What Is the Sacred Heart Diet?

sacred heart 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 Sacred Heart Diet?

The Sacred Heart diet is a popular diet plan based around a soup recipe that proponents say will help you lose 10 to 17 pounds in one week. Allegedly, the diet was developed by a medical center called Sacred Heart to help patients with obesity lose weight to prepare for surgery. However, no record of this medical center exists. Many fad diets programs make false claims and are a ploy to generate income.

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

The 7-Day Diet Plan

This diet is not recommended. Below is one example of the Sacred Heart Diet. It is provided as an example of how restrictive this diet is and should not be followed.

  • 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

What You Can Eat

There are many different variations of the so-called Sacred Heart diet, but most require you to prepare a special soup that becomes the basis of your week-long eating plan. Every day, you'll eat at least one bowl of Sacred Heart soup. Then you will eat a few permitted foods along with the soup, usually in unlimited amounts.

Sacred Heart Soup

Though the recipes associated with the diet vary, the Sacred Heart soup generally includes:

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

Beverages

  • Coffee
  • Tea
  • Water
  • Non-fat milk (occasionally)
  • Unsweetened juice

Vegetables and Fruit

Most fruit and vegetables are accepted in limited quantities.

  • Broccoli
  • Zucchini
  • Leafy greens
  • Carrots
  • Berries
  • Kiwi
  • Citrus
  • Melons

What You Cannot Eat

The diet restricts certain foods each day but doesn't make suggestions on when you should eat them. Sweets are restricted for the length of the diet.

Sweetened Food and Drinks

  • Soda
  • Sweetened juice
  • Fruit punch
  • Sweetened coffee or tea beverages
  • Bananas (on certain days)

How to Prepare the Sacred Heart Diet & Tips

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.

It is important to keep in mind this is a fad diet and not recommended by health professionals or backed by scientific research.

Pros of the Sacred Heart Diet

The plan does have some benefits, as it's fairly easy to follow and accessible.

  • Simplicity: With this diet plan, the foods you 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.
  • Rich in fruits and veggies: On many days you'll consume fiber- and nutrient-rich vegetables and some fruits including tomatoes and bananas.

Though the promise of rapid weight loss with a simple, accessible diet plan may sound enticing, the cons far outweigh the pros, according to nutrition experts.

Cons of the Sacred Heart Diet

There are several downsides to the diet, including safety concerns, inadequate nutrition, and sustainability.

  • Weight regain: Most experts agree that the rapid weight loss from restrictive diet plans like the Sacred Heart diet is often temporary. Worse still, losing weight quickly and unsustainably and gaining it right back afterward (which is very likely) is associated with health risks. Also, most of the weight loss, especially in the beginning, is likely to be water weight.
  • Increased eating disorder risk: This is a fad diet, and following fad diets (or any severely restrictive diet) may increase a person's risk of developing or exacerbating an eating disorder.
  • Excessive red meat consumption: Eating unlimited amounts of beef is not a great idea, according to heart health experts, because research has shown an association between regular consumption of red meat and heart disease.
  • Likely unsustainable: While proponents of the Sacred Heart diet claim that rapid short-term weight loss is possible on this seven-day plan, there is no evidence to suggest this plan is a healthy or sustainable way to lose weight. What research does show is that similar fad diets do not promote weight management. What's more, fad diets often result in unhealthy eating habits.
  • Too low in essential macronutrients: The Sacred Heart diet includes almost no starch and limited carbohydrates. The calorie and carbohydrate restriction may result in water loss that will look like a fat loss on the scale, but your body needs carbohydrates for energy and optimal brain function.
  • Likely too low in calories: When your body doesn’t get enough calories, your metabolic rate will start to slow down and you'll likely experience a lack of energy, which may affect your ability to perform basic functions. Restricting calories for seven days on the Sacred Heart diet probably won’t cause any long-term damage to your health, but you are likely to experience fatigue and lightheadedness from not getting the fuel your body needs.
  • May cause nutrient deficiencies: Severe calorie restriction is usually medically supervised to prevent nutrient deficiencies, which is what happens when the body doesn't absorb enough nutrients from food sources. Continuing a restrictive diet like the Sacred Heart diet for longer than seven days could result in deficiencies, which can lead to health issues including skin problems, poor digestion, and loss of bone and muscle mass.
  • May slow the metabolism: Additionally, rapid weight loss may also slow the body's metabolism. So in addition to regaining any weight that was lost once your eating habits return to normal, you may have a harder time losing weight again in the future.

If you follow this diet exactly, you are likely to lose some weight, but when the weight loss involves unhealthy restriction as this diet does, the results are often temporary and come with risks.

Is the Sacred Heart Diet a Healthy Choice for You?

This eating program does not follow the accepted nutritional guidelines set forth by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). The current 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 diet days. While these are all healthy options, they are not enough on their own.

On some days, you are not likely to consume enough calories to fuel your body. And on many of the days, you may not get the important nutrients that your body needs. Daily calorie needs vary based on age, sex, current weight, and activity level, but 2,000 calories a day is typically used as an average or starting point.

The Sacred Heart diet does not meet the recommended guidelines for healthy eating as defined by the USDA. It lacks a healthy amount of daily calories, is not nutritionally balanced, and could lead to unhealthy post-diet binge eating.

A Word From Verywell

The Sacred Heart diet is not an effective method for long-term weight loss. You may lose weight on the diet, but you are likely to gain it back, and the plan comes with health risks. It's a healthier idea to find a program that fits your needs, allows you to eat your favorite foods in moderation, and provides your body with important nutrients that support your overall health.

Talk to your doctor or meet with a registered dietitian if you have a significant amount of weight to lose. Your healthcare team can provide you with tools that will make your weight loss journey successful.

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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7 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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