Voted one of the most popular diet trends of 2016, souping has taken the nation by storm. But as a registered dietitian nutritionist, I'm left scratching my head as to why? Personally, I like my soup as a side to something else -- like a plate full of food that hasn't been deprived of its need to be chewed.
With celebrities swearing by it and some health professionals even jumping on the bandwagon, we have to ask, is souping healthy? And is it really worth the buko bucks you'll end up having to pay for it?
The New York Times referred to souping as the "New Juicing." Essentially, instead of drinking fruit and vegetable juice to cleanse, detox, lose weight, etcetera, etcetera -- people are now consuming blended soups for a set number of days with hopes that it will accomplish what juicing did (or in some cases... didn't) with the added perks of soup being more filling and nutritious.
Souping is different than juicing in that it doesn't remove the fiber. Fiber is one of the things that help keep us feeling full longer, not to mention the benefits it provides like healthy digestion. Souping also can include other ingredients like legumes and nuts, providing nutrients like healthy fats and protein. And because you're consuming this all in the form of soup -- the total volume of liquid alone will make you feel more full on less calories.
In my research, I found souping companies popping up all around the nation. Companies like Soupure, operating out of Los Angeles, offer cleansing programs that consist of containers filled with soup meal replacements, alkaline waters, and bone broths that can be shipped right to your doorstep. Said to have complete nutritional profiles and made from non-gmo and pesticide-free ingredients, consumers drink a variety of plant-based soups that range between $79 for a 1-day cleanse to $235 for a 3-day cleanse.
Other companies like Splendid Spoon located in Brooklyn are comparable in price and, much like Soupure, keep consumers on a rotating regimen of souping on one day, swapping in meals on another, and then one day of letting your hair down (their words not mine) -- no diet rules applying. Wait, it's day three and I'm supposed to do what again?
Besides the exorbitant price -- and the fact that I don't like to drink all my meals or be kept on a contrived feeding schedule -- souping wasn't looking all too shabby. Hold that thought.
I then noticed that these soup cleanses comprise very low calorie days -- some hitting 1,200 calories per day or less. I have to hand it to souping. Weight loss will be a side effect of starving yourself. But when weight loss stems from a place of deprivation, it's neither sustainable nor healthy. Without adequate nutrients, it could even lead to losing muscle mass instead of fat -- the opposite of what you want to accomplish when losing weight.
Although neither company recommends practicing the cleanses long-term, encouraging that low of a calorie intake anytime is a big red flag in my book. I'm not a fan of starving people -- ever.
I'm aware of some medical professionals who tote intermittent fasting as part of a healthy way to lose weight or detox, but if humans were meant to intermittently starve, it wouldn't feel so uncomfortable in the process. I'm not sure about you, but when I'm hungry, you don't want to cross my path.
In addition to symptoms like headaches and overall weakness, hunger makes it more difficult for the body to complete tasks that it was naturally made to do -- like detox. On the other hand, by feeding your body with adequate nutritious whole foods, drinking water, and moving throughout your day -- your body has everything it needs. Our lungs, kidneys, liver, and skin are wondrous organs that detox naturally when we don't resort to unhealthy behaviors.
Soupure writes on their site, "Soups are essentially a 'predigested' blend of foods already broken down, allowing the body to focus on healing itself and making bigger strides in building strength." And this is true and absolutely necessary -- for people who have weakened or damaged digestion or conditions where properly chewing and swallowing solid food is an issue. If this isn't you, don't let these claims fool you -- there's really no need to start sipping your meals.
In the name of cleansing, detoxing, and "healthy" weight loss -- souping is just like any other dieting trend. Perhaps on the healthier side of the spectrum -- as it does include fiber and whole foods versus the chemically altered alternatives out there -- it's still not substantial enough, in my professional opinion, to sustain a healthy body weight and lifestyle long-term.
The best advice I give to people considering a diet fad is to ask this:
Can you see this eating behavior as part of your everyday life -- for the rest of your life?
If the answer is no, it probably isn't for you and will only be a temporary fix. The souping regimens I researched recommended souping for X number of days or X number of weeks. And then what?
Maintaining a healthy weight and keeping your body strong enough to do things like detox naturally are processes that require learning and practicing lifelong healthful behaviors. No soup cleanse can compete with lifestyle change.
As soon as words like cleanse, diet, or detox enter the picture or when companies start bottling up promises of functions that come naturally to the human body -- it's time to run in the opposite direction. Soup can be part of a healthy meal but when it's marketed as a silver bullet against health issues people fear and may not fully understand, it's most likely nothing more than a scheme concocted to capitalize on a consumer's desire to make changes for the better.
Find this article and more honest health news in Juicing Healthy Magazine.