The Dukan Diet Guide: How To, Potential Downsides, + Results

The Dukan Diet is primarily a high-protein diet (like the Atkins Diet) that centers around the consumption of a lot of meat and animal protein while eliminating many other types of foods.

So, what are the pros and cons of the Dukan Diet plan? What can you actually eat on the Dukan Diet?

In this article, we will discuss what the Dukan Diet entails, its benefits, risks or drawbacks, how to follow it properly, and what you can and cannot eat according to the Dukan Diet food list.

We will cover the following: 

  • What Is the Dukan Diet?
  • Does the Dukan Diet Work?
  • Downsides of the Dukan Diet
  • How to Follow the Dukan Diet

Let’s dive in! 

A sign that says diet plan.

What Is the Dukan Diet?

The Dukan Diet is a low-carb, high-protein weight loss diet that was created by a French general medicine doctor who specializes in weight management named Dr. Pierre Dukan.

Dr. Dukan claims that his diet can provide rapid, permanent weight loss while preventing hunger; however, these claims may not be valid.

Dr. Dukan created this diet in the 1970s after working with a patient with obesity who alleged that he would be able to follow and stick with any diet as long as he did not have to give up meat.

Eventually, after tweaking the diet and observing significant weight loss in patients with obesity, Dr. Dukan published The Dukan Diet book in 2000, which was released internationally in 32 countries and became a bestseller.

A person on a scale.

Does the Dukan Diet Work?

There is limited evidence about the benefits of this diet and whether or not it works.

One study involving 51 middle-aged women following the Dukan Diet plan for 8-10 weeks found that they lost an average of 33 pounds (15 kg).

While these are impressive weight loss results, the dietary analysis revealed that the women were only eating about 1,000 calories per day, and their diets were low in certain nutrients like vitamin C, folate, and foods such as fruits and vegetables.

The diet was also extremely high in protein (about 100 grams per day).

Moreover, the researchers concluded that the Dukan Diet may increase the risk of kidney and liver disease, osteoporosis, and cardiovascular disease due to excessive protein intake and nutritional deficiencies. 

In general, these are real concerns that should be discussed with your healthcare provider.

That said, there is plenty of evidence to support that high-protein diets may support short-term weight loss, potentially by suppressing the secretion of ghrelin, the hunger hormone.

Some dieters appreciate that you can theoretically eat as much as you want on the Dukan Diet as long as you are eating Dukan Diet-approved foods.

A variety of proteins, foods allowed on the Dukan diet.

Downsides of the Dukan Diet

Here are some of the potential problems with this diet:

#1: Complicated and Difficult to Follow

The Dukan Diet is surprisingly complicated for a weight loss diet, which is one of the many criticisms about the diet as a whole.

There are four phases of the diet, and in addition to being complicated, it is also extremely restrictive and takes a lot of effort, sacrifice, and willingness to give up a lot of common foods.

Staying on top of what you can and cannot eat on this diet is overwhelming to many people because each of the four phases has a varied acceptable Dukan Diet food list.

#2: Eliminates Healthy Foods

Furthermore, one of the critiques of this diet is that a lot of the foods that are not permitted on the food list are considered nutritious or healthy foods by many registered dietitians and nutrition professionals, such as fruits, many vegetables, whole grains, and healthy fats like nuts and avocados.

Fish, pork and red meat.

#3: Highly Restrictive

The Dukan Diet is particularly restrictive in the early phases, with the first several phases being extremely low in carbohydrates, much like the keto diet. 

However, as much as people complain that the keto diet is quite restrictive because your carbohydrate intake is so low, the keto diet is actually much more flexible than the early phases of the Dukan Diet in terms of what you can eat.

The Dukan Diet food list in the early phases is highly restrictive. 

Whereas you can have more fat, non-starchy vegetables, and even some very low-sugar fruits on the keto diet, this latitude is absent from the Dukan Diet.

Not only does the extreme restriction serve to make the Dukan Diet unsustainable in the long term, but it also significantly reduces the balance of nutrients that you are consuming.

This may lead to nutritional deficiencies independent of the emotional and practical challenges of having such a short list of Dukan Diet-approved foods to choose from when getting started with the diet.

Grilled chicken.

Additionally, in the early phases, you must consume oat bran daily.

Another cumbersome aspect of the Dukan Diet is that you must track your progression as you work through the phases; many people find that adhering to a restrictive diet is difficult enough. 

Adding an ever-changing list of foods you can eat and needing to track what you are having can deter long-term adherence.

#4: Not Suitable for Vegans or Vegetarians

The Dukan Diet relies heavily on animal-based proteins, and it does not allow for many common plant-based proteins consumed by vegans and vegetarians, such as beans, lentils, whole grains, and certain vegetables.

For this reason, this diet is not suitable for people who prefer to follow a plant-based diet.

#5: Minimal Customization

Although the Dukan Diet is not workable for vegans or vegetarians, there is some amount of customization for certain dietary preferences. For example, you can follow this diet with a gluten-free or dairy-free lifestyle.

Daily food diary.

What Are the Phases of the Dukan Diet?

As mentioned, there are four phases of the Dukan Diet.

Before you begin, you calculate your goal weight, which is termed your “true weight,“ based on your age, body size, weight history, and other factors.

There isn’t one set amount of time that each phase lasts; instead, you will spend a certain amount of time in each phase depending on how much weight you need to lose to reach your “true“ weight.

Here are the four phases:

Phase 1: Attack phase: Lasts 1–7 days

This is the most restrictive phase. You are allowed to eat an unlimited amount of lean protein, and you must consume 1.5 tablespoons of oat bran per day for fiber.

Phase 2: Cruise Phase: Lasts 1–12 months

This phase starts to get a little more complicated.

You need to bump up the oat bran intake to a full two tablespoons per day, and then in terms of what you are eating, you alternate every other day between eating lean protein one day and lean protein with non-starchy vegetables the second day.

A bowl of oats.

Phase 3: Consolidation Phase: Length Varies 

This phase is characterized by a slightly more balanced nutrient intake.

You get to eat an unlimited amount of lean protein and vegetables and some additional carbohydrates and healthy fats six days per week, with one day per week being only lean protein. The amount of oat bran increases by another half tablespoon to 2.5 tablespoons daily.

The length of the Dukan Diet Consolidation Phase is dependent on how much weight you lost in phases one and two. 

Spend five days in the Consolidation Phase for every pound you lost in phases 1 and 2.

Phase 4: Stabilization Phase: Long Term

This is the long-term maintenance phase. It is supposed to resemble the Consolidation phase except that you again increase the amount of oat bran by half a tablespoon to 3 tablespoons per day. 

A variety of dairy foods.

There is slightly more flexibility in what you can eat as long as you are not gaining any weight that you have lost.

The list of specific foods you can eat on the Dukan Diet varies based on the phase of the diet but centers on lean proteins like lean beef, lean pork chops, reduced-fat bacon, venison, chicken, low-fat turkey, fish, shellfish, soy, and seitan.

For a complete Dukan Diet food list, check it out on their official website here.

Overall, the Dukan Diet is not the best long-term healthy diet for most people because it eliminates a lot of nutritious foods, is not particularly sustainable, and the food list is relatively imbalanced in its nutrient profile.

For a potentially healthier weight loss diet alternative that may be more sustainable in the long term, check out our guide to the Zone Diet here.

Salmon on a cutting board.
Photo of author
Amber Sayer is a Fitness, Nutrition, and Wellness Writer and Editor, as well as a NASM-Certified Nutrition Coach and UESCA-certified running, endurance nutrition, and triathlon coach. She holds two Masters Degrees—one in Exercise Science and one in Prosthetics and Orthotics. As a Certified Personal Trainer and running coach for 12 years, Amber enjoys staying active and helping others do so as well. In her free time, she likes running, cycling, cooking, and tackling any type of puzzle.

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