What Is the Soup Diet?

soup diet

Verywell / Debbie Burkhoff 

The soup diet isn't just one diet, but rather a collection of eating plans that promise significant weight loss in a short amount of time. On some of these diets, you consume nothing but soup.

On others, soup is the base of the eating plan but you include other prescribed foods in your meals. The details of each soup diet are different but for the most part soup diets last from five to 10 days.

What Experts Say

"The concept of eating soup to lose weight has spanned decades, but experts say an all-soup diet lacks nutrients and is not sustainable. They do agree it can be smart to eat vegetable-packed soups for some meals though, as these are filling, nutrient-dense, and low in calories."

Chrissy Carroll, RD, MPH

Background

Soup diets have been around for decades. The cabbage soup diet was one of the first soup-based eating plans to gain popularity in the 1980s. On this plan, people follow a specific cabbage soup recipe and eat it for seven days with the aim of losing around 10 pounds.

Since that time, other soup-based diets have popped up to accommodate different eating styles, tastes, and diet trends. For example, there are keto soup plans, paleo soup plans, vegetarian soup plans, and bean-based soup plans. Each of these plans promises significant weight loss in a short amount of time.

Some research has shown that eating soup may help you eat less overall and, as a result, lose weight. This makes sense as any time you severely limit the types of food you consume, you are less likely to want to overindulge.

According to one 2011 study, soup intake was associated with lower body mass index (BMI) and smaller waist circumference. However, the study was limited in that it only studied 103 Japanese men.

Another study conducted in the United States found an association between soup consumption and lower body weight. Researchers concluded that soup consumption may provide benefits for bodyweight management. But both this study and the Japanese study did not investigate diets in which soup was the only type of food consumed. Studies evaluating soup-only diets are lacking.

The soup diet may work for some people, but it is not recommended by many health professionals, particularly for long periods, because it is too restrictive.

How It Works

There are many different variations of the soup diet. Below are just a few of the more well-known plans. However, just because these plans are popular, does not make them healthy diets or effective plans for weight loss. That said, it is possible to include one or more components of these plans or soup recipes into a healthy diet.

Basic Soup Diet

On the basic soup diet, you can consume any type of soup. This means that creamy soups and broth-based soups are both allowed. Canned and homemade soups are also included. Soups made with meat are encouraged along with plant-based soups. Other plans may include a specific recipe to follow and provide detailed instructions.

Most basic soup diets last seven days but others can last up to two weeks. Online claims report that you can lose 10 to 15 pounds during that time. The catch is you only eat soup.

Cabbage Soup Diet

This seven-day eating plan requires that you make a large batch of soup that includes cabbage as the main ingredient, but may also include tomato, onion, carrots, and either a chicken- or vegetable-based broth. Most websites promoting the plan claim that you can lose up to 10 pounds in one week if you follow the program precisely.

While you are on the cabbage soup diet, you will also have a list of foods that are allowed and a list of foods to avoid. Most plans allow you to eat foods such as beef and skim milk but restrict foods such as bananas.

One significant drawback of the cabbage soup diet (and many of the other soup weight loss programs) is that it includes no instructions regarding physical activity or a plan for transitioning to a long-term healthy eating program.

The Sacred Heart Diet

On this eating plan, you consume a soup made with beef or chicken broth, green beans, celery, tomatoes, onions, and carrots. When this diet first became popular, proponents of the program claimed that it was associated with a medical center called Sacred Heart. However, those claims have never been substantiated.

According to the claims, if you follow this plan exactly, you can lose 10 to 17 pounds in seven days. Foods that you eat in addition to the soup include unsweetened fruit juice and brown rice in very specific amounts. For example, potatoes and tomatoes can only be eaten on certain days and only in measured amounts.

Bean Soup Diet

On this diet, you consume vegetable bean soup made from ingredients including mushrooms, chili peppers, diced tomatoes, pinto beans, bell peppers, and celery. This soup recipe is more complex than many of the others.

While following this program, you consume bean soup twice daily as your main meal. You are also encouraged to drink plenty of water. People following the diet plan are advised to avoid or limit dried fruit, nuts, seeds, and avocados but are encouraged to consume most other oil-free and plant-based foods.

Keto Soup Diet

This soup diet often appeals to those following a ketogenic diet, a paleo diet, or a low-carb eating plan. The diet lasts five days and provides a daily intake of 1,200 to 1,400 calories and up to 20 grams of carbohydrate. Certain foods like nuts and dairy are off-limits.

The soup is made with ingredients including bacon, olive oil, sun-dried tomatoes, red wine, squash, and green beans. Some substitutions are allowed, but those who follow the diet are advised to avoid certain vegetables such as kale because they may "impede weight loss." However, this concern about kale is a questionable claim made by online proponents of this eating plan and is not supported by science.

What to Eat

As you can see, there are many variations of the soup diet. Each has different foods that are encouraged and foods that are limited or prohibited. Even though each plan is unique, there are certain trends among them.

Particularly, quick weight loss is promised for those that stick with the diets for the prescribed period, however, these plans often lack well-balanced nutrition or a healthy, sustainable way to transition to a long-term diet.

Compliant Foods
  • Chicken, vegetable, or beef broth

  • Green vegetables such as green beans and celery

  • Tomatoes

  • Seasonings

Non-Compliant Foods
  • Sweet treats such as ice cream, baked goods, and candy

  • Heavily processed snack foods including chips and crackers

  • Dairy products such as cream, cheese, and ice cream

In general, most soup diets require that you make soup using a clear broth as the base. That means you'll use chicken stock, vegetable stock, or beef stock. The soup diets that follow a low-carb eating style use vegetables that have a lower glycemic index including turnips, cauliflower, and collard greens. Generally, these diets avoid higher carbohydrate veggies such as carrots and potatoes.

Few soup plans allow you to eat dairy. That means no cream in your coffee or glass of milk with your lunch. Some plans allow skim milk, but only on certain days. Likewise, don't expect to be snacking on chips, crackers, candy, or baked goods on any of these plans. Almost any food that comes in a box or a wrapper is off-limits.

Recommended Timing

On most soup diets, you eat three meals each day. Several of them require you to eat soup at every meal, including breakfast. Others allow you to consume one typical meal each day and two other meals that consist solely of soup.

There is no specific timing required for meal consumption on most of the plans. Some (but not all) of the diets limit or entirely disallow snacking.

Resources and Tips

If you choose to follow a soup diet, you can likely find your prescribed recipe online. To make the process easier, pick one day prior to the beginning of the program to gather the ingredients and cook your soup. If the program requires that you consume a specific portion of soup, pre-measure each meal and package it in a single-serving container so that it's ready to grab and go.

Modifications

Those trying to reduce their sodium intake, such as people who have hypertension, may want to choose soups that are low in sodium. If you cook your soup at home, choose low sodium broth to make your recipe. You can also make your own broth at home, which can also help to decrease the sodium in your soup.

When cooking your soup, aim to use fresh or frozen vegetables rather than canned vegetables, which often add sodium as a preservative.

Pros and Cons

Other factors to think about when considering trying out a soup diet include the relative benefits and risks.

Pros
  • Boosts your intake of vegetables

  • May boost your intake of plant-based protein

  • May enhance mindful eating

  • May increase water intake

  • May boost satiety

Cons
  • May reduce caloric intake to unsafe levels

  • Discourages consumption of whole grains

  • Some reduce whole fruit consumption

  • Often high in sodium

  • Overpromises short-term weight loss

  • No long-term healthy eating plan is provided

Pros

If you are not a person who regularly eats vegetables, the soup diet may help you consume more nutrient-rich veggies. General guidelines recommend that we consume at least five servings of vegetables each day. Soup is a great way to boost your intake.

If your soup diet includes a recipe without meat, you may also reap the benefits of plant-based eating. Studies have shown that plant-based diets may help reduce our risk of heart disease and other health conditions.

However, keep in mind that a week-long plant-based eating protocol is not likely to have a major long-term impact on your risk for disease. But, it could help jumpstart adding more veggies into your diet.

Cons

The primary drawback of following a soup diet is that it is not sustainable. In fact, these diets are not meant to be sustainable. Most of the programs last 10 days or less. In such a short amount of time, you can lose a substantial amount of weight—but the weight loss will likely come from water loss—not from fat loss.

How It Compares

The soup diet is similar to other diets based on single food groups—called mono-diets. For example, there are popular pizza diets, smoothie diets, juice fasts, and even a taco diet.

Almost all of these diets promise substantial short-term weight loss but they are generally not sustainable.

In addition, diets that include foods from just one food group are not considered healthy because they limit your ability to get the wide range of nutrients that your body needs. Plus, if you follow one of these programs and reduce your weight substantially in a week or two, the weight is likely to come back when you resume your regular eating style.

USDA Recommendations

Unlike some other quick weight loss diets, you may be able to consume enough calories on the soup diet. In fact, one program specifically advises that you consume 1,200 to 1,400 calories per day. For some women who are trying to lose weight, that may be a reasonable calorie goal.

However, if you are physically active, you may need more energy throughout the day. Your calorie goal is unique based on your lifestyle, sex, and size. Be sure to get an individualized calorie recommendation for your body's needs to ensure that you are meeting it.

Check with your doctor or nutritionist to determine the optimal caloric target that is best for you. Make sure that you are meeting it if you choose to follow a soup diet.

You may be able to consume food from each recommended food group on the soup diet. You'll most likely increase your intake of vegetables and you may even increase your intake of plant-based protein.

Many recommend the use of healthy fats, such as olive oil. However, few of these programs encourage the consumption of whole grains or any grains for that matter. In addition, many restrict the consumption of fruit.

A Word From Verywell

While a warm, delicious bowl of vegetable soup can be a healthy addition to any eating plan, a diet that eliminates entire food groups is generally not recommended for sustainable weight loss or wellness.

If you enjoy eating soup and would like to benefit from the advantages of plant-based eating, experiment with making healthy soups at home and incorporate them, along with other nutritious meals, into your diet in order to reach and maintain a healthy weight.

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Article Sources
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  2. Zhu Y, Hollis JH. Soup consumption is associated with a reduced risk of overweight and obesity but not metabolic syndrome in US adults: NHANES 2003-2006PLoS One. 2013;8(9):e75630. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0075630

  3. Wright N, Wilson L, Smith M, Duncan B, Mchugh P. The BROAD study: A randomised controlled trial using a whole food plant-based diet in the community for obesity, ischaemic heart disease or diabetes. Nutr Diabetes. 2017;7(3):e256. doi:10.1038/nutd.2017.3

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