Nutrition Breakdown: What Goes Into a Soup Cleanse?

POPSUGAR Photography | Dominique Astorino
POPSUGAR Photography | Dominique Astorino

I tried my first soup cleanse a while back, and I loved it. A tad apprehensive at first, but mostly excited, I decided to give it a go — by the end of the day, I was full and satisfied, and I felt great.

Although my reasoning for going on a soup cleanse had nothing to do with losing weight, a one-day soup cleanse can be an excellent weight-loss tool. While cutting out calories, dairy, gluten, and, most of the time, animal products, you still have fiber from whole vegetables and legumes, and you're getting a solid dose of nutrients. I talked to the founder of Splendid Spoon, Nicole Centeno, who said that souping "is a form of intermittent fasting, and it's a really efficient approach to maintain a healthy weight and increase energy without leaving you hungry."

She's right about not feeling hungry — during my cleanse, I was pretty stuffed by the end of the day. The idea of a soup cleanse is actually to create a healthier relationship with food. As Nicole put it, "simple adjustments can become lasting habits" that can help you "settle into a more relaxed relationship with your food." She continued to say although her company offers these one-day "reset" programs, you can also swap one meal a day for a plant-based bowl, which will help deliver nutrients while cutting out calories.

It's good to keep in mind that the one-day diet plan is intended for a rest day, as most plans do not deliver a sufficient number of calories to get you through a workout. While cleanses vary on how many calories they deliver, depending on your goals and your daily caloric needs, you can supplement with a whole fruit smoothie (no added sweeteners, honey, etc.) or additional soup, as long as you're sticking to the general blueprint of a cleanse.

To get an idea of what that looks like, read on.

Macronutrient Breakdown

"The full program is about 50 percent carbohydrates, 25 percent protein, and 25 percent fat," said Nicole. "The focus [of the soup ingredients] is on fiber-dense whole vegetables, legumes, and grains, which are associated with improved disease resistance, increased longevity, and a healthy cardiovascular system." Another reason they focus on carbohydrates? Gut health. "Complex carbs are the best fuel for the microflora in your gut!" said Nicole. "All those good bugs further increase your resistance to disease and help balance your metabolism."

The Daily Flow

In terms of structuring your day on a cleanse, there's a heavier load in the morning before tapering off. "We focus more fat and protein at the start of the day because it tends to keep you going longer," said Nicole. "It's important to wake up the system with the right building blocks in the morning. Graduating to a lighter meal at the end of the day can also improve sleep patterns and improve your ability to maintain a healthy weight."

Eliminated Foods

Splendid Spoon cuts out GMO products, gluten, meat, dairy, honey, added sugar, preservatives, and artificial ingredients. Most cleanses follow a similar format, with some nonvegan programs (like Soupure) including bone broth. If you're following this format, keep in line with the eliminated foods, as they can be common culprits in digestive woes.

Important Ingredients

If you're following the Splendid Spoon format, any additional soups or smoothies should be high fiber, high complex carbohydrate, and low sugar — and there are plenty of whole vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts, and seeds that fall into that camp. Because this particular cleanse likes to focus on digestive health, its soups typically mix in ginger and turmeric, because as Nicole puts it, "they soothe the gut while also making it easier to digest some of the complex carbs [in the soups] and reducing gas." She also loves to capitalize on the protein and fiber-dense "powerhouses" known as legumes. She said they are "omnipresent in the diets of the longest lived communities all over the world, as well as being staples in Ayurvedic medicine." I noticed these in the chunkier bowl at the end of my cleanse, a delicious steel-cut oat congee with peanuts.

If you're supplementing your cleanse with additional soup or a smoothie, be sure to stick to this format, as it has been expertly designed to help your body digest, detox, and heal.

Nicole gave us a few general tips to keep in mind: "eat more veggies, stop when you're full, and above all, embrace food as a nourishing experience." She notes that you don't need to replace every single meal with a soup, but even by swapping five to 10 meals each week, you can make a huge difference in your body — and your weight.