These diets contain more than the government’s recommendation that between 10 to 35 percent of daily calories come from protein.
- Lots of rules
- Could fall short nutritionally
The aim: Weight loss.
The claim: You’ll lose up to 10 pounds within the first week, and continue at a clip of 2 to 4 pounds a week until you reach your goal weight – all while eating as much as you want (of the approved foods, of course). If you follow the rules to the letter, you’ll never regain.
The theory: Counting calories isn’t the key to weight loss; protein is. It’s a weight-loss powerhouse – it’s filling, takes time and work to digest, and has very few calories for each gram of food compared to carb-heavy foods. When protein supplies the majority of a diet. and fats and carbs are all but squeezed out, fast weight loss ensues. (Limiting carbs, the body’s preferred energy source, forces the body to turn to an alternative fuel – stored fat.) That’s motivation enough for dieters to follow a strict plan that rewards the faithful by slowly adding back the bread, cheese and fruit they so dearly missed.
Dukan Diet ranked #37 in Best Diets Overall. 38 diets were evaluated with input from a panel of health experts. See how we rank diets here.
Dukan Diet is ranked:
Prepare for lots of rules. All four phases of the Dukan Diet – named for former French physician Pierre Dukan, its creator – are heavy on do’s and don’ts, and even the slightest slip-up is considered destructive. You’ll move from the all-you-can-eat, pure protein “Attack” phase to “Cruise,” which allows selected vegetables on selected days. In the third phase, “Consolidation,” you’ll add more foods that, by now, you’re longing for, such as cheese and bread. By the last phase, “Permanent Stabilization,” you’re relatively free. With just a few (very crucial and very specific) parting rules, you’re permitted to eat anything you want.
Attack: A gourmand’s dream diet, this phase is all-you-can-eat, portion-wise. Any of the following is fair game: lean beef, veal, pork and venison; organ meat including liver and tongue; fish; shellfish; poultry; low-fat ham, turkey and chicken; eggs; vegetable protein such as tofu and seitan; nonfat dairy; water and other no-calorie drinks (yes, even diet soda); and 1 1/2 tablespoons of oat bran. Spices and herbs are encouraged to avoid monotony. Craving something else? Too bad – cheating is expressly forbidden. “[S]uccumbing to any other foods, as small as the lapse may be, will be like puncturing a balloon with a needle,” warns Dukan.
The Attack phase lasts between one to 10 days, depending on how much weight you have to lose. For the majority of dieters – those with 20 to 40 pounds to shed – Attack is typically five days and weight loss is usually 4 to 7 pounds, according to Dukan.
Cruise: In this phase, you’ll add back certain all-you-can-eat vegetables (the nonstarchy ones, such as cucumbers, mushrooms, zucchini, peppers and salad greens). Still, Dukan recommends alternating one day of the “pure-protein” Attack phase with one day of protein plus vegetables. (A five-day protein then five-day protein-plus-vegetables plan is also an option). The oat bran recommendation rises slightly to 2 tablespoons.
You should lose at a rate of about 2 to 4 pounds per week, according to Dukan. You’ll continue alternating until you reach your goal weight.
Consolidation: Now, the name of the game is keeping the pounds off. You’re very vulnerable to weight regain, says Dukan, and the only option is a transition phase that lasts five days for every pound you’ve lost. That means dieters who’ve lost 20 to 40 pounds will stay in Consolidation between 100 to 200 days. The proteins and vegetables from the previous phases are still all-you-can-eat, but you can now mix them together as you please. Each day, you also get a serving of fruit, two slices of whole-grain bread and 1 1/2 ounces of cheese. Each week, you’re also allowed two servings of starchy foods like pasta or quinoa, three specific protein indulgences (leg of lamb, roast pork and cooked ham), and one or two “celebration meals” where you can eat anything you want, provided you don’t binge or have them back-to-back. The daily 2-tablespoon oat bran requirement stays.
You’re still required to revert to the “pure-protein” Attack phase once per week.
Permanent Stabilization: Freedom! (Well, sort of.) You can now eat whatever you want six days out of the week, provided you don’t abandon what you learned during Consolidation. And 3 daily tablespoons of oat bran is now a must. The seventh day is a purest-of-pure protein day that mirrors the Attack phase but restricts even more the acceptable foods list. As its name suggests, this phase is meant to last a lifetime.
In 2014, diet creator Pierre Dukan was removed from the French medical register for promoting the plan commercially, as reported by the Guardian.
Dos Don ts
Dos Don ts
Savory galette (pancake)
Savory galettes made with oat bran and Greek yogurt can be eaten alone like bread or as blinis topped with a slice of smoked salmon, or cooked lean ham, chicken or turkey. (Courtesy of Dukan Diet)
Dukan Parsley Tabbouleh
Dukan Parsley Tabbouleh serves as a healthy snack or appetizer alternative to traditional social fare. Filled with herbs and rich greens, it pairs easily with grilled fish or baked ham. (Courtesy of Dukan Diet)
This lettuce-wrapped burrito is made with lean ground beef and low-sodium broth. For more nutrients, texture, and flavor, substitute iceberg lettuce with cabbage, romaine, or loose leaf lettuce. (Courtesy of Dukan Diet)
Tofu kebabs with red pepper, mushroom, and zucchini can be prepared ahead of time and refrigerated. This dish pairs well with warm soup or with shirataki rice. (Courtesy of Dukan Diet)
How much does it cost?
Animal protein, vegetables and dairy products are pricey, especially if you’re eating a lot of them – which you will be.
You can buy books like “The Dukan Diet” and “The Dukan Diet Made Easy.” Plus, coaching is available for $29.95 per month.
Will you lose weight?
It’s hard to say. No clinical trials have evaluated the Dukan Diet. An online survey of 1,525 people in 2010 reported that dieters lost, on average, 15 7/10 pounds after the first two phases.
How easy is it to follow?
How much do you like rules? If you want to be told exactly what to do – no matter the difficulty of the request – you’ll appreciate the Dukan Diet’s many guidelines. And while the restrictive phases are short, they are very restrictive, so don’t underestimate the willpower you’ll need.
Convenience: Recipes are abundant and simple. Eating out is allowed, but alcohol is banned during early phases of the diet. Some online support is offered. And ShopDukanDiet.com offers resources such as packaged food and supplements. An 8-ounce serving of Goji berries, for example, is $16.99.
Eating out: No problem, as long as you order from your approved-foods list. If you’re in Attack, try steak with a side of shrimp. During Cruise, throw in some steamed veggies. Just make sure the chef doesn’t add any oil – or worse – butter. If you’re tempted by dessert, Dukan suggests ordering coffee or keeping a yogurt on hand to end your meal on a sweet note.
Alcohol: Off-limits until you reach the Consolidation phase when you can have a glass of wine or bottle of beer with your celebration meal.
Timesavers: None, unless you hire somebody to plan your meals, shop for them and prepare them.
Extras: Online forums and live chats connect you with other dieters and Dukan nutritionists. And for a fee, which varies based on your plan, you can get a personalized program and online weight-loss coaching. Prepackaged Dukan food that conforms to the diet is available online.
Fullness: Nutrition experts emphasize the importance of satiety, the satisfied feeling that you’ve had enough. You won’t go hungry on Dukan. Protein is filling, and you don’t have a calorie limit.
Taste: You’re making everything, so if something doesn’t taste good, you know who to blame. In the absence of many traditional condiments and oils, you’ll want to make full use of the approved herbs and spices to enliven your meals.
If you want a healthy diet, look elsewhere, our panel concluded. The high amount of protein could lead to long-term health problems, and shutting out entire food groups poses a risk of nutritional deficiencies. Possible side effects include lethargy, bad breath and constipation.
What is the role of exercise?
It’s required. Brisk walking is Dukan’s exercise of choice – 20 minutes a day in Attack, 30 to 60 minutes in Cruise, 25 minutes in Consolidation and 20 minutes in Permanent Stabilization. Dukan also offers instruction on toning your stomach, thighs, arms and butt.