If you are reading this post about soup cleanses it is either because you love cleanses and want to know about the next trendy one (hint: it's soup), or you hate cleanses and cleansers, and need more ammo against them.
I will satisfy both types of readers.
Let's get this out of the way: Juice/liquid cleanses are slippery little fish as healthy trends go. They're basically crash diets disguised as a spiritual toxin flushes, and although people love them, they are unnecessary. You don't really need to detox or cleanse anything. That's what bowels and livers are for. Juice is often high in sugar and the processing removes a big part of the healthful benefits of the fruits and vegetables, the skins and the pulp that act as roughage. It's not a viable weight-loss method, either, at least not in the long term, because the second you eat normal food again and up your calories you'll just gain it back. And that lovely euphoric rush you often feel on cleansing? That's probably your body in starvation mode. Really.
That said, I think short cleanses are remarkable at hydrating you, and resetting your relationship to food, if you, like me, are the sort of person who can't seem to do this a little bit every day. I've done a few Master Cleanses (the lemon/cayenne/maple syrup thing, originally designed to heal stomach ulcers), and I really like fresh vegetable juice, which I've used in place of meals sometimes. I'm not a crash dieter, and I like eating healthy food, and I am not weight-obsessed. But I'm a mindless eater, and I eat too fast, and I don't enjoy my food or chew it slowly enough most of the time, and I have to make myself snap out of that from time to time. And for some reason the thing that does that best is to not eat solid food for a bit. It feels good.
However, juice cleanses make me cold, which is on my short list of worst feelings (it's why I've never been able to live in NYC). They also don't have enough calories, which is also on my short list of worst feelings. That is why when I saw something about souping being the new cleansing and souping having more calories, I was interested. Actual food? Hot food? Soup? All day? I like a challenge. I like soup! This will be the easiest goddamn thing in the universe.
There is a company here in Los Angeles called Soupure (I believe it's pronounced soup-ure) getting some buzzy coverage for its new soup cleanse, pitched as an alternative to juicing. This is happening alongside another soup trend in action right now where everyone is going nuts over bone broth, the centuries-old practice of cooking animal bones into a nutrient-dense broth. Bone broth heals everything you can think of, naturally. It's being touted as a "winter miracle drink." This East Village resto is serving it in to-go cups for $9 a pop. Gwynnie is pimping it on GOOP. (Beware the paleo types who will claim bone both's trendiness as a personal victory.)
Soupure offers a chicken and beef bone broth as part of its soup cleanse package, and on the website, explains its philosophy:
IM-"PRESSED" BY JUICING?
With so many brands from which to choose, you would think cold-pressed juice had all the answers. Juice as a beverage? Sure! We like it, too. But we are only mildly impressed with juice cleanses as an ongoing lifestyle choice in place of food. Throwing away the vital fiber matrix reduces most fruits to simple sugars that could leave your liver overworked and kidneys imbalanced (not to mention, not very "sustainably responsible"). Without the benefits of macro-nutrients, like protein and good fats, many of the vitamins and minerals featured in some juice combinations are simply rendered unusable. Certain whole vegetables need cooking to maximize or add the necessary dimension to their nutritional pathways. The body requires food in a variety of forms, raw and not raw, to feel optimally good.
WHAT MAKES SOUPURE BETTER
Whether you "soup" by cleansing or enjoy our soups as a family meal, snack, starter course, or refreshing beverage, they are all an optimal way to ensure the benefits of consuming whole fruits and vegetables throughout the day. We are committed to keeping the fibrous flesh, seeds, rind, and pulp for the most authentic collection of diverse and intact nutrients your body can actually recognize. We don't think the body is inherently bad or toxic, and deprivation is definitely not sexy.
The one-day supply ($79, 8 jars, delivered to you) is about 1200 calories and includes the following suggestion for consuming in "order":
LOL at "post workout."
Actual soups delivered:
I ordered the "active" option fearing I would get hungry, so there's one extra jar here of chilled soup (another 170 calories). It's also not all bone broth, but rather, cold and hot soups, and alkaline waters to be consumed in between/throughout.
Friday, Venice, CA, 68 degrees. Wind: 8 mph. Skies: Clear.
9 am: REBOOT (pear alkaline water)
pear, yuzu, shiso leaf, alkaline water
Tastes like: A tart, flat water with hint of pear
Feels like: Strangely filling, or am I just psyching myself? Cold water in the morning is good, so this is not weird or anything. But what's weird is it's actually hard to finish. I just don't drink this much liquid at once. Oh god this is going to be so much liquid.
11 am: SOOTHE (bone broth)
chicken bone broth, raw miso
Tastes like: Heaven. Bone broth is divine at any time, but especially, it turns out, in the morning after a cold beverage. This has a shimmering warm, sustenance-boosting feeling of perfectness, and I'm now wishing I could sip this soup all day. Instead of the others.
11:20: SUPERHERO (nuts and seeds blend)
7 nuts and seeds, dates, maca, reishi, dandelion tea
Tastes like: A smooth nutty milkshake, and is delicious.
Feels like: The aftertaste is a little bit chalky, but this took me through two hours of perfectly productive work.
1:17: HEAL (zucchini basil soup)
zucchini, basil, roasted garlic
Tastes like: How you feel about HEAL depends on how you feel about zucchini. And basil. And garlic. I am not a fan of zucchini in general. It's the one vegetable I can't get down with. I can only describe the taste as "negative flavor," which is to say it feels like it is taking something from me when I eat it. And yet, the basil and garlic and overall creaminess of this soup was really pleasant, and I ate the whole thing.
1:58: CLEAN (pineapple basil alkaline water)
pineapple, basil, cucumber, alkaline water
Tastes like: Really fresh but not very sugary fruit juice.
Feels like: Variety. Clearly the winning feature of this soup cleanse is that they know how to mix up the tastes so much that you barely notice you're not eating as many calories.
2:42: For no reason, I sobbed. (just kidding, getting my period)
3:12: Feeling incredibly focused and clear-eyed again.
3:43: ENERGIZE (strawberry soup)
strawberry, sprouted cashew, raw honey
Tastes like: A strawberry smoothie. Delicious.
Feels like: An afternoon snack. I drank this on the road while going to pick up my daughter from preschool.
6:11: RESTORE (Japanese sweet potato)
lemongrass, parsnip, ginger
Tastes like: My favorite new soup. This soup is creamy and fantastic and delightful—it's sweet and savory all at once, and the ginger is a nice kick, and the potato bits are positively hearty.
Feels like: This is the easiest "cleanse" ever I don't even care COME AT ME I AM SAVORING THE FLAVOR (ok I'm glad I only have one jar to go)
8:21: BLACKOUT (banana tonic)
banana, black sesame
Tastes like: Banana water. Hint of sesame.
Feels like: It is weirdly exciting to drink black juice, I can't explain it.
By 9 p.m., I'd consumed all the jars in order, and still had one "active" Superhero jar that I didn't eat. I'm really not sure this even counts as a cleanse, not only because nothing really cleanses per se, but because spacing out these jars around every hour or so was exactly when I needed another thing to consume. There's real food bits in these soups, so it's not really truly a liquid diet. The mixture of hot and cold and sweet and savory tricks you into not even noticing that you're eating considerably less than normal.
Cheat: I still had some black coffee in the morning because I knew it was a one-day cleanse and wasn't going to work through a splitting headache because I am not dumb.
Overall takeaway: I don't necessarily feel the need to do this cleanse again, but I do want the Japanese sweet potato soup and the bone broth on the regular, and would possibly order the six packs of hot broth. Everything tastes like exactly what it is, and there is nothing misleading here, ingredients wise, and it was all overwhelmingly delicious and fresh. I really was not hungry, and this surprised me. I even watched Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs with a 4-year-old on this cleanse—a movie in which delicious giant tasty terrible food falls from the sky—and it did not make me hungry.
THIS is EASIEST CLEANSE IN THE UNIVERSE, partially because it's not really a "cleanse."
Here is how many times I peed and the one and only time that day I pooped (FACE, friends who called this a poop diet):
1:12 p.m. POOP (normal)
As for the resetting thing, there is some merit to this idea of giving your system a break. But a recent piece in Elle about a New York soup cleanse company, SoupCleanse, asks, Can a one-day cleanse really "re-set" your system? The answer:
Maybe, says Kerry Bajaj, a Certified Health Coach at the Eleven Eleven Wellness Center in New York City. "It's not going to do much," she says. "It can give your digestive system a bit of a rest. If you're [cleansing] for one day, you're putting the brakes on, so to say. You're not eating more bad stuff on top of everything, but you're not necessarily cleaning out the gut."
But in the days since Friday I've eaten normally again, but not finished my plate as often, and have enjoyed everything I've eaten, slowed down, and had lots more water. This may be all a psychological trick I've set up for myself—LOL I COULD JUST EAT SOUP SOMETIMES—but so what. It worked. Soup is good.
Illustration by Tara Jacoby.