This myth has been around for so long, it has transcended folk wisdom and become urban legend. According to a 1996 article in the New York Times, the Cabbage Soup Diet was everywhere that year. In much the same way that an idea today might achieve infamy through social media, this cabbage-based soup diet made the rounds through New York City via word of mouth, fax machines, and photocopied flyers.
The diet advocated eating bowls and bowls of cabbage soup, and adding in various other foods depending on the day. On one day, dieters were allowed any vegetable plus one buttered baked potato. On another, they could have eight bananas and a glass of skim milk. These bizarre rules, plus its viral distribution through the city caused some people to regard the diet as little more than a quirky chain letter. But some dieters insisted it was a secret weapon for weight loss.
So does the cabbage soup diet work? Even when this diet was experiencing its heyday in the 1990s, nutritionists warned against it. WebMD says that while this diet may indeed achieve weight loss, its lack of options plus poor nutritional balance make this diet a bad choice. Of course, soup can be quite healthy, and can easily be integrated into a balanced diet. Broth based soups loaded with veggies are a particularly wise choice. But this diet or any similarly restrictive diet is not balanced enough to be a good choice for any extended period of time.
Not surprisingly, the cabbage soup diet and its many variations have been given new life courtesy of the Internet. Sometimes the soup is reborn in a tomato base, and other times it’s seen with carrots and loads of garlic. Many recipes make claims like “eat more, lost more” or “have as much as you like and still lose weight.” These ideas directly contradict common sense, especially after the cabbage soup diet craze of earlier days failed to pan out.
Like alligators in the sewers, it is best to consider this diet as a piece of amusing urban legend trivia. If you feel like you must lose weight, the most healthy and sustainable way is through a real, balanced diet.
- “Melt Pounds With Cabbage Soup, a Diet From Nowhere Says”, The New York Times
- “The Cabbage Soup Diet”, WebMD