There is no scientific evidence to support the cabbage soup diet’s suitability for healthy weight loss. Although it may lead to initial weight loss, most people quickly regain that weight once they stop following the diet.

The cabbage soup diet is a diet fad that became popular in the 1980s. It involves eating primarily cabbage soup for 1 week.

Supporters of the diet claim that people who follow it strictly can lose around 10 pounds in a week.

Crash diets such as the cabbage soup diet may cause initial weight loss. However, most people gain the weight back once they stop following the diet.

This article discusses how the diet works and how to follow it, whether or not it is effective for weight loss, and some potential drawbacks and health risks associated with it.

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There are several variations of the cabbage soup diet.

Most variations of the cabbage soup diet involve eating soup made out of white cabbage for a week while gradually introducing other low calorie foods, such as raw fruits and vegetables, into the diet throughout the week.

As well as cabbage, some people may make soup from other low calorie vegetables, such as:

  • bell peppers
  • spinach and other leafy greens
  • mushrooms
  • leeks
  • broccoli or cauliflower
  • zucchini

How much soup someone makes depends on how much of it they intend to eat.

Because cabbage soup is very low in calories, there is no limit to how much a person may consume while following this diet. Most people will need at least two bowls per day for the week to avoid feeling excessively hungry.

While following the cabbage soup diet, people can eat as much cabbage soup as they want, as well as unsweetened, low calorie drinks, such as herbal tea and black coffee.

At certain points throughout the week, the person may add other low calorie foods back into the diet, as follows:

  • Day 1: Eat cabbage soup and raw fruits, but no bananas.
  • Day 2: Eat cabbage soup and cooked or raw vegetables, but no potatoes.
  • Day 3: Eat cabbage soup and raw, low fat fruits and vegetables, but no potatoes or bananas.
  • Day 4: Eat cabbage soup, skim milk, and no more than eight bananas.
  • Day 5: Eat cabbage soup, six tomatoes, and 565 grams of beef (or a substitute for beef, such as pork, fish, or chicken).
  • Day 6: Eat cabbage soup, unlimited vegetables but no potatoes, and unlimited beef (or another protein option).
  • Day 7: Eat cabbage soup, sugar-free fruit juice, and brown rice.

Following this diet typically provides a lot fewer than 1,000 calories per day during days 1–3 and around 1,000–1,200 calories per day during days 4–7.

Because it provides so few calories, people following the cabbage soup diet should not exercise during the week. Their bodies simply will not have enough caloric energy to healthily expend during extra activity.

Some anecdotal sources say that people following the cabbage soup diet may lose 10 pounds per week or more.

People who follow the diet strictly will likely lose some weight, potentially 10 pounds per week or more. This is because it involves eating so few calories each day.

However, in most cases, people quickly regain this lost weight once they return to their regular diet.

It is important to note that only around 34% of weight loss that occurs during the first week of following a very low calorie diet is from body fat. The rest of the lost weight will likely come from muscle tissue and water from reserves inside and outside cells.

There is no scientific evidence to suggest that the cabbage soup diet is safe or effective for weight loss. No health authorities recommend following the diet.

Proponents of the cabbage soup diet also encourage people not to exercise while following it. However, getting enough exercise is very important to good health overall. Regular exercise is also far more likely to lead to meaningful, long-term weight loss.

Crash dieting can also reduce someone’s rate of metabolism, which can cause weight gain or prevent weight loss.

When the body does not receive sufficient calories, it has to break down muscles for energy. The lower the muscle mass, the slower metabolism is, as muscle burns more calories during rest than fat.

At best, the cabbage soup diet may lead to the temporary loss of a few pounds, though this weight loss is likely to be both temporary and unhealthy.

The cabbage soup diet has many drawbacks.

Like many other fad diets, the cabbage soup diet is not a realistic long-term weight loss plan.

Eating so few calories will likely not provide enough nutrition for the body to function properly, which may lead to loss of muscle mass, reduced cognitive function, and feelings of illness or exhaustion.

Most people also find eating the same bland food every day unappetizing and boring. They are, therefore, less likely to stick to the diet.

Following the cabbage soup diet can also be difficult socially, as the restrictive nature of the diet makes eating out or with other people very difficult.

Also, because the cabbage soup diet excludes most sources of protein, carbohydrates, and fat, people may need to take supplements and vitamins during the diet.

Aside from feeling generally worn down while following the cabbage soup diet, some people may also experience:

Losing weight rapidly and following low calorie, low fat diets can also increase the risk of developing gallstones. These are hard, pebble-like lumps that form in the gallbladder or bile ducts.

Gallstones are typically made of cholesterol and bilirubin. This is a pigment released when red blood cells die that the liver processes. That is likely because the liver produces digestive juices called bile to help digest fats.

When someone does not consume enough fat, the gallbladder releases bile less often, and bile can accumulate in it. This can increase the risk of gallstones forming.

Losing weight quickly or not eating for long periods of time can also cause the liver to release excess cholesterol, which increases the risk of developing gallstones.

Because the cabbage soup diet includes almost no carbohydrates, it can also lower someone’s blood sugar, or glucose, levels.

Without carbohydrates to digest, the body’s insulin levels also drop. Insulin is the hormone that helps control blood glucose levels.

Sudden drops in blood glucose and insulin levels can be extremely dangerous, especially for people with metabolic conditions such as diabetes.

Without treatment, very low blood glucose levels can lead to organ failure, coma, and death.

The cabbage soup diet is a fad diet without scientific research to support its safety or effectiveness. It involves eating cabbage soup almost exclusively for a week.

Crash diets usually cause sudden weight loss, which can be significant. However, this lost weight will usually return once someone stops following the diet.

Although the diet is relatively cheap and easy to follow, it is not a sustainable plan for weight loss or good health. It also carries many health risks and drawbacks, some of which can be severe.

A person should talk with a doctor before trying the cabbage soup diet. Even with a doctor’s supervision, people should never follow the diet for longer than 1 week.