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Do you recommend a soup cleanse for losing weight? Why is bone broth supposed to be so good for you?

Soup is the ultimate comfort food on a cold winter day. And it's a food that, depending on which type you eat, is said to do everything from enhancing weight loss to healing the gut to treating the common cold.

"Souping" is a recent fad that involves eating blended soups, usually plant-based, for a certain number of days to increase energy, boost mood, improve complexion and banish body fat, among many other things that cleanses claim to do.

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Soup cleanses vary. Some programs advise replacing all daily meals and snacks with soup while other plans recommend pairing soup with small meals throughout the day. Other regimens rotate days of souping with days of eating healthy non-soup meals.

There is no shortage of diet books offering soup-based cleansing plans and recipes. And if you're too busy to make soup from scratch, depending on where you live, you can order your cleanse online and have soup delivered to your doorstep.

An all-soup cleanse is promoted as a healthier alternative to juicing. Unlike juice, ingredients in soup, such as vegetables, beans and lentils, supply filling protein and fibre, which keep you feeling satisfied longer. They also supply a wider range of nutrients.

Soup and weight loss

Depending on your usual diet and how much you weigh, you may lose a few pounds by souping.

Vegetable and bean soups typically deliver 150 to 200 calories for a one-cup serving. So, a day's worth of soup can provide anywhere from 900 to 1200 calories, fewer calories than most people would eat in a day.

It's also fewer calories than I recommend for healthy weight loss: typically, 1400 to 1600 daily for women and 1900 to 2200 for men. Consuming too few calories can cause muscle loss, an effect that slows the body's resting metabolism, making it harder to lose weight and easier to gain it back.

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(Resting metabolism is the number of calories the body burns at rest to perform its normal functions, such as breathing and keeping your heart and brain working.)

For this reason, I don't recommend following a low-calorie soup cleanse for more than a few days. As well, any short-term diet isn't a long-lasting solution to weight control.

That doesn't mean I'm not a fan of healthy soup. It's my go-to lunch most days of the week this time of year.

Making a batch of soup on Sunday for weekday lunches helps me up my intake of plant-based protein (e.g., beans, lentils), vegetables, antioxidant-rich herbs and spices and water, too. Soup keeps me feeling full longer than a salad with chicken and, in most cases, it does so with fewer calories.

Research suggests that you don't need to swap soup for a day's worth of meals to lose excess pounds.

Researchers from Baylor College of Medicine in Houston found that among 200 overweight men and women, those who included two servings of soup in a calorie-reduced diet lost 50-per-cent more weight over one year than did study participants who ate two calorie-equivalent servings of a dry snack (e.g., crackers, pretzels) instead of the soup.

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Soup's volume of liquid helps you feel satiated for fewer calories. To be effective, though, you need to choose a broth-based soup that's fairly low in calories.

What about bone broth?

Bone broth, sometimes called stock, has long been a staple of diets around the world. Only recently, however, has consuming the broth gained popularity for its cure-all properties.

It's claimed that bone broth – made by simmering animal bones (beef, poultry or fish) for up to 24 hours (sometimes longer) – can, among many other things, improve gut health, ease joint pain, build stronger bones and strengthen immunity.

Proponents contend that it's the collagen in bone broth that promotes bone, joint and gut health. (Collagen is the most abundant protein in the body; it's found in bones, connective tissue, muscles and skin.)

Once consumed, the body breaks down collagen into amino acids, which are sent to wherever in the body they're needed to synthesize proteins (e.g., muscle tissue, hormones, enzymes). In other words, consuming collagen in bone broth doesn't mean its amino acids will end up as collagen in your bones, joints, intestinal tract or skin, for that matter.

What's more, there's scant, if any, evidence that sipping bone broth delivers any of its proposed health benefits. Without science, the claims are only theories.

That's not to say that bone broth isn't nutritious. It's a source of protein and minerals including calcium, iron, potassium and iron.

But it's not a "superfood" (no food is). So, don't expect miracles.

Leslie Beck, a Toronto-based private-practice dietitian, is director of Food and Nutrition at Medcan.

Researchers at the universities of Sussex and Bristol have created TastyFloats, a prototype device that uses acoustic levitation to suspend tiny items of food and drink in mid-air. Reuters
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