Coming Clean on the Hidden Risks of the Sacred Heart Diet

The Sacred Heart Diet is a weight loss plan with uncertain origins. The name and legend around the plan suggest a Sacred Heart hospital created it for patients that needed to lose weight quickly. However, nobody can pin down the particular hospital. And apparently, several Sacred Hearts have issued statements indicating they are not the plan originators.

The plan claims to cause dieters to lose anywhere from 10-17lbs in a week. It relies heavily on a soup composed of tomatoes and other vegetables. It also includes a highly limited amount of food each day. The claims are impressive. But we’re putting them to the test today. Keep reading to learn more about the diet. We’ll talk about whether or not it’s a good fit for you, and if there are hidden risks you should know about.

The Diet

It’s hard to pin down an exact diet for the Sacred Heart plan (there are a lot of them floating around out there!). But there’s a basic recipe for the soup. It usually includes:

  • Stewed tomatoes
  • Green onions
  • Fat-free beef or chicken broth
  • Celery
  • Carrots
  • Green beans
  • Peppers

Some versions also call for dried beans or other legumes to be added to the soup. And others allow for a package of chicken noodle soup mix. No matter the specific ingredients, dieters are instructed to at least one bowl of soup a day. However, they can eat as many bowls as they want.

Outside of the soup itself, there’s a very specific plan for each of the seven days:

  • Day 1: as much fruit as desired (excluding bananas). Many versions recommend watermelon and cantaloupe because those link directly to weight loss.
  • Day 2: as many vegetables as desired (make sure they’re leafy greens, though, and not starchy) and no fruit. Dieters eat a baked potato with butter at dinnertime.
  • On day 3: as many fruits and vegetables as desired (many plans recommend staying clear of potatoes, beans, and corn).
  • Day 4: skim milk and bananas. This is to replenish your body’s supply of potassium, carbs, and other lost nutrients at this point in the week.
  • Day 5: beef or baked chicken (10-20oz) without the skin and tomatoes (6 pieces)
  • Then on day 6: beef and leafy, green vegetables–as much as desired.
  • Day 7: vegetables (keep avoiding potatoes and corn), brown rice, and fruit juice (unsweetened, of course)

Drinks allowed on the plan (these vary slightly plan to plan):

  • Herbal tea
  • Unsweetened coffee
  • Water
  • Unsweetened juices

It’s important to note that you should not follow this diet for more than seven days. If you want to try it again, you need to wait at least two weeks.

How Does This Diet Work?

It might surprise you to know that you will lose weight on this diet. Unfortunately, it’s not because there’s something special about the soup or the combination of foods you eat on different days. It’s simply because this diet is a classic reduced-calorie diet, couched in delicious soup!

It’s also unfortunate that most of the weight you lose will likely be water weight. This means it will be very easy to gain it all back once you start eating normally. That said, there might still be benefits to this diet for you.

What Are the Benefits of This Diet?

One of the main benefits of a diet like this is that it contains a very low amount of carbohydrates. Most health professionals don’t recommend swearing off carbs altogether. But it’s well documented that decreasing the carbs in your normal lifestyle can help you gain better control over your insulin. It also aids with blood sugar levels, losing weight, lowering your risk for heart disease, and many others.

The other benefit is the simplicity of the plan. Dieters don’t have to count calories or starve themselves. And all diet ingredients are readily available at any grocery store. Plus, most of the ingredients are very palatable to most people. This diet often gets compared to the Cabbage Soup Diet. That diet allows you to eat as much cabbage soup as desired. If you don’t like cabbage, however, you’re out of luck!

Also, Sacred Heart Recipe Diet recipes are plentiful and varied. So dieters can easily find one that is delicious and filling while also burning fat. Other similar fat burning soup diets include the Russian Peasant Diet (another fat burning cabbage soup) and the Cleveland Clinic Diet. People can use sites like Pinterest to find lists of great Sacred Heart Diet recipes.

What are the Dangers of the Sacred Heart Diet?

Sometimes a diet has little scientific proof to back it up and relies heavily on rapid water weight loss and limiting huge food groups. In this case, dieters can be sure they’ve found a fad diet rather than, say, a heart-healthy diet plan. Does this mean you shouldn’t attempt the diet? Not necessarily. However, you should be aware of some of the biggest concerns about this diet:

1. Weight Loss That’s Too Rapid

Losing weight rapidly seems like it’s the dream of most Americans. But losing too much too quickly can actually hurt your health. It can lead to dehydration, malnutrition, constipation, headaches, dizziness, and more. Fad diets that cause you to lose weight rapidly fail to set dieters up for success. This is true because the diet and lifestyle simply aren’t sustainable. In truth,  doctors recommend undergoing extreme weight loss diets only in consultation with a health professional.

2. Nutritional Imbalances

Health experts recommend achieving the main bulk of your needed calories through a combination of fresh fruits and vegetables. You should also eat whole grains, legumes, nuts, and lean protein. You certainly will lose weight by limiting yourself to the very low-calorie foods included in the Sacred Heart Diet. But you run the risk of not getting enough of the nutrients, vitamins, and minerals you need for your body to function well.

3. Health Experts Recommend Caution

Finally, any time a diet makes huge claims but isn’t backed up by legitimate scientific study, you should take pause. You should also pay attention to endorsements of well-known health professionals. This sort of diet can cause risks to women who are pregnant or breastfeeding. This is because they won’t be getting enough calories daily and risk malnutrition. It can also cause problems for people who have diseases such as diabetes. The reason for this is that the sudden disappearance of carbs could cause blood sugar control issues.

Are There Alternatives to the Sacred Heart Diet?

If you’re looking for weight loss that is sustainable and doesn’t involve counting calories, there are quite a few alternatives to the Sacred Heart plan. These include Whole30, an elimination diet designed to help you reset your taste buds and uncover the foods that cause you to feel poorly.

The Whole30

The creators of the Whole30 specifically warn that this is not a permanent diet. Instead, it is rather a process. Dieters are instructed to avoid high-inflammatory foods like canola oil, processed sugar, legumes, grains, and dairy for thirty days. The next several weeks involve slowing reintroducing those foods back in to determine which foods don’t “feel right.”

People who undergo the Whole30 report losing weight and gaining mental clarity and energy. Some even report reducing insulin dependence and improving depression and anxiety. Others report lowering cholesterol and bettering all sorts of skin conditions and ailments.

Weight Watchers

Another more sustainable lifestyle alternative to the Sacred Heart Diet is Weight Watchers. Created in the 60s in New York, Weight Watchers has helped hundreds of thousands of people find community support for their weight loss goals.

Weight Watchers assigns points to different kinds of foods. They do this to help dieters learn better eating habits. It also involves technology such as apps and community check-ins to provide accountability. One study found that dieters in Weight Watchers had a 2.6% better weight loss than those not in Weight Watchers.

Is This Diet Right for Me?

There are definitely huge amounts of anecdotal evidence for weight loss while on the Sacred Heart Diet. Ultimately, however, dieters will have to decide if it’s the kind of plan that will help them in their long-term fitness goals. We recommend carefully weighing the pros and cons and consulting with your doctor.

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