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Are soup cleanses good for you?

Soup cleanses have become a popular way for people to try to quickly lose weight and “detox” their bodies. Proponents claim that eating nothing but nutrient-rich soups for a few days or weeks can help you shed pounds, eliminate toxins, and reset your metabolism. But are soup cleanses actually effective and safe? Here’s a comprehensive look at the pros and cons of soup cleanting.

What is a Soup Cleanse?

A soup cleanse, sometimes called a “soup diet,” involves eating predominantly soups and broths for a period of time while eliminating all other solid foods. There are many different soup cleanse plans available, but most follow a similar structure:

  • Eat only homemade soups and broths
  • Drink plenty of water and herbal tea
  • Follow the plan for 3-10 days
  • Gradually reintroduce solid foods after completing the cleanse

The soups consumed on a cleanse are usually vegetable-based, low in calories, and high in nutrients. Some popular choices are broth-based soups like chicken or vegetable broth, tomato soup, puréed vegetable soups, and bean or lentil soups.

The premise behind soup cleanses is that the nutrient-dense, low-calorie soups will help rid your body of toxins and waste while still providing vitamins and minerals. And because the soups have minimal calories, you’ll theoretically lose weight rapidly.

Proposed Benefits of Soup Cleanses

Advocates of soup cleanses make some impressive claims about the benefits they can provide:

Rapid Weight Loss

By consuming very few calories for multiple days, most people will temporarily shed a few pounds from a soup cleanse. Limiting your diet to just soup eliminates many high-calorie foods, making it easy to take in far fewer calories than usual.

Some cleanses claim you can lose up to 10 pounds in a week. This dramatic weight loss is primarily from losing water weight and possibly muscle mass breakdown, not fat.

Toxin Removal

Cleanse supporters argue that broth-based, liquid-only diets give your body a break from digesting solid foods. This lets your body focus its energy on “detoxing” and removing waste or toxins that have built up. However, there is minimal evidence that short-term restriction of solid foods does anything meaningful to remove toxins.

Metabolism Reset

The theory behind a metabolism reset is that drastically reducing your calorie intake for a few days can slow your metabolic rate. Then, when you resume normal eating, your metabolism ramps up again, burning calories more efficiently. But research does not show a substantial lasting increase in metabolism from drastic calorie-cutting.

Nutrient Absorption

Liquid-only diets containing vegetable broths, extracts, and juices may help your body better absorb vitamins and minerals compared to digestion of solid foods. However, this benefit only applies in the short-term. Long-term nutrient absorption is best supported by a balanced diet of healthy solid foods.

Hunger Reduction

Soups tend to be satiating while also being relatively low in calories. Eating soup as your main (or only) food may help reduce feelings of hunger during the cleanse.

Mental Clarity

Due to their light and hydrating nature, some people report feeling mentally refreshed during a soup cleanse. However, others experience brain fog, irritability, and trouble concentrating from the nutritional restrictions and low calorie intake.

Downsides and Dangers

While the idea of a nutritious, cleansing soup-based diet may sound appealing, there are some significant drawbacks to undertaking a soup cleanse:

Extreme Calorie Restriction

Consuming only vegetable broths and light soups adds up to around 500-800 calories per day for most cleanses. This extreme calorie deficit can leave you feeling hungry, weak, and fatigued. Such low intake may also slow your metabolic rate.

Lack of Protein

Protein is essential for preserving muscle mass and strength. But vegetable-based soups are not a good source of protein. Without adequate protein for several days, your body may start breaking down muscle for energy.

No Solid Foods

Avoiding fibre-rich solid foods for multiple days can negatively impact digestive health. Fibre is vital for healthy bowel movements and gut bacteria balance.

Nutritional Deficiencies

While soup cleanses aim to provide vitamins and minerals through vegetable purees and fresh herbs, it is challenging to meet all your nutritional needs with such a limited diet. Deficiencies in iron, B vitamins, zinc, and other nutrients are likely.

Temporary Results

The rapid weight loss from a liquid diet is temporary and primarily due to fluids, not fat. Without sustainable healthy eating habits, weight regain after the cleanse is common.

Binge Eating

After restricting all solid foods for days, compulsive overeating is common once the cleanse ends. This can easily negate any weight lost during the cleanse.

Not Suitable for Everyone

Soup cleanses are inappropriate for many populations, including children, teens, pregnant women, and those with certain medical conditions like diabetes or heart disease that require a balanced diet.

Nutritional Analysis of Sample Soup Cleanse

To analyze the nutritional adequacy of a soup cleanse diet, let’s look at a sample daily menu:

Meal Foods
Breakfast 1 cup vegetable broth
Lunch 1 cup puréed tomato soup with basil
Dinner 1 cup lentil soup with carrots and celery
Snacks 1 cup green tea
1 cup chamomile tea
Total ~ 500 calories

This sample menu likely provides:

– 12-15g protein
– 20-30g carbohydrates
– 5-10g fat
– 25-35g fiber
– Half or less than half of the RDA for important vitamins like A, C, B1, B2, B3, B6, folate
– Only 10-20% of calcium, iron, and zinc needs

As you can see, while the vegetable content helps meet some vitamin and mineral needs, this soup cleanse is likely deficient in protein, most minerals, and some B vitamins due to the very low calorie intake and lack of variety.

Healthy Homemade Soups to Include

If you do decide to try a soup cleanse, be sure to choose nutritious homemade soups like:

Vegetable Soups

  • Tomato soup – rich in vitamin C and lycopene
  • Carrot ginger – great source of vitamin A
  • Broccoli, spinach or green bean – packed with vitamins and minerals

Bean Soups

  • Split pea – excellent plant-based protein
  • Lentil – high in fibre, folate and iron
  • Black bean – provides antioxidants and phytonutrients

Chicken or Vegetable Broth

  • Homemade is best to control sodium levels
  • Provides hydration without calories

Avoid cream-based soups and focus on broths and blended vegetable purees to maximize nutrition. Adding spices, herbs, a squeeze of lemon, and other flavors can provide variety.

Are Soup Cleanses Safe?

For most healthy adults, a liquid soup diet for a few days is likely safe, if done under medical supervision. But there are some key factors to consider:

  • Those with diabetes, heart conditions, or taking certain medications should avoid cleanses unless approved by their doctor due to risks from very low calorie intake.
  • Pregnant and breastfeeding women require extra calories and nutrients not provided by cleanses.
  • People with a history of eating disorders or binge eating should avoid cleanses and extreme calorie restriction.
  • Children and teenagers should not follow soup cleanses since they require adequate nutrition to grow and develop properly.
  • Most adults can likely tolerate a soup cleanse for 3-5 days when medically supervised and carefully planned. Longer cleanses up to 10 days may be safe for some but require medical monitoring.
  • Reintroduce regular foods gradually after the cleanse – don’t immediately overeat after restricting intake for days.

Those with chronic health conditions or on prescribed medications should get medical guidance before attempting a soup cleanse.

Should You Try A Soup Cleanse?

Soup cleanses may sound tempting for quick weight loss and toxin removal, but the evidence does not show significant long-term benefits once resumed normal eating.

The risks of nutritional deficiencies, binge eating, and weight regain mean soup cleanses are realistically not a sustainable or advisable weight loss strategy for most people. They disrupt healthy eating habits and your metabolism.

However, drinking homemade soups more regularly can be a healthy practice. Soups provide hydration and nutrition with few calories. Adding more broth-based, blended vegetable and bean soups into your routine diet (not as the only food) can aid digestion and weight loss efforts.

The bottom line is restrictive, liquid-only soup cleanses are difficult to maintain safely for more than a few days. For lasting results, focus instead on realistic, healthy eating and exercise habits that give your body the essential nutrition it needs. But feel free to get soup-er healthy with nutrient-packed soups as part of that plan!