Why more wellness experts are putting butter in their coffee

(Photo: Pinkpapayaparties.com)

(Photo: Pinkpapayaparties.com)


Wellness experts love to warn against all of the sugar and syrups and calorie-packed creamers added to coffee. So you may be surprised by one ingredient some are now getting behind: butter.

The concept was popularized by Bulletproof Executive founder Dave Asprey, and it took off among Paleo eaters. Integrative physicians like Jeffrey Gladd, MD, now tout its benefits, and healthy celebs like New York chef Seamus Mullen swear by it.

“It’s rich and creamy and tastes delicious and gives you tremendous energy for quite a long time. I’ll go pretty much all day on it,” Mullen says.

Dave Asprey, the man behind Bulletproof Coffee. (Photo: Bulletproof Executive)

Dave Asprey, the man behind Bulletproof Coffee. (Photo: Bulletproof Executive)

The recipe

It’s not just about the butter. Asprey was initially inspired by yak butter tea, a traditional Tibetan drink, and he set out to create an optimized version. His recipe includes his own “upgraded” coffee beans harvested to reduce the occurrence of mycotoxins (that’s another very long story), unsalted grass-fed butter like Kerrygold (or ghee), and MCT oil, which is extracted from coconut oil to isolate the fatty acids, called medium chain triglycerides. You blend it all together (hello, Nutribullet) into a frothy, latte-like consistency.

Tons of Bulletproof-style variations now exist. Many people use their own coffee or coconut oil instead of MCT, since it’s easier to find and much cheaper. Gwyneth Paltrow chef Ariane Resnick doesn’t drink coffee, so she adds the oil and butter to her morning smoothie.

The claims

Those who drink it in lieu of a traditional breakfast (yes, it counts as a meal) tend to report serious improvements in energy, focus, and satiety. “When I’ve made it [the drink] with the MCT oil, it was like a kick in the pants in terms of energy,” says the health coach-founder of Stupid Easy Paleo, Stephanie Gaudreau, who usually makes hers with coconut oil. “It’s like rocket fuel!” Dr. Gladd has said it gets him through to lunch without hunger pangs and keeps him focused and sharp at work.

"Fat can be difficult to break down, therefore too much at once can lead to stomach discomfort.  Start slowly to ensure your body gets used to it.  It is also recommended you take digestive enzymes with it to aid in the digestion of the fat," Amy Shapiro adds. (Photo: Real Nutrition NYC)

“Fat can be difficult to break down, so too much at once can lead to stomach discomfort. Start slowly to ensure your body gets used to it. It’s also recommended you take digestive enzymes with it to aid in the digestion of the fat,” says Amy Shapiro. (Photo: Real Nutrition NYC)

The science

So why does buttery coffee make people feel good while they’re sipping it—and long after? Despite butter’s bad-boy reputation in years past, the high-quality grass-fed variety (not Land ‘O Lakes) is now seen as a superfood by some nutritionists and functional physicians like Frank Lipman, MD. That’s due to its high concentration of CLA (conjugated linoleic acid), which has been shown to reduce belly fat, enhance weight loss, and boost heart health. And there’s now also research showing that some saturated fats may be (gasp!) good for you. MCT (or coconut) oil, also high in saturated fat, has been linked in small studies to fat-burning, enhanced brain health, and more.

“Drinking Bulletproof-style coffee is a great stepping stone to get people to be a little more receptive to healthy saturated fat,” Gaudreau says.

The weight loss-weight gain question

New York nutritionist Amy Shapiro, RD, agrees that most people can benefit from the fats in the drink. “This can be a satisfying, energy- producing breakfast that provides many nutrients, satisfies hunger, and may cause your body to increase fat-burning, resulting in weight loss,” she says. Plus, the fat slows the absorption of the caffeine, creating an “even and prolonged energy release.”

But, she cautions, if you’re not eating a low-carb, Paleo-style diet and are packing in carbs and sugar to begin with, your body may store the fat instead of using it for energy. “This can add a lot of high-fat calories, if the rest of your day doesn’t consist of clean eating,” she says. In other words, maybe don’t pair your butter-coffee with a stack of pancakes. —Lisa Elaine Held

For more information on making your own, check out “What you need to know before you butter-boost your coffee.”

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15 Comments | ADD YOURS

  1. March 10th, 2014 at 10:35 am

    I have been meaning to try this “bullet proof coffee” but does anyone know if you have to have it in the morning for it to be beneficial? I usually have my one cup of coffee a day after lunch. Thanks for any info!

  2. March 10th, 2014 at 12:41 pm

    I’ve been using bulletproof coffee for a year and have it as a breakfast substitute nearly every day.

    The benefit of having it in the morning is that by restricting both carbohydrate and protein you can effectively extend the natural ketogenic (fat-burning) fasted state upon waking. This is why it’s not recommended to have BPC in combination with too many carbs.

    You don’t have to have it in the morning though. Dave Asprey himself says he has another cup in the afternoon.

    In my experience it’s best to have it as a meal replacement and not to rely on it every day. Like all things diet and exercise the human body is incredibly adaptive so I think it’s best to mix it up and have at least two days a week a healthy breakfast of some protein and healthy fats.

    Make sure you start out slow with the MCT (maybe 1 tsp) then titrate up to 1-2 tbsp over a few weeks.

    MCT definitely trumps coconut oil in its energizing and mental alertness effect. And make sure you use a good quality low-toxin organic coffee.


  3. March 11th, 2014 at 2:38 am

    Hi im new to getting healthy at the moment and have a brain injury. Im confused does any butter work or certain kind.

    Could you email me back an let me know

  4. March 12th, 2014 at 9:07 pm

    Umm…seems like this is just another form of cocoa! You’ve got the oomph! plus creaminess (what I’ve been using for years). It’s comforting and tastes good, and a warm drink. But they leave out the sugar. Caramel, anything dairy, is soothing. Hard butterscotch candies (alternated with cinnamon hard candies for shock/alternate-can be used between meals, or chewy caramels that you don’t chew (teeth, or any dental work!),but let melt in your mouth! Chocolate candy by itself is too intense, but cocoa or chocolate on anything or candy with other stuff in it is OK for a boost.

  5. March 14th, 2014 at 4:31 pm

    The point of this coffee really is to prolong your body’s ketogenic phase in the morning, as one of the commenters (The Paleo Model) said above. A person’s body is made to either metabolize fat or sugar. When you wake up, your body is naturally in a fat metabolizing state, because the last thing you ate was the night before. So you are in a fasted, ketogenic state (your body is utilizing its fat as a fuel source). Once you eat sugar/carbs or protein, you body moves out of this natural fat burning state and begins to only metabolize sugar, which halts the fat burning process. So, Bulletproof coffee is best used as a dietary supplement in the morning and after a week of it, your body will learn to crave the good fats from the MCT oil, and Grass-Fed Butter, and you will be able to go longer without eating. You will want to drink some water of course. And once you break the Intermittent Fast with a late lunch, you are kind of at a calorie deficit for the day, so you can eat more food in the second half of your day to power your body, and so that you can start the whole cycle the next morning.

  6. March 21st, 2014 at 7:16 pm

    Wow I have been putting Coconut oil in my coffee every morning and using it to replace breakfast (b/c the calories in coconut oil is 120 per serving) without realizing all of this! I knew Coconut oil is good for you and that’s why I’ve been putting it in my coffee. I’ve also heard about the butter but I’ve yet to try it. Thanks for this article!

  7. May 14th, 2014 at 2:54 pm

    Don’t do this in a nutribulet. Trust me on this. Use a blender!

  8. May 16th, 2014 at 6:38 pm

    Thanks for this recipe. I’m going to have to try it, can always use more energy. I do want to use coconut oil though, instead of the MCT oil. Is that alright, or will it effect the energy obtained? Thanks.

  9. May 20th, 2014 at 2:41 pm

    I just started making my coffee with grass fed butter and coconut oil last week and I am hooked on it! It is sooo good! I make it in my Nutribullet and it comes out creamy with froth on the top!

  10. May 26th, 2014 at 5:55 pm

    How does one do this if they are severely lactose intolerant? Thinking about trying the coconut oil but not sure if I’ll get the same energizing effects.

  11. May 28th, 2014 at 2:51 am

    @LaVieen Vegan
    You could use Grass-Fed Ghee; it has no lactose or casein, just the good fats.
    Also, I found that I cant tolerate any milk but I can tolerate grass-fed butter fine.. so maybe give it a try anyway?

    Failing that, coconut WILL WORK. You’ll get more of the medium-chain fats if you replace butter with coconut oil (which is great for energy), you’ll just miss out on some of the goodies like CLA and fat soluble vitamins like K2 and A.

  12. May 30th, 2014 at 6:50 pm

    do not use coconut oil instead of MCT oil in your BP coffee, as it does not offer same amount of MCT per serving and you won’t get same enerfy/ketogenic benefits. Use coconut oil for cooking (as it has a much higher heating point than pure MCT), and MCT for everything else (in your BP coffee, salad dressings and make your own mayo with pastured eggs and MCT oil)for maximum benefits.

  13. June 16th, 2014 at 10:11 pm

    Any chance this will work with black tea/ I like coffee, but not first thing in the morning. I am a hot tea drinker!

  14. Amanda
    January 22nd, 2015 at 4:02 pm

    @Roseanne – it’s been a while since you commented but just in case you’re still wondering – tea doesn’t have as much caffeine so you may not have as much of a kick, but you’ll still get benefits from the coconut oil and grass fed butter. Let us know how it tastes!

  15. November 2nd, 2015 at 6:49 am

    Interesting. Natural ways are the best for loosing weight. Paleo is the best diet I ever tried. Lost weight, and feel much better and healthier.
    The meals are also much better and tastier than other diets. I use the paleo grubs cookbook,
    found it at http://lookingupstuff.com/weightloss/2015/04/23/paleo-grubs/

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