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The different types of cabbage are rich in vitamins and low in calories, making them ideal for a diet. However, they are not magic, as the inventor of the "magic cabbage soup diet" called them.
In Northern Europe, sauerkraut (fermented white cabbage), savoy cabbage and kale were some of the few ways to prevent vitamin deficiency in winter. Losing weight and a healthy diet are two different things: eating lots of fruit is healthy because of the vitamins it contains, but the sugar content provides us with plenty of calories - for example, a large apple contains 20 calories more than a glass of Coca Cola.
The cabbage soup diet, more precisely, diets, because there are many of them, includes cabbage soups in the diet plan several days a week. The concept is simple: cabbage saturates and prevents cravings. Those affected should eat as much of the soup, which is as difficult to digest as it is low in calories, and thus prevent binge eating. According to the thesis, the "fat burner" cabbage supposedly consumes more calories due to the heavy digestion than it consumes.
Representatives of such coal diets claim that a coal diet can lose five to eight kilos in a week. Critics consider this a bluff: the low-calorie coal diet, combined with a lack of nutrients due to a one-sided diet, has a draining effect because the body is consuming its own carbohydrate reserves. The lack of protein also causes the body to break down muscles, which weigh more than body fat. Burning fat, i.e. sustainably losing weight, is therefore not an issue.
In the medium term, a coal diet would even lead to weight gain: the body needs energy to supply the muscles. That is why someone who trains several times a week in the weight training center consumes up to three times more calories even when at rest than someone whose muscles are untrained.
For this reason, diets associated with sports make sense. You can lose weight without any exercise if you consume fewer calories than the body consumes, but a well-trained person can ingest more calories. For example, weight training coaches eat six rolls or a large plate of pasta for breakfast in order to be able to supply their muscles.
Easy to organize
An advantage of the cabbage soup diet is that its ingredients are easy to obtain and very cheap. Instead of extremely expensive appetite suppressants or exotic foods, there is hardware in every supermarket. Basic ingredients are, for example, white cabbage, kale or savoy cabbage, carrots, tomatoes, peppers, parsley or celery. If you buy a bunch of soup greens and white cabbage, you have almost everything you need besides salt and pepper. In addition, the soup can be prepared in large quantities and frozen or poured into a thermos to be eaten on the go.
The focus on the “magic agent” cabbage also means that small delights are taboo in between. Depending on the degree of purism, even fruit or other vegetables are not allowed. Supplementing with turkey, chicken or low-fat fish would contradict the pure teaching. Then it would still be a diet, but no more cabbage soup diet.
Even if the cabbage soup fills you up, the cravings for the prohibited food increase: Appetite and hunger do not arise physiologically primarily because the stomach is empty, but because the organism lacks nutrients: With the cabbage soup diet these are primarily proteins, but also carbohydrates.
In addition, cabbage is not a "simple food", especially if it is served on the table every day. Some people are disgusted by the smell of boiled cabbage, and probably more people feel the flatulence caused by the cabbage as unpleasant as the obnoxious smell of bowel movements.
Many people who went on a cabbage soup diet report that they liked the soup in the first few days, but felt sick later if they only smelled cooked cabbage. The taste and smell of white cabbage are pervasive, regardless of whether it is seasoned with chili, garlic or Mediterranean herbs.
Cabbage contains many vitamins and minerals, as well as phytonutrients that promote health and may even prevent cancer. Cabbage also contains a lot of fiber, but with the side effect of strong flatulence. Generally there is nothing wrong with a cabbage soup.
The cabbage soup diet is the same for everyone. Today, most cabbage soup diets offer space to loosen up the monotonous diet somewhat. In some of these diets, those affected can treat themselves to fruit in between, in others, whole days are filled with vegetables other than cabbage; Still other cabbage soup diets also allow jacket potatoes, low-fat yogurt and low-fat curd cheese.
As a rule, it is recommended to drink plenty of water - up to three liters a day. Alcohol and coffee, on the other hand, are considered taboo. Some variants provide protein shakes or protein muesli for breakfast to prevent the protein deficiency.
What do scientists say?
The German Nutrition Society warns against a coal diet as well as against all unilateral crash diets. The main point of criticism is the lack of protein. The claim that cabbage increases fat burning also has no scientific basis.
In general, all diets that promise an accelerated metabolism and an increased burning of fat through certain foods are skeptical. The metabolism plays only a very minor role in whether we gain or lose weight. The biological law is simple: we lose weight when we consume fewer calories than the body consumes, and we gain weight when we consume more calories.
Even with diseases that are associated with a disturbed metabolism, such as thyroid problems, the effects on body weight are usually not serious. Even worse: If our metabolism is so out of balance that we lose weight, serious symptoms are associated with it: balance and concentration disorders up to loss of consciousness, exhaustion, exhaustion, feelings of weakness. Even short breathing due to lack of oxygen can be the result.
Conversely, if our metabolism moves outside the spectrum of serious diseases, it has relatively little effect on how much we lose weight. Dr. Nadja Hermann is devoting herself to this myth of metabolism in an extra chapter of her book "Overcoming Fat Logic".
According to supporters of the cabbage soup diet, the cabbage soup removes "slags" from the body through its fiber. “Slags” are, however, an esoteric fantasy. Science does not know anything like “slag” in connection with the human body. If the cabbage soup diet works, it is because of the reduced calorie intake.
What or how much?
The cabbage soup diet is one of the diets that developed from the idea: It doesn't matter how much, but what you eat. These are in contrast to the diets, which are about how much someone eats.
However, this debate is a sham debate: cabbage, but also cod, turkey fillet, or lean quark have much fewer calories than smoked eel, goose thighs or Roquefort cheese. So a person can eat four to five times as much of it until he gets the same amount of calories.
But the result is the same: it always depends on staying below the amount of calories that the individual body consumes. This amount differs mainly because of the body mass. For example, a muscular man weighing 100 kilograms and two meters in height would lose 2000 or more calories a day, a woman who barely moves and weighs 50 kg would have to reduce her daily calories to around 1200 a day to lose weight.
The cabbage soup diet strictly omits high-calorie foods. So instead of starving for the day to treat yourself to a sundae with whipped cream in the evening, those affected can actually eat a lot more because the cabbage has very few calories.
A typical cabbage soup
For a standard cabbage soup, you buy about 5 onions, a kilo of carrots and a medium white cabbage, two peppers, two sticks of celery and six fresh tomatoes. Lovage, oregano, parsley or thyme are suitable herbs. Ginger, chilli, black and white pepper also harmonize with white cabbage, as well as garlic, wild garlic and chives.
You cut the vegetables into small pieces. First, boil the cabbage with five liters of water. Then reduce the heat and let the rest of the vegetables simmer for a further 20 minutes on a low flame. They only add the herbs shortly before the end.
The basic recipe can be varied without changing the amount of calories. For example, you can cook white turnips, add a little greed from the garden, use Chinese cabbage or savoy cabbage instead of white cabbage.
But taboo are "classic" ingredients of a Northern European cabbage soup such as sausages, streaky bacon, mutton or bone marrow. These served our ancestors for the additional fat and calorie intake, which should be avoided with a diet.
But there is nothing against various vegetables such as pumpkin, salsify or zucchini, some “refine” the low-calorie diet even with green asparagus, lovers of exotic delights sometimes add bamboo shoots. Germinated cress and various sprouts give the icing on the cake.
If you have no experience with soup cooking, please note: the finer the vegetables, the later you add them to the soup. Fine means that a vegetable loses its taste and bite at low temperatures and a short cooking time - vitamins are also lost. They taste good when salted. If you have little time or want to chop, you can use tomato paste or canned tomatoes instead of fresh tomatoes.
Benefits of a cabbage soup diet
The advantage of a cabbage soup diet is that you lose weight visibly in a week. The components of the cabbage soup diet are also healthy if you take care to get additional protein, for example in the form of low-fat curd cheese.
Another advantage is that they can do well if they feel hungry and do not have an empty stomach.
Crash diet or long-term weight loss
As with all crash diets, the same applies to the cabbage soup diet: If you want to reduce your weight sustainably and keep it at a lower level, you do not need special diets and should avoid them.
Since hardly anyone will mainly eat cabbage soup in the long run, a pure cabbage soup diet is not sustainable. The cabbage soup diets even tempt you to take a "cabbage week" after over-feasting, for example over Christmas, and then strike again.
Conversely, there is no reason not to include cabbage dishes in a general change in diet - on the contrary. For example, you can include low-fat fish with green salad, turkey breast with wild rice, Icelandic Skyr with stevia in your diet, as well as cabbage soup.
It is much more sensible than a one-week “diet attack” to measure the daily calories, compare them with your body mass index and calculate your individual calorie needs. Today there are apps that you can download. If you eat less and on a targeted basis and stay below your calorie consumption every day, then you will lose weight and keep your weight permanently! (Dr. Utz Anhalt)
Author and source information
This text corresponds to the specifications of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.
Dr. phil. Utz Anhalt, Barbara Schindewolf-Lensch
- Daniela Abigail Navaro, Olga Raz, Sharon Gabriel, et al .: Functional Foods in fad diets: A review, 2017 (accessed August 27, 2019), Research Gate
- Katherine Zeratsky: What is the cabbage soup diet? Can it help me lose weight ?, (accessed August 27, 2019), Mayo Clinic