Soup cleanses are supposedly replacing juice cleanses among the wealthy and elite.
“Souping is the new juicing,” The New York Times declared recently.
On the surface, juice’s new rival has its merits. Soup is warm, comforting, and feels like real food.
But I tried it and found out it’s a starvation diet masked as a way tof achieving enlightenment.
I’m dubious of most crash diets, but soup specialists, like Nicole Chaszar of New York’s Splendid Spoon, claim they’re just out to help you eat better.
I set out to see what the big deal is about souping, and if it really is the new juicing.
Going into this experiment, I'm willing to guess that souping is probably more pleasant than juicing.
Juicing is not pleasant for most humans, unless you are Gwyneth Paltrow or a holier-than-thou skinny rich person. Juice on its own can be good, but nobody does a juice cleanse for fun, unless that person is a masochist.
But soup reminds you of your grandma or your mother who made killer chicken soup. '(Soup is) really connected to a lot of really positive emotional memories and experiences that people have,' Chaszar said to me.
She has a point: when you look back at your life, you'll never fondly recall your greatest memories sitting around the dinner table drinking juice with your loved ones unless you are this woman. You might, however, recall dining on soup with your family.
And juice cleanses are frequently criticised for their questionable nutritional value. Chaszar, who studied at the French Culinary Institute, pointed out how the process of pressing juices strips vegetables and fruits of fibre. Juice can have high sugar content, too. Soup maintains the vegetables' fibre and still packs many doses of nutrients -- it's a lot easier to have a soup composed of ample vegetables and healthy oils than it is to eat ten pounds of kale. Additionally, soup cleanses often contain beans and lentils (and some even have meat) as opposed to pure raw juice, so you get more protein.
Here's the soup cleanse, in all its glory. A cleanse day costs $65, not too dissimilar from a day of juice cleansing.
The Splendid Spoon offers an approximately 720 calorie cleanse. I personally am not comfortable with eating that little amount of calories -- and I need to function as a human being -- so here's my disclosure: I planned to try all of these soups to see if they were any good. I did not solely soup. (Chaszar defended the 700 calories as something rooted in the notion of intermittent fasting, a semi-trendy form of dieting. She does not condone eating that little every day.)
Fortunately, Chaszar told Business Insider that my choice to semi-cleanse wouldn't make me a failure -- a soup 'cleanse' isn't supposed to be punishing. Splendid Spoon suggests having a plant based protein and an apple midday if you're famished, and she told me I could have a regular breakfast in the morning, or soup all day and have a hearty meal at night. I decided to do some variation on that, so that I could simulate some of the experience a diehard souper might have. Was this, indeed, a cool and comforting way to suffer?
This includes one day of pure souping and five days of ingesting a soup instead of your lunch; this plans costs $95. These swappable soups are heartier, such as lentil and kale, and Ikarian stew. (I didn't try all of these.)
'Our program is really rooted in the concept that small simple changes made every day can have a really profound impact on your health,' Chaszar said to me.
And then, on the seventh day, it's ' no rules' so you margarita cleanse. I'm kidding about the last part.
First, I got an email on Wednesday night prepping me. Chaszar told me that this soup cleanse is really about taking a day of rest for myself, something not really possible when I'm at work. She advised me to go to bed by 9 p.m. and avoid temptations like wine and snacks (my two biggest vices). Obviously, if I did a full throttle cleanse and went to bed as early as humanly possible, I'd avoid some of the terrible side effects because I'd be asleep and wouldn't notice they were happening.
I'm thrown for a loop, though. I initially planned on doing it on Thursday, but the soups hadn't thawed by 10 a.m., so rather than starting my cleanse day off on a low anxious note, I bump it to Friday.
Now that it's Friday and I have plans, I tell myself that between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m, the day will be about me, and I will make it my mission to find zen, peace, and harmony while at work. Once it's 6 p.m., the spell will be broken, I'll be human again, and I'll go back to living my frenetic life.
Splendid Spoon encouraged me to sart my morning with five minutes of meditating and have a warm cup of water with lemon. Fortunately, the cleanse doesn't rule of coffee, which is great news for my coworkers, so they won't have to hate me.
'Coffee is ok, but try to limit to one cup a day. Keep it black or just add a splash of nut or soy milk,' Splendid Spoon instructs me. I do exactly that, and I promise myself to swear off my habitual Diet Coke for the day.
I fail, and I have three cups of coffee.
The first soup of the day is cauliflower coconut. It contains purified water, cauliflower, navy beans, yellow onions, celery, coconut oil, garlic, madras curry, sea salt, dry rosemary, and black pepper -- so Gisele Bundchen wouldn't be permitted to drink this (no pepper and no salt!). It's got 300 calories, 6 grams of fat, 14 grams of protein, and 24% of my daily sodium intake. It also has 80% of my daily fibre.
It's drinkable, which at first is off putting -- it looks like a smoothie, but it tastes like a soup. But one I get past that, it's really good, and I'm surprisingly full. But will it hold me over until my next soup at 11 a.m.?
I'm supposed to wait 2 hours, drink water, and then have my next soup. The idea is to be more mindful and ask myself if I'm really hungry or just bored.
'(Soup) kind of nudges you into a slower experience with your food,' Chaszar said to me. ' You are spooning something usually or you're sipping something so it's a little bit -- it slows you down a little bit.'
So two hours later, it's time for my next soup, pumpkin pear hempseed (which is supposed be my third soup, whoops). This one features purified water, pumpkin, pears, onions, hempseeds, garlic, lemon juice, Saigon cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla extract, rosemary, sea salt, cardamom, and cayenne pepper.
I pour most of it out of the bottle -- it's a little too chunky to get the whole thing out of the bottle -- and heat it up. It's really good! I'm feeling fine, but it's only a little after 11 a.m. I have a long way to go.
Nutrient wise, I'm getting mixed messages -- Splendid Spoon's website tells me it has 70 calories, but the bottle says it has 140 calories.
In the minutes leading up to my next soup, every item of food that enters Business Insider's headquarters makes me mouth salivate. I am extremely mindful of food right now, in the sense that I am mindful of how delicious barbecue sounds right now -- ribs, in particular.
I am also mindful of time. I am counting down the milliseconds until my next soup. I slowly come to realise that this is what hunger feels like. This is not boredom. This is real, unadulterated hunger.
Since I've already messed up the intended order, I start living on the (very tame) wild side and mix things up. My next soup should technically be a 70-calorie carrot drink-slash-soup, but I need something more substantial to power through the day and to mitigate my famished state, so I opt for a beans and greens stew. (The most baffling part? If I were doing a full throttle cleanse, this would be my dinner. Fortunately, I am not. I'm too hungry at this point.)
The beans and greens stew features an amalgam of purified water, pinto beans, black beans, carrots, onions, spinach, bok choy, tomatoes, celery, garlic, olive oil, sea salt, cumin, madras curry, and black pepper. It has 240 calories, 14 grams of protein, and 40% of my daily sodium.
Finally! Sustenance. This has beans and even involves some slight chewing. I devour it rabidly, completely eschewing any notion of 'mindfulness' that is supposed to come with the slow, peaceful, zen-like act of eating with a spoon. Feed me all of the beans in the world, I am a human corpse sitting in Business Insider's office and cannot function until I have been sated.
It's time for my fourth soup! Only, by the time soup o'clock rolls around, the last thing I want to eat is soup. I don't want the salt. I don't want the texture. I don't want to flood my body with vitamins. The bean soup did a pretty good job of filling me up, but I also wonder if maybe I'm just too hungry and tired and moody to know the difference between hunger and misery anymore.
This soup -- carrot turmeric elixir -- is meant to be consumed chilled, so I drink it out of the bottle, like a sad juice. It contains purified water, carrots, yellow onions, ginger, lemon juice, orange juice, garlic sea salt, turmeric and cayenne pepper, and comes in at just under 70 calories. It has about 18% of my daily sodium.
It's fine. It tastes like wet carrots. Interpret that as you wish. The ice chunks that are still in the soup from when it was frozen remind me of the distant memory of chewing. I do not finish this soup.
In other news, I can already tell one positive effect: my bruxism isn't causing terrible headaches. I hope this liquid diet has made my dentist proud.
You're supposed to finish your day with a vegan bone broth, a spin on the non-vegan miracle elixir hailed by Shailene Woodley. (How can it have bones it if it is vegan? Perhaps I am about to sip the bones of my own self worth.)
I started my soup at 4 p.m. instead of waiting til 5 p.m. since the carrot soup didn't do it for me and I was getting hungry again.
The vegan bone broth features purified water, shiitake mushrooms, yellow onions, carrots, celery, bok choy, spinach, ginger, garlic, pumpkin seeds, lemon juice, Thai basil, sea salt, spirulina, dry rosemary, and black pepper. It has about 40 calories and about 12% of my daily sodium.
It's drinkable, which is odd. You can enjoy it hot and in a bowl, but I drank it, which made me feel like it was a juice cleanse in disguise. It said 'enjoy chilled...' so I had it chilled...but I did not enjoy it. It was not very good cold.
Fortunately, it was better hot.
I sucked one down...then, shortly after, my spell was broken! I was human again! That's what it's like to soup cleanse! Now, imagine that it's 5 or 6 p.m. and that's it. Your day of food is over. You just have to go to bed at 9 pm. and dream away your hunger and exhaustion.
(I took care of myself by eating to my heart's content that evening, and yes, I had wine. But the spell was broken, so I did not feel a trace of shame.)
If you're diehard into soup, there are other cleanses out there that offer programs that are higher in calories.
Other soup cleanses offer denser cleanses. Los Angeles's Soupure offers a 1,200 calories cleanse that promises to flood your body with nutrients. Soupure also offers a 'mini cleanse' which is half a day of cleansing and half a day of eating whole foods, like whole grains, lean proteins, and vegetables. Splendid Spoon did give that as an option, too.
Do you eat pure, unadulterated garbage? Are you simply looking for a (semi pricey) way to incorporate more vegetables into your daily meal? Are you looking for something to warm your soul from the inside out and turn your stone heart into something that palpitates?
Great, then have some soup. But a full throttle cleanse -- while for some people -- is not for me.
Chewing is pleasurable, and life is hard as it is. Why do I wish to remove a pleasure from my life? (Save for my TMJ.)
And the notion of detoxing is even richer garbage than the garbage you might already be eating.
And fortunately, Chaszar stands by that as well. 'I mean we have a liver and a set of kidneys, most of us, hopefully. And those are the organs that do a really great job of detoxifying our system, whether its blood or bile and that is absolutely what those organs are there for. So the idea scientifically of a day to detox your body is not really factual,' she said.
That's true. Livers and kidneys have the daunting -- but perfectly do-able -- task of ridding your body of all of the junk you put in it. You don't need to 'detox.' Should we all eat less sugar, drink less alcohol, and eat more fruits, vegetables, and lean meats? Of course. Should you avoid inundating your body with fried food and sugary desserts? Obviously. But you knew that already.
It's a no brainer: soup, when hot, is good. Juice is just ok.
And quite frankly, there were some things about my semi-cleanse that worked. I was extremely conscious about what I was eating, I didn't snack mindlessly during the cleanse, and I savoured anything I enjoyed. I was conscientious of my cravings, and the first half of the day was arguably delicious. And after the lunch soup, I was pretty content and satiated. I can confidently say that souping in the morning and eating regular food for dinner is doable.
That's the important thing about souping that does separate it from juicing -- and perhaps does make it the new juicing after all -- is that Chaszar says it isn't so much about cleansing as it is about being more mindful about what you eat. (Hence why there are no 'real rules' and why Chaszar doesn't wholly advocate souping all the time.) But in no way did it help me achieve nirvana.
On a personal level, I like vegetables and I aspire to make healthier choices everyday in my life, so I could see myself wanting to incorporate a healthy soup with regularity into my life -- or who knows, maybe even firing up a crockpot (provided I purchase one first). Could I sustainably live a fancy soup life? No, because I operate on a journalist's salary.
That said, choosing to soup cleanse is a challenge; it's a how-far-can-you-go testament to showing how truly committed you are to your 'wellness'. It's a way for fitness zealots to show off on Instagram and let people know how little they're eating.
Another great way to commit to your wellness is to...eat well. Or more specifically: chew.