I know The Cabbage Soup Diet intimately. I did it for a week decades ago, when I was in my early 20s. The Cabbage Soup Diet was new then—or at least the diet called the Cabbage Soup Diet; similar diets had been around for awhile with many different names, but all roughly based on the same concept and plan.
It was no fun. It stank. I consumed a cabbage stew-ish soup and barely anything else for exactly one week and lost about 12 pounds. It was pretty amazing. Of course, it came back; the weight was lying in wait, on vacation only. Over the years, I have lost weight on lots of diets, from A to Z.
A quick but relevant story: The most weight I ever lost happened when I began an eating plan very similar to the Cabbage Soup Diet, then segued into Atkins for about 4 weeks. Then I transitioned into a self-modified Weight Watchers plan. I had done Weight Watchers before, but this time I did it without sign-up, meetings, and weigh-ins. My first Weight Watchers go-round had been a couple of years before, when the points system first arrived—right after my twins were born—and I still had the original accoutrements I needed: the points finder and a ton of guides. Anyway, I didn’t eat Weight Watchers prepackaged pantry and frozen foods and though I did eat carbs, not white ones—only brown (or non-processed or refined flours).
After almost exactly two months of transitioning from the Cabbage Soup Diet to carb-free to a do-it-yourself Weight Watchers—plus a good 30-minute stretch of the legs almost daily, fueled by music from my Discman—I had lost 31 pounds. I weighed 167 pounds. Maybe for some of you 167 still sounds fat—especially at only five-feet-four—but for me, I felt thin! I was thin!
It was great…for as long as it lasted. Because slowly, but as surely as the sun rises and sets, the weight came back on. By Christmas, just a couple of months later, I hadn’t just gone back to my original weight, I went over it by 3 pounds. I weighed 201 pounds. Can anyone relate?
My point is this: The Cabbage Soup Diet is a very quick fix. You will gain the weight back, possibly in a week or two. But, if you use it to kick off a complete lifestyle change—not more diets, rather a brand new way to eat for life—it could be a good way to get motivated when you step on that scale. And my understanding is the heavier you are, the more you will lose in that first week. So it might work on a psychological level. Maybe. Let’s find out what it is, how you do it, what you eat, what science says and what actual Cabbage Soup Diet veterans say.
The Cabbage Soup Diet Claims
This diet isn’t a commercial one per se, though I did find a website: Cabbage–Soup–Diet.com. 
The Cabbage Soup Diet is for some a way to jump-start another diet; for others, it’s a way to drop 10 or more pounds in a week for situation like a beach vacation or to fit into a bridesmaid’s dress. (And that’s as long as it’s likely to last).
Important: realize from the outset this is intended to be a crash diet. It is not a long-term diet and should not be.
How do you do it? Easy. Make the soup and eat the plan-designated foods for a week. That’s it. No pills. No shakes. No gadgets. No exercise. You consume the soup as often as you want and add in very specific foods on each day of the week, faithfully prescribed. At the end of the week, you will have lost weight.
To be very open and honest, you do not need Cabbage–Soup–Diet.com to do this, although if you do visit the site, you’re able to download an e-book—it says for free, but actually, once you give your email address, you’ll begin receiving a ton of email from the site promoting other weight loss products and solutions. 
In fact, on the Cabbage Soup Diet site, they recommend you only do it for a week, with at least two weeks in between should you want to do it again. And—more importantly, and likely the way this site even makes any money, since you can find all you need to know online for free— they suggest the Cabbage Soup Diet as a great kick-start for other diets, hawked and promoted with ads and links and other marketing schemes to get you to start or at least click on other long-term programs once you’ve done Cabbage. There are some spice packages to buy and some “secret” tips.  
In addition to the “free” e-book, which I easily Googled, the site has recipes, tools, and links. The woman behind it (if she exists) calls herself Catherine Soup and is the “author” of the “7-Day Cabbage Soup Slow Fat Loss Fix,” which you can simply download. 
First, the soup. It’s a fat-free, very low-carb soup/stew that includes the essentials. You can spice it up, though, and there are endless ideas online for how to make this soup into something really tasty—or at least tolerable—for 7 days. You eat when you are hungry. It’s very low-calorie; on most days you won’t exceed 1,000 calories (which is about half what nutritionists recommend). But it’s filling enough, for as long as that lasts; hence the reason, in part, this crash diet works. There really isn’t a limit on the fruits and vegetables; just be sure to exclude starchy and too-sugary ones.
Day 1: Soup and fruit (no bananas!)
Day 2: Soup and other vegetables, especially lots of leafy greens. No fruit.
Day 3: Soup, with fruit and veggies, remembering no starchy stuff.
Day 4: Soup, plus this day you get to eat bananas. I have read varying amounts of bananas—anywhere from four to eight, so I suppose it’s up to you, but eight sounds too high. The bananas bring potassium into the mix. You may also drink a couple of glasses of skim milk, for the calcium.
Day 5: Soup. Today you get to add protein—as in meat! (This diet is not vegetarian). You may have one or two 10-ounce servings of a meat, like roasted, baked, or grilled skinless chicken (no added fats or oils, just spices) and some tomatoes, preferably fresh. Note: I have seen where they say to eat beef as your protein, but unless it’s a super-lean cut like a tenderloin (expensive!), I’d go with the chicken. Up to you.
Day 6: Soup and proteins from Day 5, plus veggies.
Day 7: Oh, yes! Day 7! On this final day, you eat the soup, some brown rice, and vegetables. Some say you may add unsweetened fruits juices.
And perhaps the most important part of this diet, you must drink a lot of water. A lot. At least a gallon per day (or more, but don’t go too far; too much water can be dangerous. A gallon is about as much as you need.) You may also drink green or black tea in moderation with no sweetener—not even artificial ones like Splenda. Lemon is fine.
By the end of the week, you’re supposed to have lost 10 pounds and possibly, even likely, more.
The Cabbage Soup Diet Ingredients
As per the actual 7-day meal plan, fruits, veggies, a tiny bit of protein; and make sure those fruits and vegetables are not high in starch, like potatoes and bananas.
When it comes to vegetables you may not eat any corn, squash, beans, peas, or potatoes. Instead, eat any and all of these vegetables and scores more:
|Green beans |
|Bean sprouts |
And as much and as many leafy greens as you can handle: spinach, romaine, kale, collards, mustard, and turnip greens.
And remember: yes, you have no bananas (until Day 4).
The soup ingredients may vary, but must include lots of cabbage—obviously. You also may add any number of veggies, but most soups include a combination of tomatoes, mushrooms, onions, carrots, celery, and low-sodium bouillon. Plus, add no-calorie or very low-calorie herbs and spices like parsley, oregano, bay, basil, red pepper flakes, garlic—you get the idea.
Of course there are many, many variations. One recipe I found had more than 1300 positive reviews for “fat-burning” cabbage soup. 
The Science (or Lack Thereof) Behind the Cabbage Soup Diet
Generally speaking, according to an meta-article published in the 2014 British Journal of Nutrition, studies show consuming soup “is associated with a lower risk of obesity. Moreover, intervention studies have reported that soup consumption aids in body-weight management. However, little is known about mechanisms that can explain these findings.” And red cabbage in particular may be associated with helping to lower cholesterol. So a combination of the two sounds about right.  
But the Mayo Clinic website says it’s not healthy because,
You may lose weight on the diet because it drastically limits calories. But it is not only fat that you’ll lose. Your weight lost is likely to be a combination of water and fat, and may even include muscle.
Because the cabbage soup diet is low in complex carbohydrates, protein, vitamins and minerals, you shouldn’t stay on it for more than a week at a time. 
Few disagree, and that’s why it’s a 1-week diet only. You shouldn’t do it more than that, and if you feel you must because of that beach holiday and that dress you have to fit into, there must be two weeks at least in between.
According to Dr. Melinda Ratini of WebMD,
while you will lose water weight in the short-term, it’s still a “strictly a lose-weight quick scheme.” 
You’ll likely get less than 1,000 calories a day on the limited menu. That’s far fewer than the 2,000 daily calories recommended for most adults. Since you’re getting so few calories, the pounds come off quickly, but mostly you’ll lose water weight. And chances are, you’ll gain it all back as soon as you start eating a normal diet again. Health experts don’t recommend following very low-calorie diets unless you’re under a doctor’s care. …
Because it includes so few carbs, this diet could wreak havoc with any diabetes treatment plan.
Salt is not addressed on the plan, so if you’ve been told to cut back on the sodium, you’ll have to hold back on using the salt shaker when making the soup or cooking your food. 
Of course, the sodium concern can be avoided by spicing everything up with no-calorie herb seasonings.
There are a lot of concerns with the Cabbage Soup diet. While exercise is not part of it, you’ll probably be too weak to do much anyway, and that concerns health experts. You probably should do some low-impact exercise like yoga or walking, though. And the lack of protein and other nutrients is a problem. Some people feel ill and others bloated or gassy.
Since you will gain the weight back ,though, there’s not a huge concern about specific health-related issues because it’s so short-term—unless of course you don’t follow advice and continue to do it without waiting two weeks in between, and eat sensibly during those two weeks. Either way, the weight will return. Every expert says you must consult your doctor before starting this diet. They’ll likely say don’t do it, of course.
Word on the Street About the Cabbage Soup Diet
There’s nothing to buy except food ingredients and no group to join—or meeting to attend, or supplement or shake or gimmick—so finding reviews is hard. But on social media platforms, especially Pinterest, there’s a lot of buzz about this diet; mostly ideas about how to tweak the soup so it’s more tasty. Most people agree it works as a very short-term crash diet. Even experts.
On SparkPeople.com, a go-to forum where real people talk about their real diet experiences, there are some archived pages that include tips, reviews, and recipes for the Cabbage Soup Diet. 
One honest critique on the site is from “Pookie.”
It’s another silly fad diet. Eating three bowls of soup a day will get you about 300 calories which is starving yourself and, well, that much cabbage soup isn’t going to make you smell all that good when it hits your digestive system! 
The Bottom Line: Is the Cabbage Soup Diet Worth a Try?
Risky. The plan ingredients are simple and without processed foods, so that’s good. But there aren’t enough of them. Science might say soup is good for a healthy diet, but not this soup. Not for long-term health.
For one week, it’s probably okay as long as your doctor agrees. And as long as you know that the weight will come back. It worked for me twice. But the weight came back with a vengeance; though I do recall feeling lighter for a minute.
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*Individual results will vary.
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