What Is the Cabbage Soup Diet?

cabbage soup diet

Verywell / Debbie Burkhoff 

At Verywell, we believe there is no one-size-fits-all approach to a healthy lifestyle. Successful eating plans need to be individualized and take the whole person into consideration. Prior to starting a new diet plan, consult with your healthcare provider or a registered dietitian, especially if you have an underlying health condition.

What Is the Cabbage Soup Diet

The cabbage soup diet is a fad diet that suggests eating cabbage soup several times a day for seven days for quick weight loss. Those who follow the plan will also eat a few other select low-calorie foods on specific days. These include any fruits (except bananas, which are only allowed on day four), as well as beef, vegetables, and skim milk. 

Reducing calorie intake for seven days will likely create a calorie deficit, which may lead to weight loss. The cabbage soup diet promises a 10-pound weight loss by the end of the week, but it is unclear how many people actually stay on the cabbage soup diet long enough to achieve that result. It is also highly unlikely that this diet is an effective method for long-term weight management.

Proponents of the diet say that the plan shouldn’t be followed for more than the prescribed seven days, but that the seven-day cycle can be repeated again after two weeks until a desired amount of weight loss is achieved. Of course, these recommendations are not backed by health experts or scientific evidence.

What Experts Say

"The cabbage soup diet promises quick weight loss, but experts agree it's not a sustainable option. Protein and vegetables are a focus, but any weight lost is likely to be gained back. Plus, cutting food groups can lead to nutrient imbalances."

Leyla Shamayeva, MS, RD

The 7-Day Diet Plan

There is no special timing or fasting required for the cabbage soup diet. However, specific foods are only allowed on specific days. Other foods and beverages are supposed to be avoided for the duration of the diet such as those containing real and artificial sugar. Alcohol is also restricted on this plan. While there are many different versions of the diet, here is one example:

  • Day 1: Cabbage soup and unlimited fruit (except bananas)
  • Day 2: Cabbage soup and unlimited fresh, raw, or cooked vegetables (except for dry beans, peas, and corn); large baked potato with butter for dinner
  • Day 3: Cabbage soup and unlimited fruit (except bananas) and vegetables
  • Day 4: Cabbage soup and up to eight bananas and unlimited skim milk
  • Day 5: Cabbage soup and between 10 ounces and 20 ounces of beef or poultry and up to six fresh tomatoes
  • Day 6: Cabbage soup and unlimited beef and vegetables
  • Day 7: Cabbage soup and unlimited brown rice, unsweetened fruit juice, and vegetables

What You Can Eat

The cabbage soup diet includes a seven-day meal plan that allows specific foods only on certain days, plus at least one serving of cabbage soup. The diet has a few different versions, but the basic premise is a recipe for homemade, fat-free cabbage soup and a list of specific, low-calorie foods to eat on different days in addition to the soup.

Homemade Cabbage Soup

The basic soup recipe includes a head of cabbage, canned tomatoes, onions, garlic, and other vegetables, along with broth, water, or tomato juice. The diet lasts for one week. Those who follow this plan will consume cabbage soup and the allotted foods for that day.

Additional Foods and Beverages

Some versions of the diet allow various fruits and vegetables, in addition to cabbage soup. Some variations include beef, brown rice, potatoes, and unsweetened cranberry juice.

What You Cannot Eat

As a result of the cabbage soup diet being so restrictive, there is a long list of foods and beverages that you cannot consume. This includes alcohol, regular or diet soda, sweetened juice, artificial sweeteners, avocado, and dried fruit.

How to Prepare the Cabbage Soup Diet & Tips

The single most important feature of the diet is the soup, which can be time-consuming to prepare. Proponents of this plan may opt for bags of pre-shredded cabbage or coleslaw mix instead of slicing cabbage by hand. Some people may choose to make large amounts of soup in batches to save time.

There are variations to the basic cabbage soup recipe which include using purple cabbage instead of green, adding extra vegetables like zucchini, cauliflower, or carrots, or adding spices like curry, cumin, cardamom, cloves, ginger, or Sriracha.

Depending on the broth base, cabbage soup can be very high in sodium, providing nearly 100% of the recommended daily allowance if several bowls are consumed. Proponents of the diet recommend consuming several bowls of soup and at least eight 8-ounce glasses of water daily.

Most cabbage soup recipes also provide a small amount of protein (about 5 grams), roughly 13 grams of carbohydrates, and only about 1 gram of fat. Because the soup is made with mostly vegetables, you will probably get a few grams of fiber in each bowl—approximately 3 to 5 grams—which may help promote satiety.

Pros of the Cabbage Diet

The cabbage soup diet is considered a fad diet that can provide quick, short-term weight loss, but it is not necessarily healthy. Review the pros and cons so you can make an informed decision about trying this diet plan.

  • Easy to follow: The simple rules of diet are fairly easy to follow. With unlimited amounts of cabbage soup, the diet can also be filling. As a short-term diet, those who follow this plan only need to stick with it for a week.
  • Quick weight loss: Proponents of the cabbage soup diet claim you can lose 10 pounds in one week, but there is a lack of evidence to support those claims. While no research studies have examined the effectiveness of the cabbage soup diet, the seven-day plan consists of mostly low-calorie foods. Research has shown that reduced-calorie diets can help promote weight loss.

While the plan may provide quick weight loss results, it is not a long-term solution for managing your weight.

Cons of the Cabbage Diet

  • Lack of versatility: People following the cabbage soup diet often complain that it is boring and repetitive. Not many people like cabbage soup enough to enjoy it every day for an entire week.
  • Severe calorie restriction: The greatest concern expressed by nutrition and weight-loss experts is that many versions of the cabbage soup diet restrict calories to fewer than 1,200 calories a day, which is the minimum generally recommended for healthy weight loss. The daily calorie count on the cabbage soup diet is so low that it could be considered a type of fast rather than a diet, which could lead to unhealthy eating habits.
  • Not Based on Scientific Evidence: The cabbage soup diet is not based on any nutritional or medical science. There is no scientific proof that cabbage or cabbage soup has any of the fat-burning properties often advertised in the diet's description.
  • Not a Long Term Solution: The cabbage soup diet provides no advice for those with emotional eating issues, nor does it offer suggestions for long-term weight management, such as developing healthy eating habits or controlling portion sizes. So after the diet is over, you're likely to gain back any weight you lose.

In general, no one should follow a diet plan under 1,200 calories without guidance from a healthcare provider. Any diet plan providing so few calories should be avoided. Doing so could lead to serious health issues and nutrient deficiencies, and at the very least, will likely cause your weight to rebound when the diet is complete. The diet is also unsafe for anyone with a history of disordered eating.

Is the Cabbage Soup Diet a Healthy Choice for You?

Though there are no guarantees, the cabbage soup diet might help you lose weight quickly for the short term. However, it is not a long-term weight loss solution or a healthy eating plan, nor does it teach skills like healthy meal planning and preparing, which are needed for sustained weight loss.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) dietary guidelines include recommendations and tips for a healthy, balanced diet. The following nutrient-dense foods are recommended as part of a healthy diet:

  • Vegetables and dark, leafy greens (kale, spinach, broccoli, Swiss chard, green beans) 
  • Fruits (apples, berries, melon)
  • Grains (quinoa, brown rice, oats)
  • Lean meats (chicken breast, fish, turkey breast)
  • Beans and legumes (all beans, lentils, peas)
  • Nuts and seeds (walnuts, almonds, sunflower seeds)
  • Dairy (reduced-fat milk, cheese, yogurt) 
  • Oils (olive oil, avocado oil

The USDA recommends consuming roughly 1,500 calories per day for weight loss, but this number varies based on age, sex, weight, and activity level. Because cabbage soup diet recipes vary, there isn't one standard set of nutrition facts for cabbage soup, but on average, a bowl has about 50–100 calories. Use this calculator to determine the right number of calories for you and your weight loss goals.

While the cabbage soup diet is high in vegetables, the overall diet does not adhere to USDA guidelines. The diet is highly restrictive and does not provide a wide variety of nutrients or calories. It is not considered a healthy eating plan.

A Word From Verywell

Some people will lose weight on the cabbage soup diet—but that's only because of the extremely low calorie intake on this short-term diet plan. There is nothing magical or special about cabbage soup that makes weight loss happen.

When you lose weight this quickly, you generally lose water weight, not fat. As soon as you return to your normal eating habits, all the weight comes back and in some cases, even more. Talk to your doctor or a registered dietitian before beginning this or any other restrictive diet plan.

Remember, following a long-term or short-term diet may not be necessary for you and many diets out there simply don’t work, especially long-term. While we do not endorse fad diet trends or unsustainable weight loss methods, we present the facts so you can make an informed decision that works best for your nutritional needs, genetic blueprint, budget, and goals.

If your goal is weight loss, remember that losing weight isn’t necessarily the same as being your healthiest self, and there are many other ways to pursue health. Exercise, sleep, and other lifestyle factors also play a major role in your overall health. The best diet is always the one that is balanced and fits your lifestyle.

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3 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  2. U.S. Department of Agriculture. Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2020-2025. Published 2020.

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