What is the Dukan Diet? Is It Safe?

We often come across new diets these days. While a few are healthy and are based on science, most are fads, which can be dangerous for your health. Dukan Diet has been around for the last 20 years and has been used by celebrities like Kate Middleton and Jennifer Lopez for weight loss. But is this diet safe and healthy, or is it just another fad diet? Read on to find out.

What is the Dukan diet?

The Dukan diet was created by Dr. Pierre Dukan, a French general practitioner, and nutritionist. This high-protein and low-carb diet claims to help people lose up to 10 pounds in a week and never gain it back. This diet is based on how primitive hunter-gatherers used to eat. Dukan diet includes 100 foods, 72 from animal sources, and 28 from plant sources.


The Dukan diet is based on the theory that protein can help in weight loss as it promotes the feeling of fullness. Digestion of protein needs more energy, so it uses more calories. Taking in fewer carbohydrates can put the body in starvation mode, which forces the body to use its stored fat.

The History of the Dukan diet

Dr. Pierre Dukan first came up with the Dukan diet in the 1970s when an obese patient asked his help in losing weight. He told Dr. Dukan he could give up anything except for meat if Dr. Ducan could help him in losing weight.

The Dukan diet book was first published in the year 2000 in France under the name ‘Je ne sais pas maigrir’ (I do not know how to lose weight). The book was later released in 32 countries and became a bestseller. This book has sold over eight million copies and has been translated into 14 languages. Dukan diet found some famous followers over the years. Kate Middleton reportedly dropped two dress sizes following the Dukan diet before her wedding.

How does the Dukan diet work?

Before you begin your diet, you need to find your ‘true’ weight. The ‘true’ weight refers to what your weight should be ideally. It is measured by considering your age, gender, weight loss history, and many other factors. The diet consists of four phases. The length of each of these phases depends on your ‘true’ weight.

1. The attack phase (1 to 7 days)

The first phase of the Dukan diet starts with pure protein. You are only allowed to eat lean animal protein in unlimited amounts during this phase. You can choose from 68 different lean protein foods like beef, chicken, fish, eggs, and soy.

You can also eat 1.5 tablespoons of oat bran per day. Oat bran is high in fiber, and it helps suppress appetite. Take at least 1.5 liters of water every day during this phase. You should also start with an exercise routine of 20 minutes brisk walk during this phase.

Sample meal plan for attack phase

  • Breakfast – 1.5 tablespoons of oat bran and cottage cheese, coffee or tea with non-fat milk, and water
  • Lunch – Smoked salmon
  • Dinner – Rosemary meatballs

2. The Cruise phase (1 to 12 months)

The cruise phase helps the dieter to achieve their target body weight gradually. This phase can last between one to 12 months, depending on the amount of weight that you have to lose. In addition to the lean protein, you can eat 32 specific nonstarchy vegetables like spinach, okra, and green beans during this phase. You should alternate between one day of eating only lean protein and one day of eating lean protein with vegetables.

You must also increase your oat bran intake to two tablespoons per day. You should continue to drink at least 1.5 liters of water each day. Increase your walking time to 30 minutes each day.

Sample meal plan for the Cruise phase

  • Breakfast – Scrambled eggs with smoked salmon, coffee with non-fat milk and water
  • Lunch – Turkey on a bed of lettuce, oat bran
  • Dinner – Meatloaf, steamed broccoli, and cauliflower

3. Consolidation phase (5 days for every pound lost in phase 1 and 2)

The consolidation phase is designed to help prevent weight regain after you have lost weight during the attack and cruise phase. During this phase, you gradually introduce more food groups to your diet. You will continue to eat lean proteins and non-starchy vegetables and can add some carbs and fats to it.

You can eat a piece of low sugar fruit, cheese, and two slices of whole-grain bread every day. During this phase, you will have one day of lean protein foods every week, preferably one the same day of the week. Continue with 30 minutes of brisk walk daily.

Sample meal plan for the consolidation phase

  • Breakfast – Cheese omelet with vegetables, coffee with fat-free milk, water
  • Lunch – Grilled chicken with two slices of whole wheat bread, oat bran
  • Dinner – Pork roast, salad with low-fat dressing

4. Stabilization phase (indefinite)

The stabilization phase is the maintenance phase of the diet. This phase lasts for the rest of your life and is meant to keep the weight off. You follow the same rule as the consolidation phase but can include more carbs and fats into your diet. You must also follow one pure protein day in a week. You can increase your oat bran intake to three tablespoons a day. Maintain a healthy lifestyle, walk 20 minutes a day, and take stairs whenever possible.

Foods to include

Attack phase (68 proteins)

  • Lean meat – Beef tenderloin, filet mignon, buffalo, extra-lean Kosher beef hot dogs, extra-lean ham, lean center, cut pork chops,  lean slices of roast beef,  pork tenderloin, pork loin roast,  reduced-fat bacon, soy bacon, -steak – flank, sirloin, London broil, veal chop,  veal scaloppini, venison.
  • Poultry – chicken, chicken liver, Cornish hen, fat-free turkey, chicken sausages, low-fat slices of chicken or turkey, ostrich steak, quail, turkey, wild duck
  • Eggs – chicken, quail, duck
  • Fish – Arctic char, catfish, cod, flounder, grouper, haddock, halibut, herring, mackerel, mahi-mahi, monkfish, orange roughy, perch, red snapper, salmon, sardines, sea bass, shark, sole, surimi, swordfish, tilapia, trout, tuna
  • Shellfish – clams, crab, crawfish, crayfish, lobster, mussels, octopus, oysters, scallops, shrimp, squid
  • Vegetarian protein – seitan, soy food, veggie burgers, tempeh, tofu
  • Fat-free dairy – fat-free cottage cheese, fat-free cream cheese, fat-free milk, fat-free plain yogurt, fat-free ricotta, fat-free sour cream

Cruise phase (32 vegetables)

Artichoke, asparagus, bean sprouts, beet, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, celery, cucumber, eggplant, endive, fennel, green beans, kale, lettuce, arugula, radicchio, mushrooms, okra, onions, leeks, shallots, palm hearts, peppers, pumpkin, radish, rhubarb, spaghetti squash, squash, spinach, tomato, turnip, watercress, zucchini.

Other foods allowed

  • Olive oil – You can take one teaspoon of olive oil during cruise, consolidation, and stabilization phase.
  • Goji berries – You can take berries in limited quantities attack phase onwards
  • Shirataki – This konjac root from Asia has no calories and is rich in fiber. You can use it in Dukan cooking.
  • Wheat gluten – You can use around four tablespoons per week during all phases.

Does it work?

You will lose weight during the first stages of this diet due to severe dietary restrictions. The initial weight loss can also be attributed to water loss. Dukan diet is high in proteins and low in carbs, which is known to help in weight loss. During one study by the Institute of Dietetics, University of Applied Sciences in Nysa, Poland, researchers assessed 51 women aged 19 to 64 years who went on the Dukan diet.

After 8 to 10 weeks, most of the women lost around 15 kgs. However, due to the reduced consumption of fruits and vegetables, many nutritional abnormalities were also found (1). Several studies have found that high protein and low carbohydrate diets can lead to weight loss. Proteins decrease the hunger hormone ghrelin and promote the feeling of fullness, so it prevents overeating (2).

Our body’s metabolic rate also increases after we eat protein as compared to when we eat carbohydrates or fats (3). Dukan diet restricts the consumption of fats and carbohydrates. Unfortunately, a high-protein, low-carb, low-fat diet is not as effective. A study from the Department of Health and Kinesiology, Georgia Southern University, Statesboro, Georgia, showed that people who ate fat along with a high-protein low-carb meal burnt 69 more calories than those who avoided fat as well (4).

Since the Dukan diet restricts a lot of nutrients, it is not recommended for people with certain health conditions. The risks of this diet outweigh the benefits for people with diabetes, kidney disease, heart disease. Excessive protein is bad for people with kidney disease. This diet lacks fiber and allows high consumption of red meat, which is not this good for people with heart disease and can increase your risk of colon cancer. Other side effects of this diet include constipation, headaches, tiredness, and bad breath.


Final thoughts

The Dukan diet is a high-protein, low-carb, low-fat diet that was created by Dr. Pierre Dukan, a French general practitioner, and nutritionist. It is based on the theory that protein can help in weight loss as it promotes the feeling of fullness. Dukan diet consists of four phases –

  1. The attack phase (1 to 7 days)
  2. The cruise phase
  3. The consolidation phase
  4. The stabilization phase

Though this diet can help you lose weight, it bans certain food groups like grains and fruit, which can lead to nutritional deficiencies. The Dukan diet is also not recommended for people with health conditions like kidney disease, heart disease, and diabetes.


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