With winter here, Catherine Saxelby takes a look at the ever-popular soup diet.
Soup diets appear and reappear every few years in different guises. They’re one of the perennial fad diets that promise quick and painless weight loss in a week. In the 1980s, there was the Cabbage Soup Diet; which you can still download from the internet today. Then again in 2007, thanks to publicity on a current affairs TV program, the Kickstart Soup Diet gained popularity and momentum. Whatever the name, the principles remain the same. You can eat as much as you like (or can stomach) of a low-kJ, vegie soup – alternating with specific food combinations – for a week. At the end of the week, you’re promised a loss of up to 6kg.
So is it all it’s cracked up to be? You will lose weight – it’s true. But it’s not as good as it sounds – you’ll lose mostly fluid, not fat, which you’ll likely gain back pretty quickly. And while you’re on the diet, you may experience what many others have complained of – bad flatulence, diarrhoea, or both. Delightful! You may also suffer from what I call ‘soup sickness’ – that is, getting so sick of eating the same soup each day, that you can’t bear to go near soup for months afterwards.
However you look at it, the soup diet isn’t sustainable or balanced, and it is unhealthy in the long term. For someone in reasonable health, it probably does no harm for a week, but it certainly isn’t suitable for anyone with diabetes or who is pregnant, and it’s definitely not nutritionally sound.
Despite the diet’s shortcomings, vegetable soup is a handy inclusion in ANY diet plan. It’s low in both kilojoules and fat. In fact, a 250ml mug of fat-free vegetable soup has only 75 kilojoules. Apart from being crammed full of vegies, soup has fibre, is inexpensive and easy to make, and best of all, it fills you up on just a few kilojoules.
Dr Barbara Rolls, Professor of Nutritional Sciences at Pennsylvania State University, calls foods like this one ‘low energy density’ foods. Her research found that dieters who ate soup as their first course in a meal consumed, on average, 400 fewer kilojoules in that meal, compared to those who didn’t start with soup.
In another US study, successful dieters on a low-kJ diet regularly included soup on the menu. And they rated the soup as a valuable part of their weight loss success. So don’t give it up entirely.
The bottom line
Ditch the silly diets – this one included. Follow a balanced, more sane diet, using soup as a hunger-buster before or between meals, and you can still lose weight. Just without the nasty side effects.