by Emily Finnan, RD, LDN
Gwyneth Paltrow, Dr. Oz, and future bachelorette Kaitlyn Bristowe are a few embracing the latest weight loss and health solution: souping. Yes, move over juicing—souping is what’s hot.
The Soup Cleanse
A soup cleanse doesn’t mean alternating between minestrone and clam chowder for a week. The soups are akin to smoothie, made of blended fruits and vegetables. Soupure, kitskitchen, and Real Food Works are a few companies offering soup cleanses. Some soups are served hot, others cold. There’s a romaine lettuce and tomatillo soup, strawberry sprouted cashew soup, and one of the few animal based soups: curried chicken.
The premise is simple. For one to five days, you eat only the soup shipped to you. For about $60 a day you’ll get between four and six soups. Some companies offer additional flavored water and broths as part of their cleanse package.
The Juice Cleanse
Souping and juicing are the same concept. In juicing, for one to five days you drink only water or tea and five to six fruit and/or vegetable juice blends. Pressed Juicery and Suja offer juice cleanses between $55 and $72 a day. Joe Cross, the star of Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead, is the founder of Reboot with Joe. This company provides free recipe plans for a juice cleanse; accompanied by juicer and personal coaching marketing.
Souping and juicing boast similar health claims; including, detoxing from said built-up toxins, weight loss, energy boost, rest for your gastrointestinal tract, and a host of other claims. Some cleanse diets also instruct people to undergo periods of fasting or laxative use.
Studies on juicing or souping are limited. In one German study, participants drank 150-300 Calories of juice per day for about a week. They found some favorable changes in blood fat levels. However, a week later, all levels were back to where they’d started. This speaks to the fact that any type of diet, followed only in the short-term, will have likely have little overall impact. This applies to weight loss claims too. A person could potentially lose weight on these low-Calorie cleanses, but if they switch back to their high-Calorie habitual diet, the weight will surely return.
This 2010 Sprout article examined the controversy surrounding detox diets. The “detoxing” concept, to put it plainly, doesn’t make sense. Juices and soups do not eliminate toxic compounds from the body. The only things that can do this are your liver, kidneys, intestines, and lungs. Life-long healthy habits, including a good diet, are important to keep these organs in good shape.
Soup and juice cleanse makers do not – as they should – recommend following their diets long-term. Doing so, as will be discussed in this article, would certainly be unfavorable in terms of health.
Souping vs. Juicing
Soups can satisfy
Soups may provide more satiety, or feeling of fullness, than juices. One study found that participants felt significantly less hungry after eating apple soup or an apple compared to apple juice. In another study, participants ate the same amounts of an apple, applesauce, or apple juice. Like the previous study, the apple and applesauce group felt significantly less hungry. They were then offered lunch 25 minutes later. They found that that the apple and applesauce group ate significantly less Calories at lunch than the juice groups. The apple group ate the least. Some soups in soup cleanses are served cold, sort of like applesauce.
For easy comparison, one day of a soup cleanse, one day of a juice cleanse, and the dietary guidelines’ nutrient composition are lined up in the table below. I chose one day of a Reboot with Joe plan and one day of Soupure’s soup cleanse. The companies provided the nutrient information. The 2010 US dietary guidelines shown are based on a moderately active woman who is 31 to 50 years old.
Juicing, compared to souping, has more sugar and carbohydrates, with less protein, fiber, and very little fat. Both met guidelines for sodium intake and were low in calories. Souping is slightly above the US saturated fat goal.
The juice diet doesn’t meet recommendations for fiber and is very high in carbohydrates and sugar. More than half of the calories come from sugar! High-sugar diets are linked to unhealthy levels of insulin and triglycerides, but also more serious conditions, like non-alcoholic fatty liver disease and heart disease.
Juice diets are devoid of the nutrient-rich pulp and fiber-rich skin of fruits and vegetables. Pro-juicers typically claim that juicing “compacts” nutrients as it take several whole fruits or vegetables to make just one cup of juice. It is true that some nutrients may be present in higher levels, but so is sugar. Other vitamins and minerals that reside in the pulp would be lost. Furthermore, unlike whole fruit that has more fiber, the sugar in juice is in a liquid package. Liquid sugar is absorbed more quickly and raises blood sugar to a higher level. Below is a table comparing a cup of raw apple slices to a cup of apple juice.
As you can see, in the juice you’re getting more calories, more sugar, and less fiber. The juice does supply more potassium, but less vitamin C and folate.
The juice diet provides very little fat. An American Heart Association science advisory panel, led by Tufts University’s Dr. Alice Lichtenstein, examined diets less than 15% fat. They cautioned, in the short-term, these diets can lead to an unhealthy triglyceride level and decreased HDL or “good” cholesterol .
This juice diet is actually so low in fat that an essential fatty acid deficiency (EFAD) could be a concern. Your body can make some of the fats it needs for normal function, but others – essential fats – you must eat. EFAD is normally only seen in people receiving parenteral, or IV, nutrition who get too little fat. In parenteral nutrition, a minimum of 2-5% of Calories from fat are needed to prevent EFAD. It isn’t known, in food, what the minimum level is. Deficiency did occur in one man who ate a diet less than 7% fat for several months.
Variety is an essential part of a healthy diet. Many souping and juicing plans eliminate entire beneficial food groups like whole grains, lean meats, seafood, eggs, and dairy. This puts you at risk for nutritional inadequacies. It is clear that both souping and juicing don’t measure up as a long-term healthy diet.
If you are a healthy adult, there are (probably) no negative health effects of cleanse diets in the short term. If you are searching for a cleanse, it does appear that souping beats juicing. Souping offers a more ideal provision of sugar, carbohydrates, fats, fiber, and protein in terms of health.
Emily Finnan is a pediatric dietitian and a first year biochemical and molecular nutrition master’s student. While she does enjoy a good soup, she’ll stick to eating her fruits and veggies with a fork.