What Is the Dr. Oz 21-Day Diet?

In This Article

Dr. Oz Diet
Grafissimo/Getty Images

Mehmet Oz is a medical doctor who got his start as a television personality by appearing on "The Oprah Winfrey Show" in 2004. Since 2009, he's hosted his own TV show, "The Dr. Oz Show." His 21-Day Weight-Loss Breakthrough Diet recommends eating plant proteins, non-starchy vegetables, and healthy fats to promote weight loss.

What Experts Say

"Dr. Oz’s diet emphasizes nutrient-dense plant-based foods. However, the diet is quite restrictive, limiting meat, dairy, and grains, as well as eliminating any sugar or processed foods. While OK for a short term 'jump start,' it is unnecessarily strict for lifelong eating."
Chrissy Carroll, RD, MPH

Background

Diet and weight loss are perennial topics on Dr. Oz's talk show, as well as on other shows and series he has appeared on. He is also the author or co-author of several books, including YOU: On a Diet: The Owner's Manual for Waist Management and Food Can Fix It: The Superfood Switch to Fight Fat, Defy Aging, and Eat Your Way Healthy.

However, some medical professionals have raised questions about Dr. Oz's advice. In a 2014 study, a group of researchers, including medical doctors and pharmacy experts, examined the medical advice provided on 40 randomly selected episodes of "The Dr. Oz Show" and another show, "The Doctors."

Medical experts determined that roughly half of the tips Dr. Oz shared on his TV programs had no solid research to support them—or that medically established research contradicted the advice provided on the programs.

The study came just months after Dr. Oz testified about his weight loss advice in front of the United States Congress. Legislators expressed concern that Dr. Oz’s diet tips did not reflect the best medical standards. The doctor’s recommendation of green tea extract for weight loss came under particular scrutiny. Dr. Oz acknowledged that he should do a better job of providing weight loss advice.

In early 2017, Oz introduced the 21-Day Weight-Loss Breakthrough Diet, with the promise that it would help people who followed it "shed pounds" while staying full. It does not require or recommend any supplements.

How It Works

On the 21-Day Diet, it's recommended you cut out sugar, artificial sweeteners, and processed foods, and get most of your calories from nutrient-dense vegetables and plant-based proteins.

What to Eat

Compliant Foods

  • Non-starchy vegetables

  • Plant-based proteins

  • Healthy fats

  • Fruit, nuts, and nut butters (in small amounts)

  • Whole grains (in small amounts)

  • Oolong tea

Non-Compliant Foods

  • Processed foods

  • Sugar and artificial sweeteners

  • Animal protein and dairy (in excess)

Vegetables

The 21-Day Diet allows unlimited non-starchy vegetables for lunch, dinner, and snacks. The list of 42 permitted veggies does include a few root vegetables (beets and turnips), but not potatoes, sweet potatoes, or popular picks carrots and green beans.

Plant-Based Proteins

The diet suggests three servings of these proteins per day: 1 cup of beans or legumes, 1/4 block of tofu, 1 cup of tempeh, or 2 tablespoons of pumpkin, hemp, chia, or flax seeds.

Healthy Fats

On this diet, Dr. Oz recommends eating half an avocado every day (he suggests it for breakfast). He also says a total of two tablespoons of olive oil to be eaten at lunch and/or dinner.

Fruit, Nuts, and Nut Butters

This diet limits fruit to two servings a day. Dr. Oz also suggests adding one ounce of nuts or one tablespoon of nut butter to one of those fruit servings as a snack.

Whole Grains

The diet allows for just one serving of whole grains per day. The meal plan suggests a slice of Ezekiel bread at breakfast time.

Oolong Tea

Swap your morning coffee for a cup of oolong tea, and have a second cup mid-afternoon. Dr. Oz wants people on the 21-Day Diet to have two cups of this tea every day, because he says it will boost metabolism and "increase mental alertness."

Processed Foods

All processed foods (which could be anything from granola bars to jarred spaghetti sauce) are off-limits.

Sugar and Artificial Sweeteners

The same goes for sugar and artificial sweeteners; cut them out entirely.

Animal Protein and Dairy Products

These are permitted, but no more than two times per week. A serving of meat, poultry, fish, or eggs can replace a plant-based protein serving.

Recommended Timing

The 21-Day Diet requires three meals and two snacks per day (composed of the specified foods), along with lots of water and the two daily cups of oolong tea. Dr. Oz says skipping the snacks to cut calories could backfire: "With snacks built into the diet, there is less temptation to cheat."

Resources and Tips

Dr. Oz's website provides a printable plan that outlines the diet's dos, don'ts, and timing, as well as answers to frequently asked questions.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Features nutrient-dense whole foods

  • Satisfies hunger

  • No calorie counting

  • No supplements

Cons

  • Restrictive

  • Short-term only

Pros

Nutritious Ingredients

This diet emphasizes plant-based whole foods that are nutrient-rich but low-calorie, and the fats are monounsaturated fatty acids (which may have heart-health benefits).

Satisfying

With three meals and two snacks per day, people on the Oz 21-Day Diet have lots of opportunities to curb hunger (although portion sizes are small, there are no limits on helpings of non-starchy vegetables).

No Counting

There is no need to count calories or carbs with this diet. Just stick with the suggested foods and serving sizes.

No Supplements

This diet does not require any supplements or even any special ingredients, except for oolong tea.

Thanks to these aspects of the diet, it is reasonably nutritious and it could help you lose weight. However, there are some drawbacks.

Cons

Restrictive

This diet cuts out all processed foods and sugar, and sharply limits whole grains and animal proteins including dairy. That makes it harder to consume a balanced diet with all the nutrients you need.

Short-Term

No convenience foods are allowed on the 21-Day Diet, which means preparing meals could be time-consuming. That paired with the number of restricted foods means it's unlikely users could continue this diet for much more than the 21 days suggested.

How It Compares

The Dr. Oz 21-Day Diet uses some traditional strategies to promote weight loss. It has some twists to distinguish it from other diets and federal guidelines.

USDA Recommendations

Food Groups

For optimum health and nutrition, the USDA guidelines suggest a daily diet that's a balanced combination of grains, protein, fruits, vegetables, and dairy. The 21-Day Diet all but eliminates dairy and animal protein, and limits grains to just one serving a day (instead of five or six).

Calories

The 21-Day Diet does not suggest a daily calorie intake and doesn't include calorie counting (but it's mostly made up of low-calorie foods). The USDA recommends consuming roughly 1500 calories per day for weight loss, but this number can vary a lot based on age, sex, weight, and activity level. If you're interested in determining your own calorie guidelines, you can use this calculator.

Similar Diets

Take a closer look at how the 21-Day Diet compares to other weight-loss methods or similar eating plans.

21-Day Diet

  • Types of Food: The diet uses familiar foods, but only whole foods, mostly plant-based. It cuts out processed foods and added sugars and restricts animal proteins, dairy, and grains.
  • Practicality: The diet's instructions are clear and there is no need to count carbs or calories (although portion sizes are important). Shopping for and preparing whole foods and plant-based proteins can be expensive and time-consuming, especially if it is something new to adjust to.
  • Flexibility: There isn't much flexibility in this diet, which is perhaps why it's only meant to last 21 days. Users need to stick to the approved list of foods and the accompanying number of servings and portion sizes.
  • Sustainability: Given the number of restricted foods, it would be tough to continue this diet for more than the given three weeks (although Dr. Oz says many people do).

Sugar Busters Diet

  • Types of Food: Like the 21-Day Diet, Sugar Busters cuts out sugar and refined carbohydrates, and has lists of go- and no-go vegetables. It allows more whole grains and animal proteins while still staying fairly low-fat, like Dr. Oz's diet.
  • Practicality: This diet's instructions are also pretty clear, and it relies on food lists instead of calorie or carb counting. It doesn't call for special ingredients or supplements.
  • Flexibility: Within the constraints of the food lists, users have the freedom to eat what, when, and how much they prefer.
  • Sustainability: Many low-carb eating plans have a fairly customized maintenance phase, since everyone's tolerance for carbohydrates is different. This one doesn't, and staying away from the banned foods forever could be difficult.

Vegan Diet

  • Types of Food: People following a vegan diet consume no animal products at all (whereas vegetarians eat protein sourced from animals, such as dairy products and eggs). The Dr. Oz diet is close to a vegan diet, since it encourages plant-based proteins. But it does allow limited animal proteins, and fewer grains than most vegans would consume.
  • Practicality: It takes effort to cut out all animal proteins and still get necessary nutrients. There is a learning curve in determining what foods you'll need and how to prepare them. And since there are fewer convenience foods available, you'll spend more time on prepping and cooking.
  • Flexibility: This is not a weight-loss plan and as such, there is no food tracking or calorie counting. Avoiding animal products is the only rule (of course, it's a big one.)
  • Sustainability: Many people choose to adhere to a vegan philosophy for life. It's doable if you are committed to this style of eating and able to consume a healthy balance of nutrients.

Low-Calorie Diet

  • Types of Food: No foods are technically off-limits on a low-calorie plan. But in order to meet nutritional needs and feel full, users will need to choose nutrient-dense foods (foods that offer a lot of nutrients while still remaining low-calorie; vegetables are typically nutrient-dense).
  • Practicality: This is a broad term for any weight loss plan that cuts calories to between 1000 and 1500 per day. So calorie counting is required. And without lists of foods that are recommended and discouraged, people on this diet have to make their own choices.
  • Flexibility: Since there are no specific rules for this plan, users have the freedom (and the burden) of determining what foods to eat, when, and in what amounts. Guidance from a medical professional can help.
  • Sustainability: This diet requires commitment and other lifestyle changes (such as exercise) in order to be effective. If and when weight loss is achieved, vigilant maintenance will still be necessary.

A Word From Verywell

Dr. Oz's diet tips can be fun and are often helpful. But remember that TV weight loss advice is not personalized. The 21-Day Diet and other suggestions may work for some viewers, but may not be the healthiest suggestion for you.

If the weight loss advice you see on TV contradicts the personalized advice you’ve received from your own health care team, be cautious. Ask your doctor about the specific benefit, potential harms and real cost or inconvenience of the 21-Day Diet before you decide to use it.

Was this page helpful?