The latest cleansing fad is a little less chill and a little more comforting. Yep, we're talking about soup cleanses: all-soup-all-day prepackaged meal plans. They're touted by the likes of Goop and all manner of internet health gurus as a way to "detox" yourself and encourage weight-loss. Quick reminder: There's no need to detox — your body has that covered. But, beyond that, how good for you is it to eat only soup?
"Soups can be a healthy addition to any diet, but that doesn’t mean you should necessarily eat them for every meal," says Kim Larson, RDN, spokesperson for The Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics.
Indeed, soup can be a really delicious, nutrition-packed meal — depending on what you put in it. Those that are built from a broth, bean, or vegetable base and contain lean protein (such as turkey or chicken) tend to be energizing, filling, and full of vitamins and minerals — especially if they've also got a dose of dark, leafy greens in there too.
But the soups you'll get in a cleanse tend to be created almost entirely from pureed vegetables. Those are usually interspersed with bottles of pure broth or fancy-sounding alkaline water. Together, those liquids don't necessarily contain enough fiber, protein, or nutrients to keep you going.
Even those that claim to be "fiber dense" have a teeny fraction of the amount you really need (women are supposed to get 25 grams per day, but soups in these programs usually contain far fewer than what you'd expect from a meal — this one, for instance, only has 2g). Some drinkable soups appear to be just vegetables and water with minimal protein. And this one from Goop seems to be made of literally just carrots in broth. The meal plans tend to come in between 700 and 1,200 calories — far less than the approximately 2,000 women should eat every day.
In addition to the lack of filling protein, the fact that these are liquids can also make them less satisfying. When we consume only liquids, our bodies don't always register them on the "fullness scale" because they don't have enough fiber, Larson explains. Plus, she says that "not having to chew tends to be less satisfying to people."
And, as we mentioned, you shouldn't be eating just soup all day every day anyways. "If it's done for a day or two, there is no lasting harm done," Larson says. But if your two-day cleanse becomes a lifestyle or you do it more than once, the likelihood of nutritional deficiencies — protein, fiber, vitamin B-12, calcium, vitamin D, iron, zinc — is pretty high.
Plus, there are some people who simply shouldn't do a soup cleanse: Kids who are still growing, the elderly, pregnant people, and anyone else who needs extra fiber in their diets should steer clear, Larson says. Those who have digestive disorders or who are on a low-salt diet for heart health reasons should also probably avoid 'em.
"For people who are drawn to doing structured regimens like cleanses, this offers a way to interrupt a cycle of poor eating, like pushing a reset button," Larson explains. "Soup cleansing is just another gimmick to interrupt that cycle — there's nothing magic about it." Honestly, we just wanna grab a bowl of chicken noodle and call it a day.