The cabbage soup diet is meant to help with rapid weight loss, but is it healthy? Here's what a registered dietitian has to say.

Weight-loss diets are nothing new. While some trendy plans like keto and intermittent fasting have taken the internet by storm, other diets have stood the test of time and continue to be practiced among the weight-loss crowd.

The cabbage soup diet has been around for ages. In fact, some reports say that this diet has been around since the 1950s—well before intermittent fasting was part of our lingo. If you haven't heard about this cruciferous-veggie-focused diet before, keep reading to learn all about it.

What Is the Cabbage Soup Diet?

Many diets focus on specific macronutrient percentages (think carbs, fats and proteins) and highlight a variety of foods. But as the name implies, the cabbage soup diet is unique because it emphasizes a single food: cabbage soup.

Also known as the Sacred Heart diet and the TJ miracle soup diet, the cabbage soup diet is not meant to be followed for an extended period of time. Instead, participants follow this diet for seven days, with the promise of losing up to 10 pounds within that time frame.

Cabbage soup is low in calories and can be filling, thanks to the fiber that the veggie provides. Most variations of this diet suggest that people eat this soup two to three times a day, although some variations enable the participants to consume even more of the soup.

The cabbage soup used in this diet combines ingredients like broth, nonstarchy vegetables, pepper, herbs and, of course, cabbage.

Along with slurping cabbage soup throughout the day, participants are allowed to eat other foods that are in accordance with the diet's guidelines. Each day calls for different foods to focus on.

What Can You Eat on the Cabbage Soup Diet?

Like most diets, the cabbage soup diet has specific guidelines for what you can and cannot eat when you are on your weeklong weight-loss journey. Your best bet is to make a giant vat of cabbage soup at the beginning of your week, as you are going to be eating a lot of it over the next seven days.

Along with two to three servings of your cabbage soup, here is what else you can eat during your cabbage soup diet week:

  • Day 1: Fruit, except bananas
  • Day 2: Nonstarchy vegetables
  • Day 3: Fruits and vegetables
  • Day 4: Bananas and skim milk
  • Day 5: Beef or skinless baked chicken and tomatoes
  • Day 6: Beef and vegetables
  • Day 7: Brown rice, unsweetened fruit juices and vegetables.

To maintain proper hydration, water is permitted as a beverage. Black coffee and tea are acceptable as well. Alcohol, regular or diet soda, sweetened juice and artificial sweeteners are all to be avoided.

A bowl of cabbage soup on a designed background
Credit: Adobe Stock / nata_vkusidey

Does the Cabbage Soup Diet Work?

While there are no clinical trials published in medical journals that confirm whether the cabbage soup diet truly helps people lose up to 10 pounds in seven days, the internet is filled with people sharing that they have, indeed, lost weight when they followed these dietary restrictions.

Of course, restricting your caloric intake and avoiding soda, alcohol and anything with added sugar would likely result in short-term weight loss, regardless of whether this specific diet was followed or not. Unfortunately, rapid weight loss, like the weight loss observed in people who follow this diet, is often followed by regain within a short period of time.

While this might not be the most exciting way to eat, there are some pros and cons associated with following this diet:

Pros of the Cabbage Soup Diet

This diet encourages the consumption of cabbage every day. Since eating cruciferous vegetables, like cabbage, is linked to outcomes like reduced inflammation and a lower risk of developing certain cancers, including this food in your diet is undoubtedly a positive. And since the cabbage soup is packed with other good-for-you ingredients like other vegetables, following this diet can help people meet the recommended amount of vegetable servings every day.

Secondly, this diet is very easy to follow, and it includes real food instead of bars and shakes that can be loaded with added sugars.

Cons of the Cabbage Soup Diet

This diet is very low in calories, and following it can make people feel less energized because of this. It also does not provide enough healthy fats, an important part of a healthy and balanced diet. Foods like avocados, olive oil, salmon and nuts that are healthy and filling sources of unsaturated fats are not a large part of this diet. Therefore, following it can result in people not meeting their needs of this essential macronutrient.

Since this diet is so restrictive, it is not a long-term solution, and it does not teach people healthy eating habits. The weight loss that may result will likely not be sustained once people go off the diet.

People may also experience excessive gas and bloating while following this diet, as they would when they eat large quantities of cruciferous vegetables like cabbage.

Lastly, this diet does not emphasize the importance of maintaining a healthy lifestyle, and it doesn't encourage participating in exercise or getting quality sleep—factors that can play a role in maintaining a healthy weight.

Bottom Line

The cabbage soup diet has been used as a rapid weight-loss plan for decades. And while following it will likely result in weight loss, the results may be fleeting, and participants may not experience a significant reduction in fat mass and body fat percentage like they might with a gradual weight-loss program.

The cabbage soup diet is a very-low-calorie diet that is low in healthy fats, many vitamins and minerals, and protein on some of the days. Following a fad diet like this might result in rapid weight loss, but the weight loss is typically a result of losing water weight and will likely be regained once the diet is stopped. Instead of jumping on the cabbage soup diet bandwagon, speaking with a registered dietitian can help you determine the safest and most effective way to manage your weight that is healthy and sustainable.