Soup, soup and more soup

A souping cleanse is replacing juicing as the detox diet of choice. Here’s what you need to know before getting started.
Lentil soup
Looking for an alternative to juicing? In moderation, healthy soups may be your answer. (For Spectrum Health Beat)

When the weather turns chilly, there’s nothing like a bowl of hot, steamy soup to warm you up.

So what would happen if you ate soup six times a day? Three days in a row? And nothing else? Proponents of the “souping detox” diet, including television’s Dr. Oz, say it’s a great way to lose weight and gain energy.

Not everyone agrees.

Jessica Corwin, a registered dietitian for Spectrum Health’s Healthier Communities, isn’t a fan of the detox diet fad, but she knows many Americans will hop on the bandwagon. Here’s her take on the pros and cons of souping:

On the plus side:

  • It’s a nutritious choice. Most recipes for detox soups use lots of vegetables in a broth base. The diet also includes breakfast soups, which are often based on yogurt and fruit. “To me, the breakfast choices look more like a smoothie than a soup. I think the only difference is eating it with a spoon instead of a straw,” Corwin said.
  • It’s better than juicing. If you want to try a detox diet, souping beats juicing. The soup keeps the veggies intact (instead of removing the fibrous pulp and skin), so you’ll reap the benefits of the whole food. And juicing is expensive. A grocery cart of costly, organic veggies will yield only a small amount of vegetable juice. “You get a lot more bang for your buck with souping,” Corwin noted. “Plus, a lot of people—including me—need to chew to feel satisfied and to have their minds register that they’ve eaten a meal.”
  • You won’t starve. Your soup will include plenty of veggies—think fiber!—plus it will be warm and soothing on cool days. This isn’t the old Cabbage Soup Diet of the 1980s, which verged on a starvation plan.
  • It can be motivating. For some people, a short-term souping detox is just the shot-in-the-arm they need to start eating a healthier, more plant-based diet, Corwin said. Just don’t let yourself slip back into your old habits of eating processed, preservative-laden foods after the soup is just a memory.

But keep in mind:

  • Detoxing is overrated. Although there’s a whole industry built on detox diets, the truth is that your liver, your kidneys and your colon all play a role in eliminating toxins from your body. It doesn’t take a special diet to eliminate waste.
  • That’s a lot of soup. How much soup can one person really eat? It’s not sustainable to eat soup (and only soup) for very long. Frankly, most of us don’t want soup for breakfast, lunch, dinner and a bedtime snack. “Souping can be done in a healthy way, but it doesn’t seem very satisfying,” Corwin noted.
  • Your weight-loss will be temporary. Like other fad diets, you’ll probably lose a few pounds quickly with an all-soup diet. But chances are that weight will come back as soon as you return to a normal diet. And, ironically, you may gain a couple extra pounds afterward despite your best intentions.

A better choice:

  • Choose a soup appetizer for weight-loss. Starting your meal with a low calorie, broth-based soup is a great way to feel satisfied more quickly so you don’t overeat during the main course, Corwin said. A glass of water can have the same effect, but soup is tastier.
  • Create a balanced eating plan. Some people are drawn to souping because it spells out exactly what to eat and when to eat it. But instead of a fad diet, it makes more sense to try a balanced plan that gives you more choices. For example, the Mediterranean diet is rich in antioxidants and unsaturated fats with generous servings of fruits and vegetables, fish, poultry, lamb, olive oil, grains and dairy. You’ll find plenty of information online or at your local library to guide you. Or sign up for a Mediterranean diet class.
  • Get help. Today’s world is full of conflicting information about what’s healthy and what’s not. If you want to eat healthier—either to lose weight or to improve your health—talk to a registered dietitian. They’ll help you cut through the nonsense and come up with an eating approach that’s realistic for you.

To learn more about nutrition services, ask your primary care doctor or go to spectrumhealth.org.

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