From supposed celeb followers like Giselle Bundchen and Jennifer Lopez to Kate Middleton’s mother, the Dukan Diet is no stranger to media attention. Is it worthy of this attention? Read on to get the details and find out what we think.
The basics of the diet: This plan is broken up into four phases. The first phase (1 to 10 days), allows only lean protein, 1.5 tablespoons of oat bran, and water (yes, you read that right). The second phase (a few months) adds non-starchy veggies, such as greens, broccoli, and peppers (not potatoes, corn, or winter squash) every other day plus an extra half tablespoon of oat bran. The third phase (5 days per pound lost) allows veggies every day along with one piece of fruit, 2 slices of whole grain bread, and 1 ounce of cheese. Each week you can have pork or lamb and you’re allowed 2 portions of starchy foods, such as brown rice or quinoa. The final phase, which is maintained indefinitely, allows you to eat whatever you want 6 days a week, plus 3 tablespoons of oat bran per day, with the 7th day filled only with lean protein and, again, 3 tablespoons of oat bran. Each day during maintenance requires a 20 minute walk.
The pros: This diet focuses on getting protein from leaner sources, which reduces overall saturated fat intake. The plan also recommends seasoning with herbs and spices and skipping the salt shaker, a move that would surely benefit many of us. Finally, the required 20 minutes of walking each day in the final phase is great for people who don’t get much exercise.
The cons: The restrictive nature of this diet is problematic both physically and mentally. Eating only protein-rich foods in the first phase, and primarily protein-rich foods in the second phase, means missing out on vital high fiber foods (whole grains, veggies, fruit, and nuts/seeds) as well as healthy fats (oils, nuts, seeds, avocado, olives, etc.). The first two phases are also very low in carbohydrates, your brain’s preferred energy source and a much needed energy source for muscles. This can leave you feeling foggy-headed and lethargic. While the third phase does add back some carbohydrate variety, it’s still low in fiber and healthy fats. In addition, vegetarian sources of protein like beans, lentils, nuts, seeds, and whole grains aren’t on the plan until the final phase, when you can use them as your twice weekly carbohydrate treats. The final phase leaves too much open to interpretation — as eating whatever you want means such different things to different people. If you went overboard on heavy foods in large portions, it would be easy to quickly gain back any weight you’d lost. In fact, since the first part of the plan is so carbohydrate restrictive, it’s likely you’ll gain at least a portion of the weight back as water weight as soon as you start eating anything beyond protein.
The bottom line: This diet, like so many fad diets, doesn’t teach you how to eat for the long term. It’s not realistic with regard to dining out or having any sort of social life (“Oh, no roasted sweet potato for me. I’ll just eat my oat bran. Thanks.”) While there are some positive elements you can take away from this plan, a majority of the time this diet will leave your body wanting more flavor, texture, and variety, and needing more nutrition. Incorporate a daily walk into your routine and opt for herbs and spices rather than having a heavy hand with the salt shaker…but other than those two tips, skip this plan and opt for one of the healthier plans out there like this one we designed for SELF magazine http://www.self.com/bodyturnaround/2013/welcome?intcid=homepage_slimdown.
Have you heard of The Dukan Diet? Do you know anyone who’s tried it?