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One fad diet claims to have medical experts' stamp of approval. Badly-typed, copied multiple times, passed on from one person to the other and found in numerous incarnations on the Internet, the Sacred Heart Diet has the reputation of being a soup diet given to overweight patients prior to heart surgery. However, medical institutions associated with this fad diet have gone out of their way to disclaim their association with it.
The Soup Diet
The soup diet that's purportedly fed to patients before heart surgery has reached urban legend status, says the American Heart Association, or AHA, which devoted an entire web page to the diet 3. The diet goes by many monikers, one of the more common names being the Sacred Heart Memorial Diet. It's even been attributed to the AHA 2. And here's where things get confusing: The Cabbage Soup Diet, aka the Sacred Heart Diet, is also sometimes referred to as the Mayo Clinic Diet. And the Cleveland Clinic Diet is also called the grapefruit diet.
A Diet Disavowed
Fat-Burning Vegetable Soup
According to EveryDiet.org, the Sacred Heart Hospital in Montreal, Canada formally announced in 2004 that it had nothing to do with the diet. The Cleveland Clinic, too, indicates on its website that it is not associated with the diet. The AHA – which has been falsely credited with a phony fad diet that has ice cream, hot dogs, eggs and cheese on the menu – also indicates that it had no part in the development of a soup diet for heart surgery patients. A March 1996 New York Times article describes this soup diet as the "diet from nowhere," because it's origins cannot be traced 1. Elaine Reid, director of food and nutrition at the Sacred Heart Memorial Hospital in Spokane told the Times that she receives hundreds of letters about the diet from all over the country – and even outside of the United States. In 1996, Reid told the Times that the diet has been in circulation for around 15 years.
- According to EveryDiet.org, the Sacred Heart Hospital in Montreal, Canada formally announced in 2004 that it had nothing to do with the diet.
- The Cleveland Clinic, too, indicates on its website that it is not associated with the diet.
The ingredients are chopped into pieces, covered with water and cooked.
The Birmingham Hospital Diet
On the Sacred Heart Diet, which lasts for seven days, you can eat as much of the soup as you want per day; however, the diet integrates different food types on each day of the week. On the first day, dieters can have the soup and all the fruit they want, except bananas. Day two on the diet includes the soup and all vegetables, including a baked potato for dinner. You can have soup and all of the fruits and vegetables you like on day three, with the exception of a baked potato. Day four of the diet includes the soup, at least three bananas and as much skim milk as you want. On the fifth day of the soup diet, 10 to 20 oz. of beef and a can of tomatoes are allowed – with at least one serving of soup. Day six lets you eat as many beef steaks as you like, unlimited vegetables – leafy greens are suggested – but no baked potato and at least one serving of soup. On the last day of the diet, brown rice, vegetables and unsweetened fruit juice are added to the menu – along with the soup.
- On the Sacred Heart Diet, which lasts for seven days, you can eat as much of the soup as you want per day; however, the diet integrates different food types on each day of the week.
- Day six lets you eat as many beef steaks as you like, unlimited vegetables – leafy greens are suggested – but no baked potato and at least one serving of soup.
Soup-based diets often claim you can lose up to 17 pounds in only a week. However, EveryDiet.Org points out that many of the pounds you shed on such a diet are due to water loss, and you'll likely put them on right after you go off the the diet. The Cleveland Clinic cautions you against diets that restrict your menu and place you on a rigid eating plan that you can't sustain for the rest of your life. The clinic recommends a Mediterranean diet low in dairy and fatty meats and rich in plant-based foods such as:
- olive oil
- Soup-based diets often claim you can lose up to 17 pounds in only a week.
- The Cleveland Clinic cautions you against diets that restrict your menu and place you on a rigid eating plan that you can't sustain for the rest of your life.
Fat-Burning Vegetable Soup
The Birmingham Hospital Diet
Sacred Heart Memorial Hospital Diet
Mayo Clinic Soup Diet
What is the Biscuit Diet?
The British Heart Foundation & the Cabbage Diet
Substitute for Grapefruit in the Grapefruit Diet
How to Lose Weight on the Stewardess Diet
The Best Diet for Women Over 55
- New York Times: Melt Pounds With Cabbage Soup, a Diet From Nowhere Says
- Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center: The Miracle Soup Diet
- American Heart Association: Phony American Heart Association Diets
- Kuroda M, Ohta M, Okufuji T, et al. Frequency of soup intake is inversely associated with body mass index, waist circumference, and waist-to-hip ratio, but not with other metabolic risk factors in Japanese men. J Am Diet Assoc. 2011;111(1):137-42. doi:10.1016/j.jada.2010.10.004
- Zhu Y, Hollis JH. Soup consumption is associated with a reduced risk of overweight and obesity but not metabolic syndrome in US adults: NHANES 2003-2006. PLoS One. 2013;8(9):e75630. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0075630
- Wright N, Wilson L, Smith M, Duncan B, Mchugh P. The BROAD study: A randomised controlled trial using a whole food plant-based diet in the community for obesity, ischaemic heart disease or diabetes. Nutr Diabetes. 2017;7(3):e256. doi:10.1038/nutd.2017.3
- Pan A, Hu F. Effects of carbohydrates on satiety: Differences between liquid and solid food. Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care. 2011;14(4):385-390. doi:10.1097/mco.0b013e328346df36
Lisa Sefcik has been writing professionally since 1987. Her subject matter includes pet care, travel, consumer reviews, classical music and entertainment. She's worked as a policy analyst, news reporter and freelance writer/columnist for Cox Publications and numerous national print publications. Sefcik holds a paralegal certification as well as degrees in journalism and piano performance from the University of Texas at Austin.