What Is the Sacred Heart Diet?

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Sacred Heart Diet
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The Sacred Heart diet is a popular diet plan, based around a soup recipe, that some say will help you to lose 10 to 17 pounds in one week. Allegedly, the diet was developed by a medical center called Sacred Heart to help overweight and obese patients lose weight to prepare for surgery. However, there is no evidence that any hospital, weight loss specialists or physicians developed this diet. Nor is there evidence to suggest that the Sacred Heart diet is effective for weight loss. 

What Experts Say

"By following a restrictive diet that includes special soup recipes, the Sacred Heart diet promises quick weight loss. While you may lose a few pounds, experts agree this is an unsustainable fad diet. The limited daily food intake is also likely to lead to nutrient imbalances."
Chrissy Carroll, RD, MPH

Background

It is unclear who actually came up with the eating plan, but it is highly unlikely that it was developed by medical professionals. There is no verifiable record of a hospital affiliation and no legitimate source at any medical center with that name (or any medical facility) has claimed responsibility for it.

So where did it come from? It is very likely that the plan and its many variations were developed as a diet scam to make money through online advertising. There are many diets, like fake versions of a Mayo Clinic Diet, that claim to be affiliated with a reputable source in order to attract people who want to lose weight. But in fact, these programs are simply websites making false claims to generate income.

How It Works

There are many different variations of the Sacred Heart diet, but most require you to prepare a special soup that becomes the basis of your week-long eating plan. To lose weight, the plan says you must follow a very restrictive and specific day-by-day eating plan. People who follow this diet plan are only allowed to eat the foods prescribed for that day.

What to Eat

Every day, you'll eat at least one bowl of Sacred Heart soup. Then you will eat a few additional foods along with the soup, usually in unlimited amounts. Beverages including coffee, tea, water and sometimes nonfat milk (but not sweetened drinks) are allowed. One version of this weekly plan is:

  • Day 1: Soup and any fruit except bananas
  • Day 2: Soup, vegetables and one potato with butter at dinnertime
  • Day 3: Soup, fruits, and vegetables 
  • Day 4: Soup, bananas (at least three) and as much milk as possible
  • Day 5: Soup, beef (as much as possible) and up to six tomatoes
  • Day 6: Soup, beef, and vegetables
  • Day 7: Soup, brown rice, unsweetened fruit juice, and vegetables

Recommended Timing

The diet restricts certain foods each day, but doesn't make suggestions on when you should eat them.

Resources and Tips

Again, recipes can vary, but the Sacred Heart soup generally includes:

  • Canned beef broth or canned chicken broth
  • Chicken soup mix (dry) or canned chicken soup 
  • Stewed tomatoes
  • Carrots
  • Green beans
  • Yellow or green onions
  • Celery
  • Green peppers

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Simple to follow

  • Foods are readily available and inexpensive

Cons

  • Rapid weight loss can be dangerous

  • Not nutritionally balanced

  • Long-term success is very unlikely

Pros

Simplicity

With this diet plan, the foods you must eat are clearly defined. There are few decisions to make and beyond the soup itself (which is easy to prepare), there is little cooking or prep for meals.

Accessibility

All of the foods you need for this diet are easily found at any supermarket (or already in your pantry), and are generally inexpensive. There are no special foods or supplements to purchase.

Still, that does not mean this diet is recommended. It is far too limited in its nutrients and calories.

Cons

Safety

If you follow this diet perfectly, you are likely to lose weight. But that doesn't mean that the diet is healthy or safe. Losing weight at this rate, and especially gaining it right back afterward (which is very likely) can lead to health problems.

General Nutrition

This eating program does not follow accepted nutritional guidelines. On some of the days, you are not likely to consume enough calories to fuel your body. And on many of the days, you may not get important nutrients that your body needs.

Sustainability

Very restrictive programs often backfire and can even result in a post-diet binge that causes weight gain. In addition, this program includes almost no starch and limited carbohydrates. The calorie and carb restriction will result in significant water loss that will look like fat loss on the scale. But your body needs carbohydrates for energy and brain function. So it's very difficult to keep eating in this manner.

How It Compares

The Sacred Heart diet is similar to several others that have dubious medical sources, severely restrict certain foods and food groups, and promise quick, easy, and significant weight loss. These diets do not meet expert guidelines for calorie intake and nutritional balance.

USDA Recommendations

Food Groups

The USDA guidelines suggest eating a daily variety of fruits, vegetables, grains, dairy, and lean protein. On the Sacred Heart diet, you are getting only vegetables, chicken broth, and certain fruits on many of the days. While these are all healthy options, they are not enough on their own.

Calories

Daily calorie needs vary based on age, sex, current weight, and activity level, but 2000 calories a day is used as an average or starting point. Cutting back on the number of calories you consume every day is a safe and effective way to lose weight. But the Sacred Heart diet restricts calories far too much on some days, and encourages binging on others ("as much beef as possible"). A better option is to use this calculator to determine your ideal daily calorie intake for weight loss.

Similar Diets

Much like the Sacred Heart diet, these others require you to eat a lot of a certain food and severely limit others. They may be a quick fix, but they are not a long-term answer to reaching a healthy weight.

The Sacred Heart Diet

  • Types of Food: Along with the Sacred Heart vegetable soup, this diet limits the rest of your intake to a few other foods, including fruits, potatoes, beef, and milk.
  • Accessibility and Cost: Foods needed for this diet are readily available and you don't need to buy any expensive supplements or ingredients.
  • Duration: Most versions of the diet suggest following it for one week.
  • Safety: If you follow this diet, you will miss out on a lot of necessary nutrients and food groups, as well as limit your calories too severely.

The Cabbage Soup Diet

  • Types of Food: Swap the Sacred Heart soup for a slightly different one made with cabbage and you have the cabbage soup diet. Like the Sacred Heart plan, this one requires you to eat the soup daily, along with a very limited number of other foods (fruits, vegetables, beef, and nonfat milk).
  • Accessibility and Cost: Foods are readily available; no special, expensive ingredients or supplements are required.
  • Duration: One week is recommended, if you can last that long.
  • Safety: The restrictions in calorie intake and food groups mean this plan doesn't meat general nutrition recommendations. Plus, doctors advise against losing weight so quickly.

The M-Plan

  • Types of Food: The M stands for "mushroom." This diet recommends replacing one meal a day with a mushroom-based dish that uses little or no fat in preparation. Other than that, there are no restrictions.
  • Accessibility and Cost: You can pick up mushrooms at any supermarket, and you might even save money if you are eating less meat in favor of mushrooms.
  • Duration: The M-Plan diet calls for two weeks of mushroom-based meals.
  • Safety: Because this diet only restricts one meal a day, it doesn't limit calories or other food groups in a dangerous way. Mushrooms contain many vitamins and minerals. While you will lower your daily calorie intake if you swap meat for mushrooms, whether you lose weight will depend a lot on the choices you make for your non-mushroom meals.

The 3-Day Military Diet

  • Types of Food: For the three "on" days of the 3-day military diet, there is a specific list of foods to be consumed. These include puzzling choices such as "2 hot dogs without buns," "5 saltine crackers," and "1 cup of vanilla ice cream." On the "off" days, no foods are restricted--but calories are, to no more than 1500.
  • Accessibility and Cost: None of the foods is difficult to find or expensive. No supplements are required.
  • Duration: This is not really a three-day diet. Calories are restricted all seven days. The original plan does not have a target end date.
  • Safety: Eating two hot dogs a week is not the best choice, but this diet generally includes most food groups. Its calorie levels, however, are quite low (1100 to 1400 daily calories during the "on" days), which could be challenging to comply with and may not be safe for everyone.

A Word From Verywell

The Sacred Heart diet is not an effective tool for weight loss. You may slim down for a few days, but you are likely to gain the pounds back and possibly gain a few more. It's much better to find a program that fits your needs, allows you to eat your favorite foods in moderation, provides your body with important nutrients and boosts your health.

Talk to your doctor or meet with a registered dietitian if you have a significant amount of weight to lose. Your health care team can provide you with tools that will make your weight loss easier. If you have just a few pounds to lose, work toward shedding them at a safe and healthy rate of one to two per week.

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