You know all about the keto diet and have even heard about its plant-based cousin, the ketotarian diet. But what about the Dukan diet? Here’s what you need to know about the weight loss plan (including one very famous diet follower).
So, what is it? Created by French general practitioner and nutritionist Pierre Dukan in the 1970s, the Dukan diet is a high-protein, low-carb eating plan that promises fast (and permanent) weight loss without feeling hungry. It gained popularity in the early 2000s when a Dukan diet book was published and sold millions of copies, as well as in 2011 when it was reported that Kate Middleton used the diet before her wedding.
And how does it work? There are four stages of the diet. The first phase (“attack”) typically lasts two to seven days and gives dieters 68 high-protein foods (like meat and eggs) to choose from with zero carbs allowed. Next is the “cruise” phase where a limited amount of carbs (32 non-starchy vegetables, to be exact) are introduced. The average length of this stage is three days for each pound you want to lose. The “consolidation” phase introduces a few more forbidden foods (like fruit and dairy) plus two celebration meals per week where dieters can eat anything they want (almost—a few restrictions still apply). This lasts five days for every pound lost in the previous phase. Finally, stage four (“stabilization”) allows for foods from all food groups and is about lifetime maintenance.
Anything else? There are also three rules that you’re advised to follow for the rest of your life in order to keep the weight off—eat three tablespoons of oat bran per day, walk 20 minutes every day and have a “pure protein Thursday” (i.e., eat like you’re in the “attack” phase). Do this, and you’ll shed the pounds and keep them off for good.
Wow. Sounds too good to be true. Annnd it kind of is. U.S. News & World Report named the Dukan diet one of the worst popular diets out there, saying it was “too restrictive, with lots of rules, and there’s no evidence it works.” Yikes. Other nutritionists have issues with the diet allowing diet sodas and artificial sweeteners, plus cutting out good-for-you carbs like brown rice and fruit. Samantha Heller, professor of nutrition and health at the University of Bridgeport, told Women’s Health, “Carbohydrates are the primary source of fuel for our brains, our exercising muscles and most of the cells in our bodies. So why would you want to cut those out?”
Bottom line: You may lose some weight on this diet initially, but it’s not sustainable in the long-term and many experts don’t recommend it. Our verdict? Give this one a miss and opt for a healthier (and less restrictive) eating plan like the Mediterranean diet or the Nordic diet instead. (Because, pasta.)