The Dukan Diet has been around for more than two decades, but it really took off when news leaked that Kate Middleton is a fan.
The Duchess of Cambridge reportedly followed the diet while she was preparing for her wedding to Prince William in 2011 and again post-pregnancy. But while you’ve probably at least heard of the Dukan Diet before, you may be fuzzy on the details.
At its core, the Dukan Diet—which was created by French doctor Pierre Dukan in 2000—is a high-protein, low-carb diet. But it involves moving through four phases that are specially designed to help you lose weight, get to your goal weight, and learn to eat healthier along the way. Sounds like a weight-loss dream, right?
But does this diet support a healthy, balanced lifestyle? Not everyone is convinced. Here’s what you need to know.
What is the Dukan Diet, exactly?
The Dukan Diet is a high-protein, low-carb, and low-fat diet designed for weight loss. After seeing many of his patients lose weight on his plan, Dr. Dukan published The Dukan Diet in France, where it’s still the number one diet programme. Since then, the book gained traction and popularity and has sold more than seven million copies globally.
The Dukan Diet is comprised of four phases: Attack, Cruise, Consolidation, and Stabilization. During the first two phases—which are focused on weight loss—your protein intake is more than 40% of your daily calorie consumption, which is well above the USDA’s recommendations. The third and fourth phases emphasise preserving weight loss and maintaining what Dr. Dukan calls your “True Weight,” the weight you can achieve without feeling hungry and deprived or impacting your mood and overall health.
What do you eat on the Dukan Diet?
As I mentioned, the Dukan Diet is broken down into four phases. The first two phases are the most restrictive, especially the Attack phase which doesn’t allow healthy fats, fruits, and vegetables (Yes, you heard that right) (Yes, you heard that right).
Phase 1 – Attack
Also known as the Pure Protein phase, you can enjoy unlimited low-fat, high-protein foods, including lean beef, pork, poultry, non-fat dairy, eggs, fish, and tofu. You’re also allowed to eat 1.5 tablespoons of oat bran per day. According to Dr. Dukan, the oat bran is meant to reduce cholesterol and help prevent diabetes, but it’s also there to add fibre to your diet and promote satiety. The length of this phase ranges from two to seven days, depending on how much weight you need to lose.
Phase 2 – Cruise
After several days on phase 2, you’ll reintroduce non-starchy vegetables, such as cucumbers, mushrooms, spinach, asparagus, and broccoli. You will alternate between protein-only days and protein-vegetable days, along with two tablespoons of oat bran daily. Dieters stay in this phase until they reach their True Weight.
Phase 3 – Consolidation
This phase is designed to prevent the rebound effect of gaining back the pounds lost during the first two phases. During this phase, foods that were previously restricted are gradually added in limited quantities. You will continue to follow a protein-vegetable diet and consume two tablespoons of oat bran daily. Once a week, you are required to follow a Pure Protein day from the Attack phase. Phase 3 lasts five days for every pound lost.
Moreover, during the Consolidation phase, you can eat one to two servings of fruit (excluding bananas, grapes, figs, and cherries) and two slices of whole-grain bread per day. You’re also allowed to consume 1.5 ounces of hard cheese, one to two servings of starchy food, and one to two celebration meals per week. A celebration meal includes an appetiser, entrée, dessert, and one glass of wine.
Phase 4 – Stabilization
On this final phase (aka the rest of your life), you can eat whatever you want along with three tablespoons of oat bran per day. As in the phase 3, a Pure Protein day is required once a week.
Dr. Dukan advises consuming six to eight cups of water per day during each phase of the diet. Check out this Dukan Diet food list for a more detailed guide on what to eat and what to stay away from.
Why are there phases on the Dukan Diet?
According to Scott Keatley, R.D., of Keatley Medical Nutrition Therapy, the Dukan Diet encourages you to prioritise protein before including whole grains, fruits, and carbohydrates. The goal, according to him, is to “reset your palate” so that you are satisfied by healthy meals and have fewer cravings for less healthy food.
According to Sonya Angelone, R.D., a spokeswoman for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the oat bran is also used “primarily to keep away hunger.” But since it is a soluble fibre, she continues, it is great to prevent constipation.
What foods are prohibited from the Dukan Diet?
According to the stage you’re at. According to Cording, you should only consume protein during phase 1. Unless the phase permits non-starchy vegetables, Angelone says, “it’s basically no carbs.” Therefore, once you enter the consolidation phase of the Dukan Diet, you must severely restrict the types of carbs that most people think of—white bread and pastas. Even then, whole grain bread is advised over white bread, for example.
Keatley notes that many individuals have a propensity to become “stuck” in the attack phase and improperly progress through the remainder of the diet. By the end of the diet, he claims, you should be able to eat whatever you want—as long as it’s healthy—if you stick to the plan.
Does the Dukan Diet actually aid in weight loss?
The Dukan Diet was ranked number 31 for best weight loss diets by U.S. News & World Report and number 41 overall in its list of the best diets for 2019. According to the Dukan Diet, you can lose up to 10 pounds in the first week of adherence, but since it’s a strict plan, it can be challenging to maintain over the long term.
The Dukan Diet’s claims, effectiveness, and long-term effects on general health are not supported by any specific scientific research. However, some research indicates that short-term weight loss can be achieved with high-protein, low-carb diets.
According to a May 2018 study from Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism, prediabetic women can lower their risk of heart disease by following low-carb diets like the Dukan Diet.
It’s crucial to remember that the majority of studies examining the effects of high-protein, low-carb diets do not include dietary fat restriction, as recommended by the Dukan Diet. Therefore, it is more difficult to evaluate the diet’s short- and long-term effects.
The claims that following low-carb, high-protein, low-fat diets, like the Dukan Diet, is safe and effective for weight loss require more study and evidence.
For whom is the Dukan Diet beneficial?
The Dukan Diet’s high protein intake can prevent you from losing muscle, which is a common diet pitfall. This diet is suitable for “individuals who are interested in losing some weight but are looking to maintain muscle mass,” according to Keatley.
The Dukan Diet, however, isn’t really recommended for long-term weight loss success, according to Angelone. This diet would be effective for someone who needs to shed pounds quickly and doesn’t mind if they gain it back quickly after following such a strict eating plan, according to the expert.
If you want to lose weight and keep it off, Cording agrees that “you have to be willing to eat very restrictive foods.”
The Dukan Diet’s negative aspects.
Particularly for people who are severely overweight or obese, the Dukan Diet can cause significant weight loss. The diet is extremely strict and limiting, especially the first two phases. Additionally, since you’re limiting important food groups like fruits, vegetables, and healthy fats, you risk developing nutritional deficiencies.
Long-term kidney damage could result from a high-protein, low-carb diet because the kidneys must work harder to process such high protein intakes. A low-carb diet can also cause common side effects like headaches, fatigue, and constipation.
It is unknown if the Dukan Diet can aid in the management or prevention of chronic illnesses like diabetes and heart disease. Fruits, vegetables, and whole grains—essential components of a heart-healthy and diabetes-friendly diet—are absent from the first two phases of the diet. However, those in the less rigid Consolidation and Stabilization phases may be able to maintain a healthy weight and good general health.
This diet has so many rules that dietitians don’t really like it. It’s difficult to even keep track of all the dos and don’ts, says Gans. Cording says, “I really don’t like this diet. “The goal is to lose a lot of weight quickly and then keep it off, but for many people, that’s not realistic.”
Steps for beginning the Dukan diet.
You must decide on your target weight, or what Dr. Dukan refers to as your “True Weight,” before beginning the Dukan Diet. How long you spend in each of the first three phases of the diet will depend on your True Weight.
Make sure your kitchen is stocked with approved foods in order to be ready for the Attack phase. Use the Dukan Diet website, diet book, cookbook, and Facebook page for social support and recipe ideas for high-protein, low-fat, and low-carb meals. The Dukan Diet website is a great source for more information about each phase of the diet. It has a comprehensive FAQ section and offers personalised coaching for the first three phases.
It’s crucial to speak with a primary care physician before beginning the Dukan Diet, especially if you have diabetes, heart disease, kidney disease, or are prone to kidney stones. This diet should also be avoided by women who are pregnant or nursing. For additional resources and information, go to the Dukan Diet website.