Although the “Soup Nazi” episode of Seinfeld is my favorite one, it took me awhile to get hooked on soup as a staple of my diet. I like to chew my food, you know?
But, my husband, a big fan of soup, turned things around when he started adding hearty portions of protein, the right amount of seasonings I like (for me, it’s all about the garlic) and a good balance of veggies. So when I started hearing that soup had become a verb, a la the “souping” trend and that celebrities such as Kate Hudson was swearing by it—I was intrigued. I never could get into juicing—not enough substance—but would souping be more filling? Would it detox, nourish and fill me up? I went to the experts to get those and all my other burning questions answered—and here’s hoping it helps you decide if you’re ready to get on the souping bandwagon too!
WHAT IS SOUPING?
Souping is about incorporating nutrient dense and high fiber soups into your life on a regular basis, either through a soup cleanse or by simply swapping soup for just one meal or snack a day. “Enhancing your diet with wholesome, clean superfoods is a good thing, whether you do it as part of a cleanse or even for just one daily meal or snack,” explains Vivienne Vella, owner/founder of Soupure. “Soups provide fiber and volume, hydration and a delivery system for foods which are typically easier to process than raw foods themselves.”
SO, IT’S LIKE JUICING?
Similar to juice cleansing, using souping to detox typically consists of between 4 -6 liquid meals per day. Soup delivers fiber and is generally lower in sugar than juice. But there is one thing to beware of: “Many complete soup cleanses serve up far more sodium than is recommended for daily consumption,” warns Marra St. Clair, board Certified Nutritional Consultant. “You can cleanse with juice and soup together to offer a more reasonable quantity of sodium and to deliver more fruits and vegetables in the day of liquid meals.”
WILL IT DETOX MY SYSTEM?
“Detoxification is mainly a function of the kidneys and liver. Going on a soup or juice diet does not help the body to detoxify more efficiently,” says Dr. Caroline Apovian, Director of the Nutrition and Weight Management Center at the Boston Medical Center. “There’s no clinical evidence for the claim that any type of liquid or detox diet assists with detoxification. The only action people can really take to eliminate toxins from the body is to avoid eating them in the first place. This would involve actions like switching to organic produce, avoiding added sugars and preservatives, and swapping out refined foods for their whole food counterparts.”
WILL I LOSE WEIGHT?
Souping can help for weight loss if done correctly. While going on an all liquid, low calorie diet will lead to weight loss but if those soups aren't high in protein, it will also result in muscle loss. “Since our basal metabolic rate is determined by the amount of lean muscle mass we have, we will gain weight through this method once we resume eating normally, and it will be that much more difficult to lose the weight again,” says Apovian.
CAN I USE SOUPING AS A WAY OF INTERMITTENT FASTING?
“Research has revealed that intermittent fasting helps with weight loss, decreasing inflammation in the body, reducing blood pressure, improving metabolism, and decreasing risks of type 2 diabetes,” explains Apovian. “Taking a temporary break from solid foods and having high protein smoothies or soups instead achieves many of the same health benefits while simultaneously helping people to feel full and guarding their muscles.”
HOW LONG SHOULD YOU SOUP?
As a general rule of thumb, Apovian suggests doing it for one day per week while you have weight to lose, and then swap out a lunch or dinner for a high protein soup throughout the rest of the week.
SHOULD I HAVE PROTEIN IN MY SOUPS?
For successful weight loss, the soup should have at least 30 grams of protein and be less than 370 calories and nutrient dense. “Make your soups with a variety of fresh vegetables and fruits,” says Apovian. “Relying on a single recipe may lead to deficiencies and malnourishment, so have multiple that include different vegetables.”
ARE THERE ANY NEGATIVE SIDE EFFECTS?
“Malnourishment is one if the soup does not meet daily nutritional requirements for calories, nutrients, and protein. A slowed metabolism too if the soup doesn't have enough protein to protect muscles,” says Apovian. “This diet should not be used to self-treat any illness. If you are going on this diet in order to detoxify the body because you are not feeling well, a souping diet can prolong the amount of time you are ill. Instead, you should see your doctor. Also, do not fast this way for longer than a day or two. Otherwise your body may believe you are in danger of starvation and double its attempts to hold onto the excess weight.”
WHAT IF YOU MISS CHEWING TOO MUCH?
There’s nothing wrong with chewing our food, especially since that’s what our bodies are designed to do. So, how else can you “cleanse” your body if souping (or therefore even juicing) is not your thing? “Ditch the refined carbs, vegetable oil and sugar. Eat a healthy diet full of nutrient-dense foods, ensure you are getting enough vitamins and minerals, and educate yourself on the common nutrition mistakes that people make,” says Ashvini Mashru, MA, RD, LDN and author of Small Steps to Slim.
WILL I FEEL DEPRIVED?
If you commit to souping, you force yourself to eat truly healthfully for several days in a row. You're replacing traditional "go-to" convenient foods—like pizza, sandwiches, pretzels, chips— with nourishing, healthy soup. “After a few days, you'll find that you don't even miss the food you were eating. Your cravings slowly start to change. You adjust to slightly smaller portions,” says Sara Polon, owner of Soupergirl. “The great thing about souping is that it isn't a temporary fix. It sets you on a path to permanent changes in your diet. The key is to eat the right kind of soup. Avoid cans, overly processed, salty, fatty soups. Fill your day with all natural, plant based, hand crafted, slow cooked soups. Avoid any chemicals or preservatives.”
WHAT IF I HAVE TRAVEL PLANS?
If you travel a lot, souping will be hard as you can't bring liquids on an airplane! Wait until you know that you’ll be home for a week stretch to give yourself the proper time to prep your soups in advance.
IS IT TRUE YOU MIGHT BLOAT?
Some people may feel bloated in the beginning because a good soup cleanse includes a lot of plant-based fiber. “Your body will slowly adjust and you'll end the week feeling lighter,” says Polon.
WHAT’S BEST WAY TO PREPARE MY SOUPS?
“Blended soups are easier to digest,” says certified nutritionist Angela Pifer, Ms, FMN, LC.”By blending up the ingredients, this will make it easier for your body to digest and optimally access as many nutrients as possible.”
HOW SHOULD I CHOOSE MY INGREDIENTS FOR MAX BENEFITS?
Choose only organic ingredients and use bone broth as a base. “This will increase the protein content of the soup,” says Pifer. “Look beyond protein, carbohydrates and fat by loading your soup with dark leafy greens, add one to two herbs—think parsley and celery leaves—and include a variety of spices.”
HOW CAN I REALLY KNOW IF IT’S RIGHT FOR ME?
“As a nutritionist, I ask my patients, ‘Do you see yourself doing this forever?’ says Pifer. “If the answer is ‘no’ then I ask why they want to start something they aren't going to continue. If you love the idea of souping because you love soup—then make a goal to replace a meal a day with a delicious blended soup.” It’s also easier to stay on track if you know you have the time to make your soups from scratch. “It’s hard to find commercially available soups made without high levels of sodium and inflammatory oils, like canola oil. Homemade soups are a must; so for convenience sake, this diet might be hard to sustain.”
WILL IT QUENCH MY THIRST?
Souping is beneficial because many people overeat because they don't realize that dehydration may feel like hunger. Eating soup can satisfy the thirst that you thought was hunger and stave off the junk food cravings.
WILL I FEEL FULL ENOUGH?
Perceived fullness from a meal is actually is very important and helpful to decrease calorie intake and lose weight. Soups are filling and people may think they are full even if there aren't many calories. This can have a large effect on weight loss. If you eat a bowl of soup with 150 calories or a candy bar with 150 calories, you are going to feel fuller after the soup. This works for soups that are both high and low in calories.
WHAT DO I DO AFTER I’M DONE SOUPING?
“Start strong and then transition into ‘maintenance,’” says Polon. “The first few days of souping might be hard as you overhaul your eating routine. Stick with the program! You'll slowly notice real changes in the way you approach food. Make sure you keep your soup meals interesting and diverse. Don't just eat a bowl of tomato soup every day! Choose hearty lentil soups, quinoa soups, bean soups – there are so many possibilities!” For your maintenance period, replace one to two meals a day a few days a week with soup. When you're ready, do another full week of souping. “You'll find yourself more mindful of your food choices. You'll listen to your body's signals!”