When diet researchers in Paris recently began tracking the food choices of locals, they quickly learned that French women eat a lot of soup. "It’s a key reason they’ve earned their reputation for never getting fat," insists French-born nutrition pro Valerie Orsoni, who has long relied on soup to slim down devotees of her internationally famous LeBootCamp.com diet coaching site. But just how well does her French twist on a classic soup diet really work? To find out, we had a team of Woman’s World readers put it to the test. In seven days, they dropped up to 14 pounds each. Impressive! Here’s how to find out how much flab you can soup off.
What You Eat on the French Soup Diet
To get weight loss off to a speedy start, you’ll eat Orsoni’s soup twice a day. Her recipe — which won raves from our diet testers — mixes classic French ingredients like onion and wine with powerful fat fighters like buckwheat, lean protein, olive oil, and turmeric.
You’ll round out menus with simple breakfasts and snacks built around superfoods that Orsoni has found help women slim down fastest. These include tasty options like peanut butter, whole-grain bread, even dark chocolate. “I love that you get to have carbs and still see fast results,” says Pennsylvania reader Jody Beth Shapiro, 56, who shrunk so much in a week that her too-small pants became too baggy. “And the soup tastes like it’s from a fancy restaurant."
According to landmark Penn State research, the way soup solids are suspended in broth confuses the body, triggering more stop-eating signals to our brains than any other type of food. “Soup will curb your appetite by at least 25 percent and up to 50 percent, so it takes a lot of the struggle out of eating less,” says Orsoni. The impact is so dramatic, one study found that women on the same diet shed 50 percent more weight simply by incorporating two bowls of soup a day, and they were testing soup with ordinary ingredients. Orsoni takes it to the next level.
Scientists from Harvard and around the world agree that the ingredients in Orsoni’s soup have extraordinary waist-shrinking power. Most — including onions, buckwheat, kale, garlic, turmeric, olive oil, wine — contain extremely high levels of flavonoid antioxidants. There’s exciting early evidence that these compounds suppress cravings, block fat absorption, improve blood sugar, speed metabolism, reduce obesity-driving inflammation and spike levels of gut bacteria that help make us effortlessly lean. There’s even research hinting that flavonoids activate SIRT1, a gene that burns so much fat, it’s been nicknamed the “skinny gene." Orsoni says "I call this my Super Weight Loss Soup, with good reason.”
How to Make the French Soup for Weight Loss
- 4 small yellow onions, thinly sliced
- 2 cups sliced mushrooms or mixed vegetables
- 6 crushed garlic cloves
- 8 cups low-sodium chicken stock
- 1 cup dry buckwheat
- 4 Tbsp. tomato paste
- 2 tsp. ground ginger
- 1 tsp. black pepper
- 2 miso cubes (optional)
- 4 Tbsp. olive oil
- 3 cups julienned kale
- 1/3 cup red wine
- 2 cups cooked chicken
- 2 tsp. ground turmeric
- Fresh lemon juice and herbs to garnish
- In large pot over low-medium heat, sauté onion in oil for 10 minutes. Add kale; sauté 5 minutes.
- Add garlic and sauté 1 minute.
- Add chicken stock; stir. Add buckwheat, tomato paste, mushrooms, ginger, black pepper, miso (if desired), wine, and chicken; stir well.
- Bring to a low boil, reduce heat to medium, simmer 15 minutes. Add turmeric. Turn off heat.
- Serve with a spritz of lemon juice and fresh herbs to taste.
Soup Diet Ingredients That Fight Fat
- Onions: They’re “rich in quercetin, an antioxidant that boosts metabolism and prevents fat accumulation,” says Orsoni, who has LSU research to back her up.
- Buckwheat: This grain’s huge load of fiber fights hunger and blocks calories; meanwhile, it’s high in a skinny-gene-activating antioxidant called rutin. “It’s a miracle grain because it makes a big difference so quickly,” Orsoni says.
- Kale: “French research has shown that the high folate content in this leafy green helps increase weight loss, principally in the waist,” notes Orsoni.
- Turmeric: Preliminary Tufts University research hints that turmeric may block the formation of new fat — and may even speed burning of existing fat.
- Miso: A soup base made from fermented soy, miso activates skinny genes and contains probiotics — beneficial bacteria linked to natural weight loss.
- Tomato paste: Concentrated cooked tomatoes provide lots of lycopene, an antioxidant that increases the release of metabolism-revving hormones by 25 percent, per Taiwanese researchers.
- Mushrooms: Experts say powerful mushroom compounds improve blood-sugar control — a factor that reduces levels of insulin, a hormone that stores excess sugar as belly fat.
- Olive oil: Not only is the stuff rich in nutrients linked to weight loss, but university studies show it helps us absorb significantly more fat-fighting antioxidants from veggies.
- Wine: Lab testing at Oregon State University found that compounds in red wine appear to slow the formation of new fat—and may even block some fat entirely.
Your French Flat-Belly Soup Diet Plan
Our nutrition team worked with Orsoni to create this version of her plan for you to try. You’ll enjoy soup for lunch and dinner most days, but there are also options for when you’re not in a soup mood. Below you will find additional guidelines for creating new soups that’ll work well as part of this approach. While using this plan, drink plenty of water. Other ultra-low-cal beverages and extras (coffee, tea, spices, vinegar, mustard) are also encouraged. Note: Always get a doctor’s okay to try any new plan.
1 glass of water with lemon.
- 2 slices of whole-grain toast with 1 Tbsp. natural peanut butter, or
- 3 scrambled egg whites, 1 cup sliced fruit, and 1 glass of water with lemon.
1 serving of French Flat-Belly Soup (recipe above).
1 serving of French Flat-Belly Soup.
Choose one daily:
- 1 piece of fruit and 10 almonds
- 4 small squares of 70 percent dark chocolate
- 4 oz. of red wine
Not in the mood for soup?
Swap in a simple, sensible meal instead. Go for 4 oz. of lean protein (tofu, eggs, chicken, fish, or beef) plus 1/2 cup of cooked healthy starch (beans, peas, potatoes, brown rice, whole-grain pasta); unlimited vegetables, herbs, and spices; plus 1 Tbsp. of olive oil or 2 Tbsp. of vinaigrette. Enjoy a nutrient-dense snack that fits in the palm of your hand, and add a serving or two of fruit at breakfast. To create your own soup recipes, freely experiment with different types of veggies, starch, protein, broth, and seasonings. Just make sure to stick to unprocessed, nutrient-dense options.
Real-World Weight-Loss Success
California business owner Lisa Gemmiti, 57, doesn’t have time for complicated diets and isn’t willing to go hungry. Orsoni’s soup plan turned out to be the perfect approach for her. “It’s very simple, and you feel satisfied the entire time,” she reports. “I lost seven and a half pounds and three inches of belly fat in a week. It works!” Pamela Goff agrees. She whisked off a full jean size and melted an astonishing 9 inches of ab flab in just seven days. “I had to re-measure myself because I couldn’t believe how much I’d lost,” says the New Mexico mom and dental assistant, 55. “On the first day, I remember thinking, ‘This is too much food. I’m going to gain weight!’” New Jersey caregiver Latonya Nicholas, 44, was also stunned. "I weighed myself three times because I couldn’t believe the number. This plan is delicious and amazing," Latonya shed 14 pounds in a week.
When fast-food lover Latonya Nicholas heard about our diet test, “I was skeptical because I was already eating soup several times a week. But it fit my schedule, so I tried it,” says the New Jersey caregiver, 44. She spent just $20 for the week’s groceries — and quickly found herself 14 pounds lighter. “This soup diet is easy and it really works.”
Latonya’s best tip: Double the recipe! “I made a big batch on Sunday that lasted all week. So on weeknights, my dinner was as easy as heating up a frozen meal.”
This story originally appeared in our print magazine.