10 Things You Need to Know About the Cabbage Soup Diet

Fad diets come and go—but the cabbage diet soup seems to remain a popular option for many people who are looking to lose weight. But is it safe? Here's what you need to know.

What is the cabbage soup diet?

The cabbage soup diet involves making a basic cabbage soup loaded with veggies, and eating two to three servings of that each day, along with certain additional foods, like fruit or beef. You’re supposed to follow the diet for seven days, in order to lose several pounds of weight. Try these other foods to help you lose weight.

What’s the cabbage soup diet recipe?

There are multiple variations on it, but as the name suggests, cabbage is the main ingredient. The base of the soup is usually tomato, and variations include adding celery, bell peppers, green beans, or carrots. The cabbage soup diet recipe from Epicurious includes:

    • 1 head green cabbage, finely shredded or chopped
    • 2 large onions, chopped
    • 16 to 28 ounces canned tomatoes, chopped with juices
    • 2 green bell peppers, seeded and chopped
    • 4 celery stalks with leaves, chopped
    • 6 carrots, peeled and sliced
    • 1/2 pound green beans, stem ends snapped, sliced on the diagonal
    • Black pepper to taste
    • Chopped fresh herbs, such as parsley, sage, dill, cilantro, or thyme
  1.  Garnish
    • Balsamic vinegar or lemon or lime juice
    • Minced fresh herbs
    • Chopped green onions

What else can you eat?

It depends on the version you follow. Some allow for a small, sensible meal, while others allow you to incorporate one or two additional food items. GuideDoc shares:

  • Day 1: Fruit, except bananas
  • Day 2: Vegetables like leafy greens (not starches), but no fruit
  • Day 3: Fruits and vegetables
  • Day 4: Bananas and skim milk
  • Day 5: Beef (or baked chicken without the skin) and tomatoes
  • Day 6: Beef and vegetables
  • Day 7: Brown rice, unsweetened fruit juices, and vegetables

What’s the upside of the cabbage soup diet?

The diet promises to help you lose 10 pounds of weight—and most people will likely drop a few pounds by following it. “It is a simple diet to follow,” says Stephanie Carrell, RDN, a clinical dietitian at Banner University Medical Center in Phoenix, AZ. “It also allows for a variety of fruits and vegetables, which are full of important nutrients. It promises fast weight loss, which can help to kick-start an exercise and diet program.” If you want some proved motivation, explore weight loss tips from people who have dropped 50 pounds or more.

Does the cabbage soup diet work?

Like many fad diets, it works in the short term—as you’ll lose mostly water weight in that first week. “The problem with this diet is that while it may result in short-term weight loss, it does not teach long-term healthy eating habits,” Carrell says. “The weight lost would likely be regained when a normal diet is resumed.”

Can you follow the cabbage soup diet long term?

The short answer? No. “It is lacking in several key nutrients, like healthy fats and protein,” Carrell says. “Healthy fats are required for certain vitamins to be utilized by the body. If followed longer than seven days, the cabbage soup diet could lead to deficiencies of important nutrients.” On top of that—how much cabbage soup can you really eat? “The cabbage soup diet does not allow for much flexibility so it would likely get boring after just a few days,” Carrell says. If you’re considering the cabbage soup diet or any other short term plans, nutritionists share what you must always look out for before starting any diet plan.

Is it safe for you?

That all depends on the current state of your health. The diet is extremely low in carbs, which could make controlling blood sugar levels difficult for people with diabetes. Plus, depending on how you prepare it, the soup can be high in sodium, which means if you’re supposed to be on a low-sodium diet, this won’t work for you. And be sure you’re getting the proper amount of exercise, even on such a low carb and calorie plan.

Why is the cabbage soup diet still so popular?

The cabbage soup diet recipe has circulated since the 1980s, and it shows no signs of slowing. Carrell points to several reasons for its popularity: “Everyone is looking for a quick fix. It promises up to 10 pounds of weight loss in just one week and that appeals to a lot of people. The instructions seem easy to follow. I think many people assume they will lose the weight and it will be gone forever, but that is not the case.” If you’re looking for quick weight loss tips, be sure to consider these strategies that nutritionists swear by.

What about other fad diets?

Like trendy clothing, fad diets aren’t made to last—and usually, they aren’t based on good science or healthy eating habits. And that means that in the long run, trying something like the cabbage soup diet isn’t good for you. “Fad diets usually involve restrictions of whole food groups and/or severe calorie restriction,” Carrell warns. “This diet restricts calories which can lead to weakness and fatigue.”

What’s the final verdict?

If you like a veggie-based soup, there’s nothing wrong with whipping up a big batch of the cabbage soup diet recipe and enjoying it. But if you’re looking to lose weight and keep it off, Carrell has a better solution: “People should consider consulting with a registered dietitian nutritionist (RD/RDN) for a plan that is individualized to their specific needs. An RD/RDN can teach healthy eating habits and provide the tools needed for sustainable weight loss.”

Sources
  • Stephanie Carrell, RDN, CNSC, clinical dietitian at Banner University Medical Center in Phoenix, AZ.
  • Mayo Clinic: "What Is the Cabbage Soup Diet? Can It Help Me Lose Weight?"
Medically reviewed by Michael Spertus, MD, on August 26, 2019

Lisa Milbrand
Lisa Milbrand is a freelance writer specializing in covering food, health, fitness, and other lifestyle topics for The Healthy and other major websites and publications.