Our Experience: Soup Cleanse
The soup cleanse had a pretty unanimous conclusion—it was miserable and pointless. We chose a soup cleanse because we thought warm soup on a cold day in February sounded better than juice. Plus, we hoped that soup wouldn’t cause major spikes and falls in our blood sugar, like juice would.
Many cleanses promise health, vitality, and the ability to cure disease. One book even went so far as to say your kids would love you and their friends will want to hang out at your house. Who knew that cleansing could be so powerful! Despite what many self-proclaimed experts claim, unless you are in acute treatment for a substance use disorder, suffering from acute poisonings, or other such emergencies, your body does not need outside help to cleanse itself. You come into contact with toxins every day, and if you think about it, anything can be toxic given the right dose. For example, Tylenol is safe at the recommended dose, but toxic in high doses. So really, too much of anything can be harmful, including things that you wouldn’t think could be toxic, like water, oxygen, and even vitamins and minerals.
Luckily, our bodies are designed to deal with varying levels of substances, from air to food to toiletries. Our livers, kidneys, and GI systems are so good at cleansing our bodies that we don’t need help from supplements or food. And I have yet to come across a well-designed, double-blind clinical research study that proves soup or juice (or any other cleanse) does anything but make you hungry and burn your money.
Our takeaway message is:
- Serious toxicity levels or poisonings should be managed in an emergency room where true detoxification can take place.
- Our bodies can cleanse themselves, given we have a healthy liver and kidney.
- The best way to experience vitality and ward off disease is by eating a nutrient-rich, balanced diet, exercising, limiting alcohol, and not smoking.
- Detox diets lack scientific evidence and are often just used to make money.
- Don’t do a cleanse.
How did the diet stack up nutritionally?
I (Megan) am sure you won’t be surprised to learn that this diet lacked in almost every nutrient. It averaged 1,014 calories a day (well below what any of us typically eat), and only 41 grams of protein. No wonder we were all starving! During this cleanse, we did get enough fiber (35g) and vitamins A, C, K, folate, thiamine, and B6. Mineral wise, we got plenty of copper, iodine, manganese, and sodium, but we were lacking in all other vitamins and minerals.
So this was definitely far from a well-balanced diet. It wasn’t a huge deal for three days, but also not ideal. From a nutritional standpoint, I definitely wouldn’t promote this. You could incorporate a few veggie-loaded soups into your normal diet, but you don’t need to only eat vegan, water-based soups.
Our Team’s Quick Review
Megan Ostler—MS, RDN, mom of 2, still breastfeeding
- There is no reason to do a cleanse, unless you want to be hangry and frustrated for three days. Read my review here.
Michelle Alley—BS in nutrition, mom of 2, collegiate runner, training for a marathon
- If you want lowered energy levels and no excitment for food, then try the soup cleanse. Read my review here.
Hannah Mann—Social media guru, busy mom, and regular gym goer
- One word to describe this cleanse: starvation. Read my review here.
Trevor Mann—Marketing specialist, father to a stud, gym junkie, and sports fanatic
- This diet didn’t fulfill any of its promises and nothing was enjoyable to eat. There are much better ways to lose three pounds. Check out my experience here.
I’m a little embarrassed to admit this, but despite all I know about nutrition and health as a dietitian, I got a little sucked into the cleanse mentality. Not too much, but while I was preparing, researching, and deciding what cleanse we would follow, I thought, maybe I will feel better, lighter, and “cleaner.” I love soup and I thought doing a liquid diet might be a nice break for my body. I was kinda looking forward to it and really keeping an open mind. I knew from science it wouldn’t actually cleanse my body of toxins, but maybe I would feel great and enjoy eating soup for three days in the bitter, cold winter.
Well, the soup cleanse we did wasn’t a yummy minestrone or tomato bisque. The soups were all vegan, with mostly water, spices, veggies, and occasionally beans or grains. Because it lacked fat, it also lacked flavor, richness, and depth. So they weren’t exactly the yummy soups I savor in the winter.
Not only were the soups disappointing, but the results were as well. I was starving after the first day and despite how much broth I “snacked” on, I couldn’t get satisfied and had no energy. Since I didn’t want to lose my milk supply for my daughter, I adapted the next two days and had larger portions with extra avocado and approved toppings, as well as increased levels of beans and quinoa. Still, all I could think about was food, specifically solid food.
I didn’t experience a cleansing effect for my colon either. Everything GI wise was pretty normal for me, other than a growling stomach. I was also promised vitality, popularity, and all sorts of other ridiculous claims, none of which happened by the way. I didn’t get extra followers on Instagram and my kids didn’t appear to love me more—I feel lied to! (insert winky face)
So in short, I know that these homeopathic “experts” selling these cleanses are great salespeople. Hey, I even thought there might be something to what they had to say, despite my knowledge, but when it came down to it, the cleanse was basically a low-calorie diet for three days. I lost two pounds, put it right back on, and had no energy. It didn’t do anything more than what you would expect soup to do. I can strongly say after doing the cleanse myself, that this one’s worth skipping.
I’m not going to sugarcoat it, this diet was horrible and I saw no benefits. From breakfast on the first day, I couldn’t get myself to eat even a small portion of the soup. I was starving the entire time. I would heat up a soup and add toppings when it came time to eat, but couldn’t get myself to eat more than a few bites before my appetite was completely lost. I started crying during dinner the first night because it was so hilarious how unappealing my meals had become. I was expecting some sort of cleansing effect to take place, so I pushed through to day two. But day two came and bathroom trips were still normal. I ended up sipping on iced herbal tea and starving for two days.
By the end of the second night, I was feeding my son oatmeal before dinner. He wanted to grab the spoon and try to feed me the oatmeal. At first, I would reject it because it was against the cleanse. Then I would try to get him to take a few more bites, which was when I realized if I’m trying to get him to eat something healthy, but I’m showing him that I won’t eat it, why would he eat it? So I said forget it and took a bite of his oatmeal. After we went to bed, I made myself a quesadilla and loved every single bite.
What surprised me the most was how quickly I lost my appetite if I wasn’t excited about the meal I was going to consume. I found myself trying to force myself to eat the soup. Now in all honesty, a couple of the soups were pretty good, but I struggled with the fact that soup was my only option for three days.
I struggled the most with eating it for breakfast. I am the type of person that’s excited to eat breakfast and it’s usually consumed immediately after I wake up. Well, during the cleanse, my breakfast wasn’t consumed until about 11:00 a.m. And that’s when I could stomach the soup.
During the cleanse, you’re not supposed to do any exercise, other than yoga. I thought for sure I’d be hitting my yoga mat, but I quickly found I was lacking all energy. I napped often and even thought about just sleeping through the three days, so I could get through it. I was just so hungry! The majority of the time I felt like I was starving myself, which I basically was. The only time I wasn’t distracted by my hunger was if I was sleeping.
There’s a reason that cleanses are meant to be short-lived, as they’re not a sustainable diet. And because they’re so short-lived, it’s hard to tell if they actually provide any benefits. Personally, I don’t think I received any benefit from the cleanse. I lacked all energy and found my brain foggy. I often forgot what I was working on or what I was supposed to be doing. And when my girls wanted to play outside in the snow, an activity that I enjoy with them, I found myself struggling to get off the couch. But then the mom guilt would sink in and I’d finally trudge out into the cold, a little bittered by the fact that I wouldn’t get to warm up with a cup of cocoa after.
As for the actual “cleanse” effects (i.e. overachieving digestion), I had more of a cleanse effect with Whole30 than I did with this. While the soups did provide more diverse nutrients, protein, and fiber than other cleanses we looked into, a cleanse is absolutely not necessary for a healthy diet.
The soup cleanse has been the hardest diet so far. Not necessarily because the recipes didn’t taste good, but eating soup and broth for every meal/snack got really old. I tried to supplement more beans into my diet so that I could get as much protein as possible, but I still felt unsatisfied after my meals. I dreaded my next meal because I knew I wasn’t only going to be hungry after, but I wasn’t going to enjoy it either. I don’t typically crave any sort of food, and I do really well not eating sweets. During this diet, all I could think about was eating a big juicy burger and counting down the seconds until I could get one.
My fitness goal isn’t to lose weight, but to gain muscle mass. Maybe if I was at a different stage in my fitness goals where I needed to trim down a few pounds quickly, this could be an option. I lost three pounds during the three days on the diet, even though I feel like it was just water weight and didn’t make any difference to my body composition. My energy levels on a daily basis were a little less than normal. Overall, I wasn’t a fan of the diet. I didn’t see any of the benefits that the diet creator promised, which makes me believe there are more enjoyable ways to lose three pounds.
WARNING: This post is not intended to replace the advice of a medical professional. The above information should not be used to diagnose, treat, or prevent any disease or medical condition. Please consult your doctor before making any changes to your diet, sleep methods, daily activity, or fitness routine. iFit assumes no responsibility for any personal injury or damage sustained by any recommendations, opinions, or advice given in this article.‘
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