The Cabbage Soup Diet is a fad diet for short-term weight loss and is unlikely to result in sustainable weight loss.
The Cabbage Soup Diet is a short-term weight loss diet.
Proponents of the diet say that it can help you lose up to 10 pounds (4.5 kg) in a single week, but many health experts warn that the diet does not promote health and wellness, and results are unsustainable.
Keep reading to learn about the possible benefits and drawbacks of the Cabbage Soup Diet.
The Cabbage Soup Diet is referred to as a rapid weight loss diet. Proponents’ anecdotal claims include following the diet for 7 days can lead to weight loss of up to 10 pounds (4.5 kg), which they believe can jump-start a longer-term diet plan.
The diet involves eating homemade cabbage soup for every meal for 1 week. You’re allowed 1–2 additional foods — such as fruit, vegetables, or skim milk — based on the diet variation you choose to follow.
Does it work for weight loss?
The Cabbage Soup Diet has never been studied, so it’s impossible to confirm its effectiveness. While it may result in temporary, short-term weight loss, it is unlikely to lead to sustainable weight loss.
Because the Cabbage Soup Diet is very low in calories, it will likely result in short-term weight loss. However, most of that weight is likely to come back as soon as you stop the diet. Because the food choices on this diet are limited, it makes it difficult to eat enough calories to maintain your body weight.
This commonly causes weight loss plateaus (periods of no weight loss) in long-term diets.
Very low calorie diets may also have some benefits.
- Some medical professionals may recommend very low calorie diets, such as a very low calorie ketogenic diet, for 4–12 weeks under a doctor’s supervision before transitioning to a low calorie diet. People may see significant short-term improvements in weight loss and metabolic health (
- A small 2021 study evaluated the effect an intermittent very low calorie diet has on managing blood sugar and cardiovascular risk in people with obesity. Results suggest that short-term, very low calorie diets can temporarily decrease insulin resistance, even though the diet period is too short to produce significant changes in body fat (
- The Cabbage Soup Diet also includes plenty of fruits and vegetables, which are low in calories and high in fiber.
- The diet is also cheaper to follow than other fad diets, as you only need to buy low cost soup ingredients and a few other foods.
The Cabbage Soup Diet is very low in calories, so it should cause short-term, temporary weight loss. This weight loss is unlikely to be sustainable unless followed by another low calorie eating plan.
While there is no research on the Cabbage Soup Diet, very low calorie diets may be unsafe for certain people. These can include:
- pregnant people
- people who are nursing
- people with other health conditions
- people with a history of disordered eating
Before beginning any new diet, consider talking with a medical professional, especially if you have other health concerns.
Homemade cabbage soup forms the basis of this diet.
To start, you need to prepare large batches of soup to eat for the entire week.
Keep in mind that specific ingredients for the soup may vary.
The cabbage soup recipe
- 2 large onions
- 2 green peppers
- 2 cans of tomatoes
- 1 bunch of celery
- 1 head of cabbage
- 3 carrots
- 1 package of mushrooms
- 1–2 bouillon cubes (optional)
- 6–8 cups of water or vegetable cocktail, such as V8
- Chop all vegetables into cubes.
- In a large stock pot, sauté onions in a small amount of oil.
- Then add the remaining vegetables, cover with water or vegetable cocktail, and add bouillon cubes or other seasonings if desired.
- Bring to a boil, then reduce to medium heat. Let the vegetables simmer until tender, about 30–45 minutes.
You may season the soup with salt, pepper, hot sauce, herbs, or spices. You may add other non-starchy vegetables, such as spinach or green beans.
Every day, you should eat as much cabbage soup as you want — at least for several meals.
Cabbage Soup Diet guidelines and daily meal plan
These are the guidelines for each day of the Cabbage Soup Diet.
- Day 1: Unlimited cabbage soup and fruit but no bananas.
- Day 2: Only soup and vegetables with a focus on raw or cooked leafy greens. Avoid peas, corn, and beans. You may also have one baked potato with butter or oil.
- Day 3: Eat as many fruits and vegetables as you want in addition to the soup. However, no baked potatoes or bananas.
- Day 4: Unlimited bananas, skim milk, and cabbage soup.
- Day 5: You can eat 10–20 ounces (280–567 grams) of beef, which you may substitute for chicken or fish. You may also have up to six fresh tomatoes. Drink at least 6–8 glasses of water.
- Day 6: Soup, beef, and vegetables. You may substitute beef for broiled fish if you did not do so the day prior. Focus on leafy greens — no baked potatoes.
- Day 7: You may have vegetables, brown rice, and unlimited fruit juice — but no added sugar.
You should not continue the diet for more than 7 days at a time. However, you may repeat the diet if you wait at least 2 weeks before starting it again.
Foods to eat
While on the Cabbage Soup Diet, the guidelines note that you can eat 1–2 other low calorie foods daily in addition to the soup. You can drink water or other calorie-free beverages, such as unsweetened tea.
Because the diet is low in specific nutrients, you may decide to take a daily multivitamin.
Foods to avoid
While following the Cabbage Soup Diet, you may need to avoid foods that are not part of the meal plan. This includes calorie-containing beverages along with many foods.
Proponents of this diet recommend not making any substitutions.
To follow the Cabbage Soup Diet, you need to prepare large batches of cabbage soup to eat multiple times per day. You can also eat 1–2 other foods each day.
Although the Cabbage Soup Diet may help you lose some weight, its drawbacks may outweigh its benefits.
One of the main problems with the Cabbage Soup Diet is that it can only be followed for 1 week, which is not long enough for meaningful weight loss.
Your body can only burn so much fat per week. In the first week of a low calorie diet, only about 34% of the weight lost is from fat. The other two-thirds of weight loss comes from lost water weight and muscle mass (
Water weight comes from your glycogen stores, which are your body’s quick energy reserves. Typically, glycogen binds to water molecules in your body. When you do not eat enough calories, your body uses the stored glycogen as energy and sheds that extra water (
However, as soon as you return to a less restrictive diet, your body will rebuild those emergency stores and take on water weight again (
Another big problem with the Cabbage Soup Diet is its lack of nutrients.
The Cabbage Soup Diet has so few food choices that it is deficient in many vitamins and minerals and offers no source of protein on most days.
Without much protein, preventing muscle loss during the diet will be difficult.
Moreover, the diet is restrictive, making it hard to stick to for an entire week.
It also requires frequent large-batch cooking to prepare enough cabbage soup, which may be a drawback for some people.
The Cabbage Soup Diet is restrictive, hard to stick to, and deficient in many nutrients. Since it lasts only a week, most of the weight you lose is only water weight that will return once you stop the diet.
The Cabbage Soup Diet is not recommended for more than 1 week at a time because it’s restrictive and nutritionally imbalanced.
Very low in calories
Although the Cabbage Soup Diet is not a starvation diet, the foods are so low in calories that reaching 1,000 calories per day would be difficult.
Very low calorie diets under 800 calories per day are only recommended for some people with obesity under a physician’s close supervision.
May not provide enough nutrients
The food choices that the Cabbage Soup Diet requires are limited and unbalanced. The diet includes almost no protein and is very low in carbs, fat, and calories. Additionally, it’s deficient in many vitamins and minerals.
There is not a serious risk of vitamin and mineral deficiencies if you only follow the diet for 1 week, especially if you decide to take a multivitamin. But this does not make up for the diet’s lack of calories and protein.
People following the Cabbage Soup Diet may experience dizziness, weakness, and lightheadedness.
May cause flatulence and cramping
May cause gallbladder issues
Gallstones can be the unintended consequence of any rapid weight loss.
When you eat high fat foods, your gallbladder releases digestive juices to help break them down. However, if you hardly eat any fat, your gallbladder may not empty for extended periods, increasing the likelihood of stone formation.
May change your blood sugar levels
The low carb and low calorie diet may cause concerning changes in your blood sugar levels, which can be unsafe for people with diabetes.
That said, the diet is not likely to have serious side effects for most people without diabetes if it is only used for 1 week, which is intended.
The Cabbage Soup Diet is not suitable for long-term use because it lacks key nutrients. Despite some uncomfortable side effects, trying it for 1 week will probably not lead to significant side effects for most people without health concerns.
Like other very low calorie diets, the Cabbage Soup Diet will likely cause temporary weight loss. But people who follow it tend to regain most of the weight lost unless they make other permanent changes.
Additionally, eating only cabbage soup is nutritionally unbalanced and not safe. Many people find the diet unappealing and hard to stick to. More balanced options can include the Mediterranean diet or time-restricted eating plans like intermittent fasting.
While this diet may help you lose weight quickly, it is more beneficial to consider choosing more proven options to support long-term weight loss and your overall health and wellness. If you have questions about weight loss, talking with a healthcare professional can be helpful.