Pros & Cons
- Lots of rules
- Could fall short nutritionally
Do's & Don'ts
|Weight Loss Short-term|
|Weight Loss Long-term|
|Easy to Follow|
|For Heart Health|
Scores are based on experts' reviews
You’ll lose up to 10 pounds within the first week, and continue at a clip of two to four 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.
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. 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.
How does the Dukan Diet work?
Prepare for lots of rules. All four phases of the Dukan Diet—named for 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. Expand this section for more on each phase.
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 like tofu and seitan; nonfat dairy; water and other no-calorie drinks (yes, even diet soda); and 1½ 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 four to seven pounds, according to Dukan.
Cruise: In this phase, you’ll add back certain all-you-can-eat vegetables (the non-starchy ones, like 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 two to four 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 1½ 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.
Will you lose weight?
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 pounds after the first two phases.
Does it have cardiovascular benefits?
Unclear. In the survey described in the above weight-loss section, some Dukan dieters reported that their cholesterol and triglyceride levels either stayed the same or improved, but these findings are far from proof of the diet’s heart benefits. In general, heart experts recommend a diet that’s heavy on fruits, vegetables, and fiber-rich whole grains, and low in saturated fat and salt.
Can it prevent or control diabetes?
Prevention: Being overweight is one of the biggest risk factors for type 2 diabetes. Provided this diet helps you lose weight and keep it off, you’ll almost certainly tilt the diabetes odds in your favor.
Control: The plan, at least in its initial phases, doesn’t much resemble the American Diabetes Association’s eating guidelines, which emphasize fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Later phases, which are less strict, will allow you to ensure your menu aligns with your doctor’s recommendations.
Are there health risks?
Short term, a high-protein, low-carb diet likely isn’t harmful. The long-term outlook is less clear. When digested, protein creates uric acid, which must be eliminated. Because of the high amount of protein, the kidneys need to work especially hard, and that could injure them or worsen existing kidney problems. (Dukan’s rebuttal: Drinking enough water will keep the kidneys working efficiently.)
Shutting out entire food groups, namely grains and fruit, might also put you at risk for nutritional deficiencies.
Additionally, you may experience lethargy, bad breath, dry mouth, and constipation when on Dukan—notorious side effects of low-carb diets.
How well does it conform to accepted dietary guidelines?
Fat. Providing around 20 percent of calories from fat, Dukan is at the low end of the government’s recommendation that between 20 to 35 percent come from fats.
Protein. At more than 40 percent of calories from protein, the Dukan diet exceeds the government’s 35 percent cap in its initial phases but may eventually fall to an acceptable level.
Carbohydrates. Neither the Attack nor Cruise phases meet the recommendation that 45 to 65 percent of daily calories come from carbs. They clocked in at 27 percent and 38 percent. The Consolidation phase, which permits added carbohydrates, met the targeted range.
Salt. The majority of Americans eat too much salt. The recommended daily maximum is 2,300 milligrams, but if you’re 51 or older, African-American, or have hypertension, diabetes, or chronic kidney disease, that limit is 1,500 mg. At a whopping 3,900 mg., Dukan’s Attack menu blew past the government’s cap (although avoiding sodium-heavy shrimp dials down that number considerably). The Cruise phase provided just 1,600 mg., and Consolidation provided 2,300 mg.
Other key nutrients. The 2010 Dietary Guidelines call these “nutrients of concern” because many Americans get too little of one or more of them:
- Fiber. Getting the recommended daily amount of 22 to 34 grams for adults helps you feel full and promotes good digestion. The Attack phase provided just 4 grams; Cruise, just 11. Adding back grains in Consolidation brought the number to a more acceptable 26 grams.
- Potassium. A sufficient amount of this important nutrient, according to the 2010 Dietary Guidelines, counters salt’s ability to raise blood pressure, decreases bone loss, and reduces the risk of developing kidney stones. It’s not that easy to get the recommended daily 4,700 mg. from food. (Bananas are high in potassium, yet you’d have to eat 11 a day.) The majority of Americans take in far too little. When analyzed, all Dukan phases fell short of the target.
- Calcium. It’s essential not only to build and maintain bones but to make blood vessels and muscles function properly. Many Americans don’t get enough. Women and anyone older than 50 should try especially hard to meet the government’s recommendation of 1,000 to 1,300 mg. per day. Because nonfat dairy is emphasized, Dukan easily met this goal.
- Vitamin B-12. Adults should shoot for 2.4 micrograms daily of this nutrient, which is critical for proper cell metabolism. Dukan exceeded the recommendation.
- Vitamin D. Adults who don’t get enough sunlight need to meet the government’s 15 microgram recommendation with food or a supplement to lower the risk of bone fractures. None of the analyzed phases met the recommendation.
Supplements recommended? Not as a formal part of the diet, but you might consider a multivitamin or omega-3 from fish oil, according to a company representative.
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.
Recipes are abundant and simple. Eating out is allowed, but alcohol is banned during early phases of the diet. Some online support is offered.
Recipes. The book, website, and Facebook page all offer high-protein, low-fat recipe ideas.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The Dukan Diet guide retails for $26.
Does the diet allow for restrictions and preferences?
Some dieters may have difficulty following the Dukan Diet—choose your preference for more information.
There’s no meatless track, and vegans may find Dukan especially difficult. In the Attack phase, you’d have to eat a lot of tofu and seitan—Dukan’s only all-you-can-eat protein options—to achieve the protein level and fullness a meat-eater can enjoy. While soy steaks, milk, yogurt, tempeh, and veggie burgers are permitted, Dukan recommends these meatless protein choices sparingly because they’re higher in carbs and may hamper weight loss. Lacto-ovo vegetarians, who eat eggs and dairy, might find the Attack phase more doable. Reintroducing veggies in Cruise, then some more carbs in subsequent phases, will help.
Dukan is based on naturally gluten-free foods like eggs, meats, and veggies. Just be careful when reincorporating grains, and make sure to buy gluten-free oat bran.
With some vigilance toward high-sodium protein culprits, you should be able to to stay below any sodium target—as long as you skip the recommended pound of shrimp (it packs 2,500 mg.) and avoid the saltshaker.
Yes, you have the freedom to use only kosher ingredients.
Yes, but it’s up to you to ensure your food conforms.
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.
Last updated by Kurtis Hiatt | January 07, 2013
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