is dull and repetitive. Not many people like cabbage soup enough to enjoy it daily for the whole week.
The plan is also not based on any nutritional or medical science. There is no scientific proof that cabbage or cabbage soup has any of the fat-burning traits that are often advertised in the diet’s description.
The greatest concern expressed by weight-loss experts is that a lot of versions of the cabbage soup diet restrict calories to less than 1,200 calories a day, which is the minimum typically advised for weight loss. In fact, the calorie count may decrease so low that it’s believed to be a fasting program rather than a diet.
In general, no one should follow a diet plan under 1,200 calories without participation from your health care provider. So any plan providing so few calories should be avoided. Doing so could cause serious health problems and at the very least, can lead to your weight to rebound when the diet is finished.
In addition, the diet plan gives no recommendation for dealing with emotional eating or improving skills that are required for long-term weight loss such as changing eating habits or controlling portions. So after the diet is over, you’re likely to gain back any weight you lose.
How It Compares
As a short-term weight-loss plan, the cabbage soup diet can be effective. Nevertheless, it isn’t a long-term weight loss solution or a healthy eating plan, nor does it teach skills, like healthy meal planning and preparing, needed for sustained weight loss.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) dietary guidelines include advice and tips for a healthy, balanced diet. The following nutrient-dense foods are recommended as part of a healthy diet:
- Vegetables and dark, leafy greens (kale, spinach, broccoli, Swiss chard, green beans)
- Fruits (apples, berries, melon)
- Grains (quinoa, brown rice, oats)
- Lean meats (chicken breast, fish, turkey breast)
- Beans and legumes (all beans, lentils, peas)
- Nuts and seeds (walnuts, almonds, sunflower seeds)
- Dairy (reduced fat milk, cheese, yogurt)
- Oils (olive oil, avocado oil)
While the cabbage soup diet is high in vegetables, the overall diet does not meet these requirements. The diet is highly restrictive and does not provide a wide variety of nutrients or calories. It is not believed to be a healthy eating program.
The USDA recommends consuming roughly 1,500 calories daily for weight loss, but this number varies based on age, sex, weight, and activity level.
Much like the cabbage soup diet, these other fad diets limit the foods you eat to particular days. While each plan promises you’ll drop pounds fast, they are unlikely to provide long-term, sustained weight loss.
The Sacred Heart Diet
Replace cabbage soup for a different vegetable soup recipe and you have the Sacred Heart diet. In fact, the weeklong meal plan is almost the same as the cabbage soup diet. If you are not a fan of cabbage, this is a nice alternative.
On this diet, the M stands for mushroom, and you will swap out one meal a day for two weeks with a low-fat or fat-free mushroom-based dish. It doesn’t otherwise limit calories or other food groups, but by swapping out meat for mushrooms lowers daily caloric intake to help you lose weight.
The 3-Day Military Diet
This plan gives a specific list of foods to eat on particular days, including things like two hotdogs without buns, five saltine crackers, and a cup of vanilla ice cream. Despite the name, the diet isn’t limited to three days or associated with the military. You eat specific foods for three days, with calories restricted to 1,500 a day on the four “off” days.