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.
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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. The diet goes by many monikers, one of the more common names being the Sacred Heart Memorial Diet. Among the soup diet's many aliases are the Cleveland Clinic Diet, the Sacred Heart Memorial Hospital Diet, the Miami Heart Institute Diet, the Spokane Heart Diet, T.J.’s Miracle Soup Diet, the Cabbage Soup Diet, the Basic Fat Burning Soup Diet and "The Skinny." It's even been attributed to the AHA. 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
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. 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.
There are many versions of the Sacred Heart Diet; however, EveryDiet.org indicates that one of the more common recipes lists the following ingredients: stewed tomatoes, green onions, nonfat beef broth, a package of chicken noodle soup mix, celery, green beans, carrots and green peppers seasoned with salt, pepper, curry powder and parsley. The ingredients are chopped into pieces, covered with water and cooked.
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.
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 vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans and peas, and unsaturated fats such as olive oil, nuts and seeds.