Lifting the Lid on Fad Diets: The Cabbage Soup Diet

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Cabbage is one of the most dreaded vegetables, it is typically avoided on not only children's dinner plates, but many adults too. It has a bitter test and pungent smell that doesn’t make many salivate and crave more. The thought that someone would exclusively eat cabbage as a method of weight loss seems bizarre, and torture of the taste palate, but they do it....

What is the Cabbage Soup Diet?

The Cabbage soup diet is really summed up in its title. The diet is entirely fat free and consists of two or three of the daily meals consisting exclusively of Cabbage Soup. It proposes that it can help you to lose up to 10 pounds (~4.5kg) throughout the course of the diet.

The soup is made from stock and cabbage and can have a small number of added ingredients, such as:

  • Vegetables, carrots, spinach, kale etc
  • Baked beef or chicken
  • Brown rice/grain.

However, these have to make up a very small portion of the meal and cannot be added every day. Additionally, on certain days you are allowed to snack on fruit and drink a glass of skimmed milk. On the other hand, you are not permitted to eat refined sugars, rich carbohydrates or drink dairy on a regular basis.

The premise of the diet is very simple, it is very low calorie (on average 800kcal), high in water, and high in fibre. Therefore, you stay fuller for longer, satiated, yet consume very few calories. There is no emphasis on exercise, mainly because the calorific intake of the cabbage soup diet would not be enough to sustain a suitable exercise programme.

Seeing as the cabbage soup diet is only a short term fix the rates of relapse are many. Often the weight lost through dieting cannot be sustained when the person returns to a conventional diet [1,2].

Benefits of Eating Cabbage?

The Cabbage is from the Brassica Oleracea family which also includes the wild form of cabbage, kale, broccoli and cauliflower. The general name for the cabbage family is the Brassicaceae. A common feature of this family is that it is rich in the compound Sulphur [4].

In the past a 'course of cabbage' has been prescribed to act as a diuretic, and help stomach ulcers, osteoporosis, cancer, diverticulitis, bronchitis and Hyperthyroidism [4].

Cabbage is a hugely nutritious vegetable, bursting with vitamin, minerals, amino acids. Cabbage’s health benefits come from its glucosinolates. The one that has received the most attention in the media is Sinigrin. Sinigrin has been linked to a decrease in bladder, colon, and prostate cancers. In addition, cabbage is rich in antioxidants, and has been shown to be anti-inflammatory, support the heart, liver and digestion [5].

In terms of Vitamins and Minerals, cabbage is rich in Vitamin C, Vitamin K, Folic Acid, Choline, Manganese, Magnesium, and Potassium[6]. Cabbage also contains amino acids, alanine, arginine, glutamate, leucine and tyrosine [4]. For weight loss the most beneficial component is its fibre content. Cabbage is approximately 9% fibre. The benefit of fibre is that it bulks the content of the stomach and helps you feel fuller for longer. This is hugely beneficial in a diet such a the cabbage soup diet because you are eating very little else [6].

That being said, when eaten exclusively it does not provide the required vitamins and minerals for good health.

Drawbacks of Following the Cabbage Soup Diet?

Due to the lack of calorific energy, and nutrients provided by a diet of cabbage soup it can lead to the following symptoms:

  • Dizziness
  • Fainting
  • Extreme Hunger
  • Fatigues and Tiredness
  • Mood Swings and uncontrolled emotions.

Other side effects relating to the cabbage and the soup itself include:

  • Flatulence
  • Bloating and abdominal cramps
  • Dehydration, as it decreases desire to drink water.
  • Poor Glycemic control
  • Malnutrition- slow wound healing, poor immune.

You should do the cabbage soup diet for no longer than 7 full days and wait 2 weeks between every stint, this will allow for a wide variety of foods to be consumed.

Deficiencies caused by the Cabbage Soup Diet

Fats, Protein and Carbohydrate, are the macronutrients that make up our energy system and the greatest components of our diet. Fats are essential for our lipid membranes, the absorption of fat soluble vitamins, warmth, protection, hormone and energy production. Proteins are simply there to repair and generate new cells and tissues, by replacing the old ones. Carbohydrates are our main energy source, we break them down or store them for further use. Cabbage provides almost no fat, carbohydrates or protein.

Iodine is a trace mineral used in the body to maintain health and hormone production in the thyroid gland. Iodine is incredibly sensitive to absorption, particularly in the presence of glucosinolates. So much so that vegetables rich in them were prescribed to people with hyperthyroidism to actively reduce Iodine absorbed.

Only 2% of our daily requirements of Vitamin A are found in cabbage. This means that on the cabbage soup diet very little is provided. Vitamin A is responsible for healthy eyesight and skin. To increase the Vitamin A intake in the cabbage soup, try adding broccoli, carrots or spinach to the soup. Additionally, a Vitamin A supplement can be incredibly beneficial.

Although, you are allowed a glass of skimmed milk, Vitamin D and Calcium contents of the diet are sparse. Cabbage does contain 4% Calcium, yet no Vitamin D. The best way to improve these would be to increase milk intake within the diet plan. There are very few Vitamin D and Calcium sources you are permitted to add into the diet, a supplement is advised. Although, recent developments in Vitamin D studies suggest that everyone should take a daily supplement of Vitamin D regardless of their nutritional status. When Vitamin D is used conjunction  with Calcium they help to maintain bone health [7].

 is not found in cabbage, not is it found in any plant. Vitamin B12 can only be found in animal sources such a meat, and dairy products. This is where the permitted protein and milk becomes essential and should be adhered to for optimal nutrition. If you are Vegan or Vegetarian, a Vitamin B12 supplement is recommended you particularly during this diet, but in general nutrition too. Vitamin B12 is essential for energy production [6].

Vitamin E is scarcely found in cabbage, Vitamin E is required for antioxidant properties, protection of DNA, protein and lipids. Furthermore, Vitamin E has also been linked with skin health. To increase Vitamin E content in the diet within the realms of the diet you could add carrots or brown rice to your soup. In addition, you could try a Vitamin E supplement [6].

Here at Oxford Vitality we do not condone nor recommend the cabbage soup diet, however, if you are adamant on undertaking it, we ask that you do so with nutrition in mind. Always consult a doctor or health care practitioner before undertaking any drastic diet in an attempt to lose weight. There is no substitute for a healthy diet and exercise programme for healthy weight loss.

For a Healthy Diet and Weight Loss Advice Please Click Here.

  1. Callahan. M. (2008). The Ultimate Cabbage Soup Diet. Available: http://www.health.com/health/article/0,,20410207,00.html.
  2. Ramsdale, S. (2016). Cabbage soup diet: Everything you need to know Read more at http://www.marieclaire.co.uk/life/health-fitness/cabbage-soup-diet-172520#wB3dzyd64QE7z5wp.99. Available: http://www.marieclaire.co.uk/life/health-fitness/cabbage-soup-diet-172520.
  3. Frey.R. (2016). Cabbage Soup Diet. Available: http://www.diet.com/g/cabbage-soup-diet.
  4. Botanical Online. (2016). Medicinal Properties of Cabbage. Available: http://www.botanical-online.com/medicinalscolangles.htm.
  5. Mateljan. G. (2001). Cabbage. Available: http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=19.
  6. SELF. (2014). Cabbage, raw Nutrition Facts and Calories. Available: http://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/vegetables-and-vegetable-products/2371/2.
  7. Mundasad. S. (2016). Vitamin D supplements 'advised for everyone'.Available: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-36846894.

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