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The Cabbage Soup Diet Is Gaining Popularity Again, and Experts Aren’t Happy

September 21, 2023

Diet trends have been around for years, and it always seems as if there’s a new fad that claims to help you lose weight quickly. Along with new trends, old ones are also starting to make comebacks. Currently, there’s being brought back to light; the Cabbage Soup Diet. As seen recently on TikTok, vloggers are swearing on this detox trend that is sure to help you shed pounds in a matter of days. But, is it really worth trying? We’ve connected with the experts to tell us if it’s really worth cooking up in your kitchen.

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What is the Cabbage Soup Diet?

“The Cabbage Soup Diet is a popular yet highly restrictive short-term weight loss plan that has been around for several decades,” explains Isaac Robertson, CISSN, ISSA Certified Health Coach, RD, and co-founder of Total Shape.  “The Cabbage Soup Diet primarily consists of consuming a low-calorie cabbage soup as the main component of one’s daily meals.”

Robertson continues to say that this soup is typically made from ingredients such as cabbage, onions, tomatoes, peppers, and sometimes other vegetables. The average length of diet this diet is typically seven days, although TikTok trends have shortened it to three.

However, during this week, Robertson says specific foods are allowed each day in addition to the cabbage soup, including fruits, more vegetables, a small amount of protein, and limited carbohydrates.

On paper, this may seem like an efficient way to lose weight, as some benefits of this diet include encouraging people to eat nutrient-dense fruits and vegetables as well as rapid weight loss. Unfortunately, that’s not enough to make this an expert-supported meal.

The cons of the Cabbage Soup Diet

It’s low in calories

Eating in a calorie deficit usually seems like a good thing when you’re trying to lose weight, but when it becomes too much of a lesser intake, then you’re in for some possible side effects.

“It involves very low-calorie intake, potentially causing deficiencies, fatigue, and muscle loss,” explains Kourtney Simmang, BS, CNC, and FDNP, Licensed Functional Nutritionist, and Founder of Kale Diagnostics, a holistic medicine practice. “Due to low protein intake, muscle breakdown can occur.”

In short, Simmang says that the Cabbage Soup Diet is not recommended for sustainable, healthy weight loss.

“It’s better to focus on a balanced, diverse, and long-term dietary approach, along with regular exercise and guidance from healthcare professionals, for lasting weight management,” she advises.

It’s restrictive

Like most diet fads, the Cabbage Soup Diet has you eliminating lots of other foods and food groups.

“It is a very low-calorie intake, less than the minimum recommended for healthy weight loss,” starts Eva De Angelis, LDN from Argentina and a Health and Nutrition writer at Health Canal. “Plus, it cuts down several food groups. Combined, this restriction may end up in constipation and lead to disordered eating behaviors and malnutrition.”

Furthermore, De Angelis says the diet is very strict, with no room for variety, meaning you will get bored quickly. In return, this can lead to overindulgence once finished with the seven-day diet.

“This is a quick fix, not a long-term solution to weight management,” says De Angelis. “So, after the seven days, you will most likely come back to your ‘normal’ habits, probably gaining weight again.”

You’re not getting enough nutrients

While you are most definitely getting your veggie intake, that’s not sufficient enough to be called a healthy diet.

“The diet lacks balance and doesn’t provide all the necessary macronutrients (carbohydrates, proteins, and fats) in appropriate proportions,” says Catherine Gervacio, RD and nutrition writer for ‘Living.Fit‘. “This can lead to imbalances in blood sugar levels and other metabolic processes.”

And, according to Gervacio, while people see themselves losing weight, it is likely due to water loss and reduced glycogen stores rather than significant fat loss – which is important for long-term health.

It comes with potential side effects

You know those commercials that sell you medicine to help with health problems, but they also quickly address side effects surrounded by upbeat music? That’s essentially the same scenario for the Cabbage Soup Diet, as it seems great in theory, but it’s masking potential dangers.

“Some people may experience digestive discomfort, bloating, and gas due to the high fiber content of cabbage,” says Robertson. “The severe calorie restriction may also lead to fatigue, irritability, and dizziness.”

It’s not backed by science

It’s important to listen to the facts, especially when it comes to your health. The Cabbage Soup Diet may seem like a good idea, but there’s no way to prove it.

There is no science to back up its claims for fast weight loss other than any other severe calorie restrictions,” says De Angelis.

“The Cabbage Soup Diet lacks scientific evidence to support its effectiveness in the long term or its safety,” Robertson agrees. “It is often considered a fad diet with no sustainable health benefits.”

It doesn’t help with weight loss post-detox

“The Cabbage Soup Diet lacks a maintenance plan after the seven-day detox, which means that one may regain any lost weight once they return to their regular eating habits,” explains Kelsey Costa, MS, RDN, a registered dietitian and nutrition consultant for Health Canal. “This could potentially lead to an unhealthy cycle of yo-yo dieting.”

Similarly, Costa says that the Cabbage Soup Diet does not promote permanent lifestyle changes or long-term weight management, which is essential for successful weight loss and health maintenance.

“It is unsuitable as a long-term solution and should only be used for seven days or less with close monitoring of one’s energy levels and overall well-being,” says Costa. “But as the diet does not provide a comprehensive approach to lifestyle change and sustainable weight loss, it is best to look for healthier options with more balanced meal plans.”

Costa also stresses that if you experience any nutrient deficiencies or fatigue symptoms, discontinue this diet and consult a medical professional for advice. For those with existing health conditions, particular dietary restrictions or needs, or taking medications, consult your healthcare provider or registered dietitian before starting any new diet.

Read next: 7 TikTok Trends That Are Unhealthy, Say Experts

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