The Dukan Diet has gained a good amount of media exposure in recent years, with celebrities and supermodels alike swearing that it’s the secret to slimming down and staying in shape. The diet promises quick and sustainable weight loss with less hunger and cravings than other diets. However, it’s also drawn criticism from health experts and been dubbed inconvenient, unhealthy and overly restrictive.
Here’s what you need to know about this popular fad diet and whether or not it can be a safe and effective diet plan to lose weight long-term.
What Is the Dukan Diet?
The Dukan Diet, also sometimes called the Dr. Dukan Diet, is a low-carb, high-protein diet founded by French physician, Pierre Dukan. Dr. Dukan designed the diet as an innovative way to treat obesity while also preventing weight regain, a common issue with patients simply following low-calorie diets or clean-eating meal plans.
The Dukan Diet plan has been around for over 30 years. However, it reached peak popularity after 2000 with the publication of the Dukan Diet book, which has sold more than 7 million copies around the globe. Originally published in France, the Dukan Diet books were later translated into several different languages and are now available in 32 countries.
Today, it remains a popular diet for those seeking sustainable weight loss and increased metabolism. However, it’s not without its fair share of criticism and is often classified as an unhealthy fad diet that can be overly restrictive and downright dangerous in some cases.
How Does It Work?
The Dukan Diet begins by determining your “true weight.” This is considered your goal weight. It is calculated using a variety of different factors, such as your age, weight history and bone structure. The amount of weight that you need to lose to attain your true weight can determine exactly how long you should remain on each phase of the Dukan Diet.
There are four different Dukan Diet phases. Each comes with its own specific set of Dukan Diet rules to follow.
- Attack Phase (1–7 days): During the Dukan Diet attack phase, weight loss is achieved by eating unlimited amounts of lean protein foods each day along with 1.5 tablespoons of oat bran. How long do you stay on the attack phase of the Dukan Diet? This depends mostly on the amount of weight that you need to lose. For example, if you have less than 10 pounds to lose, it’s recommended to stay on this phase for just 1–2 days. If you have over 40 pounds to lose, on the other hand, this phase of the diet may last up to seven days in total.
- Cruise Phase (1–12 months): In this phase of the diet, you should alternate between eating only lean protein foods one day and consuming lean proteins plus non-starchy vegetables the next. You should consume two tablespoons of oat bran daily during this phase as well.
- Consolidation Phase (5 days for every pound lost): The third phase of the diet is designed to help ease the transition back into normal eating. During this phase, you’re able to consume unlimited amounts of lean proteins and vegetables, plus some starchy foods, grains, fruit and hard-rind cheeses. You’re also permitted one “celebration meal” per week and are advised to continue restricting your diet to just lean proteins once weekly. You should also continue consuming two tablespoons of oat bran each day.
- Stabilization Phase (indefinitely): In this final phase of the diet, no foods are technically off-limits. However, you should continue restricting intake to only lean protein foods one day per week and consume three tablespoons of oat bran each day.
In addition to the original diet, there is also the Dukan Diet 2: The 7 Steps, which is a newer eating plan that rotates the foods you eat throughout the week to help you reach your target weight. On this diet plan, the guidelines are as follows:
- Day 1: Protein
- Day 2: Protein and vegetables
- Day 3: Protein, vegetables and fruit
- Day 4: Protein, vegetables, fruit and bread
- Day 5: Protein, vegetables, fruit, bread and cheese
- Day 6: Protein, vegetables, fruit, bread, cheese and complex carbohydrates
- Day 7: Celebration meal with wine and chocolate
What You Can and Can’t Eat
So what do you eat on the Dukan Diet? The Dukan Diet plan involves mostly high-protein foods with limited amounts of carbohydrates and healthy fats. The Dukan Diet foods can also vary based on which phase of the diet you’re in. In fact, on the Dukan Diet, oat bran and lean proteins are the only foods that are consistently consumed through every phase.
Here’s what you can eat during each phase of the diet:
The Dukan Diet attack phase food list consists primarily of high-protein foods, including both animal and plant-based proteins. Here are some of the foods allowed during this phase:
- Lean Meats: Beef tenderloin, lean pork chops, roast beef, pork tenderloin, reduced-fat bacon, veal chops, venison, etc.
- Poultry: Chicken, turkey, quail, wild duck, Cornish hen, etc.
- Fish: Salmon, tuna, sardines, trout, tilapia, catfish, flounder, mackerel, herring, etc.
- Shellfish: Crab, crawfish, lobster, mussels, octopus, oysters, shrimp, etc.
- Vegetarian Proteins: Tempeh, tofu, seitan, veggie burgers, etc.
- Fat-Free Dairy: Skim milk, fat-free Greek yogurt, fat-free cottage cheese, fat-free cream cheese, etc.
- Eggs: Chicken, quail or duck eggs
- Shirataki Noodles
- Oat Bran: 1.5 tablespoons daily
During the cruise phase, you should alternate between lean proteins one day and lean proteins plus non-starchy vegetables the next. Two tablespoons of oat bran should also be consumed daily. In addition to the protein foods listed above, other foods permitted during this phase of the diet include:
- Bean sprouts
- Brussels sprouts
- Green beans
- Leafy greens, such as kale, lettuce, spinach, arugula and watercress
- Palm hearts
- Pumpkin radishes
- Spaghetti squash
The consolidation phase is typically split into two different parts. In addition to the ingredients listed above, the following foods are permitted during the first half of consolidation:
- 1 serving of fruit per day
- 2 slices of whole grain bread per day
- 1.5 ounces of hard-rind cheese per day
- 1 cooked cup of starchy foods per week
- 1 celebration meal per week, which includes an appetizer, entree, dessert and a glass of wine
During the second half of consolidation, the following foods can be added to the Dukan Diet menu as well:
- 2 servings of fruit per day
- 2 slices of whole grain bread per day
- 1.5 ounces of hard-rind cheese per day
- 2 cooked cups of starchy foods per week
- 2 celebration meals per week
Throughout the consolidation phase, you should continue consuming two tablespoons of oat bran daily. You should also have one “pure protein” day per week, in which only Dukan Diet attack phase recipes are permitted.
The final phase of the diet should be followed indefinitely to maintain weight loss long term. Although no foods are off-limit during this phase, there are a few simple rules to follow, including:
- Consume three tablespoons of oat bran per day
- Take the stairs instead of the elevator whenever possible to increase physical activity
- Have one “pure protein” day per week in which only foods from the attack phase are permitted
Benefits and Drawbacks
Although research is limited on the effectiveness of the Dukan Diet, one study did find that it could be beneficial for weight loss. The study, which was conducted by the University of Applied Sciences in Nysa (Poland), showed that women following the diet for eight to 10 weeks lost an average of 33 pounds.
Several studies have also found that high-protein, low-carb diets can support weight loss and may also help increase metabolism, promote satiety and amp up fat-burning. Increasing your protein intake can also reduce levels of ghrelin, the hormone responsible for stimulating hunger, to keep you feeling fuller for longer.
The diet also sets very specific guidelines on which foods can and can’t be included as part of the diet. This makes it easy to follow and leaves less room for error. It makes planning your Dukan Diet menus a breeze and allows you to simply pick and choose from the options on the permitted foods list.
That said, there are several downsides to consider with the Dukan Diet as well. Because it’s incredibly restrictive, your diet is likely to lack in several essential nutrients, including key vitamins, minerals and healthy fats. In fact, the study previously mentioned that evaluated the effects of the Dukan Diet actually found several nutritional abnormalities in participants, including excess intakes of protein, potassium, iron, and vitamins A, D and B2, but low levels of vitamin C and folate.
Additionally, because it’s so limited, it may increase cravings and lead to unhealthy eating behaviors. According to a study published in the International Journal of Eating Disorders, deprivation of certain foods, such as chocolate, ultimately led to an increased risk of cravings and overeating in participants.
The Dukan Diet is also very high in protein and even encourages “pure protein” days once per week in which only protein-rich foods are consumed. Consuming excess amounts of protein may be associated with several adverse effects on health. Not only can it trigger symptoms of gout, a form of arthritis that causes severe pain and inflammation in the joints, but it may also be linked to an increased risk of kidney stone formation.
Dukan Diet Meal Plan
There are plenty of Dukan Diet recipes and resources out there to help get you started. Here is a sample one-day meal plan for the first three phases of the diet to give you an idea of what this eating pattern might look like.
- Breakfast: Non-fat Greek yogurt topped with powdered cinnamon and 1.5 tablespoons of oat bran
- Lunch: Stir-fried salmon with shirataki noodles
- Dinner: Roasted chicken
- Breakfast: Vegetable omelet with asparagus, broccoli and peppers
- Lunch: Salad with mixed greens, tuna and hard-boiled eggs
- Dinner: Veggie burger with lettuce wrap and non-fat cottage cheese with 2 tablespoons of oat bran
- Breakfast: 2 slices of whole-grain toast with eggs and 1.5 ounces of Manchego cheese
- Lunch: Beef tenderloin with 1 cup cooked quinoa, Brussels sprouts and zucchini
- Dinner: Lean pork chops with green beans and non-fat Greek yogurt with berries and 3 tablespoons of oat bran
Dukan Diet Reviews: Does It Work?
So does the Dukan Diet really work? The makers of the plan claim that the Dukan Diet results in fast, sustainable weight loss. There are a wealth of positive Dukan Diet reviews — plus Dukan Diet before and after pictures — that are used to back up its effectiveness.
However, while following the diet will likely lead to weight loss, it also forces you to cut out several healthy food groups that can deprive your body of key nutrients. It’s also difficult to follow with tons of rules and restrictions that may ultimately leave you feeling unsatisfied.
While it may work for quick weight loss, there are plenty of better alternatives that can provide long-lasting results while also improving your health. Enjoying a healthy, well-rounded, healing diet rich in fruits, vegetables, protein foods, whole grains and healthy fats is an easy and effective way to slim down and supply your body with the essential nutrients that it needs.
Dukan Diet vs. Keto Diet vs. Atkins Diet
The Dukan Diet, keto diet and Atkins diet are three popular diet plans that focus on cutting carbs to support weight loss. However, there are several notable differences that set these three diets apart.
The Atkins diet and Dukan Diet both focus on decreasing carbs while increasing protein intake. While the Dukan Diet encourages cutting carbs and fat in favor of protein, the Atkins diet allows you to enjoy as much fat and protein as you want. Meanwhile, the ketogenic diet cuts carbs but amps up fat intake to help you reach ketosis, a metabolic state that causes your body to use fat for fuel instead of glucose. Ketogenic diets also allow for consumption of moderate amounts of protein but not to the same extent as the Dukan Diet or Atkins.
Risks and Side Effects
Is the Dukan Diet safe? Unfortunately, current research on the safety and effectiveness of the Dukan Diet is limited, so it’s hard to say what the long-term health implications of this diet may be. However, it is highly restrictive and eliminates several important food groups, so it may be associated with a higher risk of certain nutritional deficiencies.
If you have liver disease, kidney problems or gout, the Dukan Diet may not be right for you. If you have any underlying health conditions or nutritional concerns, you should consult with a doctor or registered dietitian prior to starting any Dukan Diet meal plans.
- The Dukan Diet is a high-protein, low-fat, low-carb diet that is divided into four different phases: the attack phase, cruise phase, consolidation phase and stabilization phase.
- Depending on which phase of the diet you are in, it typically involves eating high amounts of lean protein, oat bran and non-starchy vegetables.
- As the diet progresses, other Dukan Diet food options are permitted as well, including limited amounts of fruits, whole grains, hard-rind cheeses and starchy foods.
- Although the diet is likely to cause weight loss, it’s also highly restrictive and may lead to nutritional deficiencies in the long run.
- Additionally, research is limited on its long-term safety, and it may not be suitable for those with certain health conditions due to its high protein content.
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