Thousands of people search the Internet each month for the old fad-diet standby, the cabbage soup diet. What makes it so popular?
This diet is probably so popular because it's really easy to use. Unlike nutritional plans that can actually lead to long-term healthy weight loss, the cabbage soup diet requires little reading, no studying, and very little preparation. Just make up one pot of soup, put it in the fridge, and eat some whenever you get hungry. It sounds easy, but it rarely works.
Most people commit themselves to staying on this simple diet plan for just one week. That seems short enough to be doable, and it's long enough to lose enough weight to get into a pair of jeans for Friday's date. However, it's quite likely that most people get so sick of cabbage soup in a few days that they can't eat another bowl of the stuff. The trash can gets all the soup that's left in the fridge.
Hopefully, all the people who try this diet don't end up with a conditioned avoidance of cabbage and its healthy relatives - kale, cabbage, kohlrabi, cauliflower, broccoli and Brussels sprouts. These foods contain high quantities of many important nutrients, including antioxidants and vitamins K, C, B6, B1, B2 and A. One study of Chinese women found that a diet high in cabbage and its Brassica relatives can actually reduce the risk of cancer from air pollution and smoking by as much as 69%.
Tell that to someone who has eaten nothing but cabbage soup for three days solid, and she may begin to turn green. The uncomfortable fact is that boiled cabbage contains sulfur, so it can cause sever stomach cramps or gas if eaten in large quantities.
Parts of the cabbage soup diet are actually based on sound principles. People who eat a soup at least once a day do lose weight. The warm broth is filling, but contains few calories. This will not be true, of course, if the soup is made of cream, butter and bacon, but most vegetarian soups are low-calorie foods, with lots of nutrition, and they are very satisfying.
The trick, of course, is to find a good cookbook with lots of different soup recipes, (including those that include cabbage), and eat a different soup each day. That way, you won't find yourself avoiding the cabbage section in the supermarket produce aisle.
It also helps to let go of the quick-weight-loss mentality. We gain weight slowly, and it's healthy to lose weight slowly, too. Slow and healthy weight loss will happen naturally by following a nutritious diet filled with fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans and lean meat. Excellent books are available that explain exactly what to eat, for a lifetime of good health.
If the science portions of healthy diet books like those by Dr. Dean Ornish or Dr. Joel Fuhrman are just too much to swallow all at once, you might consider joining or creating a group of like-minded folks who want to learn the basic principles of good nutrition together. That way, the process becomes more fun.
Or you might sign up for a class at the local community college, or find a qualified nutritional counselor. Naturopathic physicians are also well-versed in the value of good nutrition, and they will usually help you find a diet that allows you to lose weight naturally.
If you absolutely must lose five pounds by next Friday, will it hurt to try the cabbage soup diet? No - for short periods, eating a very low-calorie diet based on vegetable soup won't hurt you at all, as long as you have no conditions, such as diabetes, that could be affected by the drastic change in your normal dietary routine.
A much better alternative, of course, is to commit to eating right every day.