Bulletproof coffee first hit the scenes in 2009 and since that time has grown beyond recognition.
From one man blogging about putting butter in coffee to a national chain, the rise has been immense.
Many people love drinking this buttered coffee each morning, claiming it helps improve weight loss, concentration, and energy levels.
But as with many things, there are two sides to every story.
This article will take a look at this popular coffee drink and whether or not it really is ‘bulletproof.’
What is Bulletproof Coffee?
At its most basic, Bulletproof Coffee is simply coffee with added butter and medium chain triglycerides (MCTs).
Developed by Dave Asprey, a man known as the ‘bulletproof exec,’ the drink first came to fame in 2009 when Dave shared his recipe with the world.
He probably did not expect the wild success since then, but the drink has become a national hit in America.
In fact, recently, Bulletproof Coffee cafes became a reality and are now a nationwide chain in the United States.
There are also different variants of the drink, with some people using coconut oil in their morning coffee, and others using only butter.
As the drink contains only fat and no carbohydrates, it is understandably one of the most popular keto drinks and is sometimes known as ‘ketogenic coffee’ (or ‘keto coffee’ for short).
It is also popular with proponents of paleo and low-carb diets.
So, Why Put Butter in Coffee?
The stated purpose of Bulletproof Coffee is to provide clean, fast energy with no crash.
For example, proponents claim that Bulletproof Coffee will provide sustained energy with no sugar crash due to its “high quality” fat content.
Because the drink is fairly calorie-dense, people often view it as a replacement for a traditional breakfast.
Bulletproof Coffee Recipe
Here are the ingredients in the standard recipe for Bulletproof Coffee (1):
- 1-2 cups of coffee
- At least 1-2 tbsp of grass-fed butter (unsalted)
- 1-2 tbsp of MCT oil
There is a lot of emphasis on putting grass-fed butter in the coffee, as it is claimed by proponents that grass-fed animals produce butter with a healthier nutrient profile.
While there can be some differences, it is worth noting that these nutritional differences are relatively minor.
What is MCT oil?
MCT oil is a type of fat typically made from certain fatty acids in coconut and palm oil (2).
MCT stands for Medium Chain Triglycerides, fats with a medium-sized length.
Also, MCTs are safe to consume, and much easier to digest than other forms of fat as they don’t require bile salts for digestion (3).
However, many people making Bulletproof Coffee use coconut oil rather than MCT oil, due to the lower price.
How to Make Bulletproof Coffee
Putting butter in your coffee can either taste okay or terrible.
It all depends on how you make it, so you want to ensure that the butter thoroughly blends into the coffee.
Here is the process in four simple steps:
- Brew your coffee and add it to a blender
- Add the amount of grass-fed butter you desire
- Put in the MCT oil
- Mix in the blender until everything is fully mixed in, and the coffee resembles a frothy latte.
It’s a bit more time-consuming than brewing a regular coffee, and worlds apart from making a cup of instant coffee.
So, what does the nutritional profile of buttered coffee look like?
For some quick basics:
- There are no carbohydrates in the coffee
- It is very high in fat
- Beneficial nutrients include vitamin A and vitamin K2, but in small amounts
You can find a full breakdown of nutrients in the drink below. For your information, this Bulletproof Coffee nutritional data shows the nutrient profile when using two tablespoons of butter and two tablespoons of MCT oil.
As we can see, the recipe contains zero carbohydrates, virtually no protein, and a significant amount of dietary fat.
There is also a total of 328 calories in the drink.
In the first place, we can see that the standout nutrients are vitamin A and riboflavin (otherwise known as vitamin B2).
Aside from this, there are not any other nutrients in significant quantities.
Butter in Coffee: The Benefits
Bulletproof Coffee would not be so popular if people experienced no benefits.
Specifically, most people replacing a typical breakfast with a cup of Bulletproof Coffee are probably seeing some degree of weight loss. While the company may claim their “high-quality” ingredients cause this, the more accurate reason would be reduced energy intake.
For instance, replacing cereal, pancakes, or cooked breakfast and orange juice with one cup of Bulletproof Coffee would significantly lower calorie intake at breakfast.
Another potential benefit is that there are significant amounts of polyphenols in coffee, which by definition means the same is true of Bulletproof coffee.
In fact, coffee is the biggest source of polyphenols in the average American diet (6).
Downsides of Bulletproof Coffee
Despite all the proponents making positive claims about Bulletproof Coffee, some genuine drawbacks exist.
Displacement of More Nutritious Food
Perhaps the most important downside of Bulletproof Coffee is that the drink displaces more nutritious food.
Bulletproof Coffee is popular among people following a low-carb diet, so how does it compare to a small low-carb cooked breakfast?
A breakfast of three eggs and an avocado is another small breakfast option that is extremely low in digestible carbohydrates.
Remember the nutritional profile we saw earlier? OK, now compare that to the nutrients that three eggs and an avocado offer:
Here are the amounts of carbohydrates, fat, and protein in three eggs and an avocado:
As shown above, this breakfast is high in (mainly monounsaturated) fat.
There is also a small amount of carbohydrates, the vast majority of which are from dietary fiber.
Lastly, there is a relatively decent amount of protein: 21.5g.
Here is the vitamin and mineral content in three eggs and an avocado:
As the data shows, this breakfast offers an excellent source of vitamins A, C, E, K, and B vitamins, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, zinc, copper, manganese, and selenium.
In short, it provides far more essential nutrients than Bulletproof Coffee.
Food vs. Butter in Coffee
When it comes down to it, there is only one winner concerning nutritional profile: real food.
Compared to eggs and avocado, porridge, muesli, or even fish, bacon, meat or any other breakfast food — consuming butter and oil in your coffee comes nowhere close nutritionally.
If one enjoys it, then there is no real issue with drinking a cup of Bulletproof Coffee from time to time instead of a meal.
However, if the drink regularly displaces more nutritious food, then that is a net negative, nutritionally.
Bulletproof Coffee Contains High Amounts of Saturated Fat
As we saw in the earlier nutritional data for Bulletproof Coffee, the drink contains a large amount (28.3 grams) of saturated fat.
The current dietary guidance for saturated fat intake is to keep intake to under 10% of daily energy intake. Since 28 grams of saturated fat is approximately 255 calories, this is more than the total recommended saturated fat intake, based on a 2000-calorie diet (14, 15).
Bulletproof Coffee is a combination of coffee, butter, and oil.
While some proponents claim the drinks helps weight loss and provides energy, there is no research of note on Bulletproof Coffee.
However, there are some large drawbacks in regard to its lack of nutritional value and high saturated fat content.
Providing someone tolerates coffee well, the drink is probably fine to drink from time to time.
But it shouldn’t replace a healthier, nutritious, breakfast.
Real food always wins.