Why Bulletproof Coffee Might Not Be for Everyone
Many people really enjoy a hot cup of coffee with breakfast for their morning pick me up. These days there’s a new slant on this morning ritual that has some people scratching their heads.
Even though I actually think there are much better things you can use to jump-start your day, I am always interested in investigating anything that is attracting the kind of attention that bulletproof coffee has gotten, with people like Jimmy Fallon and Kevin Bacon singing its praises.
In general, there are more ideal ways to start your day than with coffee (more on that later), preferring a nice, hot mug of clear, clean water with lemon to gently awaken my body after a rejuvenating night’s rest (or if you do need some caffeine, especially when transitioning off coffee, some organic green tea, which has numerous health benefits).
Some people are not only beginning their day with a cup of hot java, they are jumping on the Bulletproof bandwagon and adding a couple of tablespoons of butter along with some MCT oil to get their motors running.
WHAAAT? Butter in your coffee? You’re joking!
The hot buttered beverage is not really such a brand new idea, though it is certainly not traditional in western culture. The creator of bulletproof coffee, David Asprey is said to have come up with the idea for it after trying yak butter tea during a visit to Tibet, where it has been a customary beverage for centuries. (Note: when I was in Mongolia I felt obliged to try some of the yak cheese that was offered to me by some of the families that let me stay in their gers, or mobile tent homes- as they stood there plainly watching me until I ate it- but the taste and smell of it and how I felt after consuming a little of the yak cheese was definitely not an inspiration for me in any culinary sense).
Once he returned home, he simply adapted the concept to coffee, adding in his own proprietary MCT (Medium Chain Triglyceride) oil to the recipe. Since there are not that many yaks around, he chose the next closest ruminant: cows, for the butter, and applied his trademarked name to the product.
Some of the health claims for this beverage are:
- More energy
- Better mental focus
- Weight loss
- Digestive regularity
If you were to make your own bulletproof coffee, you would start with mycotoxin-free coffee (this is not that difficult here in the US, as our country has had regulations limiting mycotoxin levels in consumer products for some time).
Next, the butter, but not just any old butter would do. According to the creator, the creamer component of your morning coffee should be replaced with 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter that comes from strictly grass-fed cows.
The source is always very important because the fat content in the butter really depends on the diet of the cow. It makes sense when you think about it, since the milk from soy or corn fed cattle will not contain the same exact fats as milk from those enjoying a diet of grass.
A natural diet of healthy green grass will improve the quality of any cow’s life, and therefore her milk by making it richer in omega-3 fats, vitamin E, and beta-carotene (super-nutritious for baby cows☺).
Then finally, the MCT oil – the best one would be coconut oil. The addition of the MCT oil is intended to create a metabolic state within the body called ketosis. Ketosis is a state where the body relies on ketone stores as a source of energy rather than sugar stores.
Typically, our bodies use glucose harvested from the foods we eat as a source of fuel to keep us going during the day.
Our blood sugar rises after a meal which triggers an insulin response from the pancreas. The insulin quickly enters the bloodstream to usher glucose to the cells as energy. When the foods you consume do not offer sufficient glucose to do the work, the liver will provide glycogen to fill the gaps.
Once the glycogen stores in the liver are burned, or when your body is metabolizing medium chain triglycerides, ketone bodies are created and used for energy. It is in the state of ketosis then that fat stores are most readily burned, thus creating a favorable environment for weight loss.
The weight loss claim in this case can really be considered a bit provocative since a morning brew of bulletproof coffee will contain anywhere from 210 to over 400 calories, and all of them from saturated fat!
I am definitely not one to count calories, but you certainly won’t lose weight from consuming an additional 400 calories in your coffee unless you plan to replace an entire meal with it.
I personally can’t see how it makes sense to replace a meal with a beverage that is so low in essential nutrients.
Instead, if you are looking to specifically add some MCT’s to your diet, you could just cook veggies with a little bit of coconut oil. Or cook with MCT oil, for that matter.
Yes, we definitely need a certain amount of dietary fat to keep our brains and bodies healthy, our GI tracts functioning at peak efficiency, and our skin bright and supple. However, too much fat – or the wrong kinds of fats – can, and will, have seriously undesirable effects on our bodies like:
- Increased levels of bad cholesterol
- Increased risk of heart disease
- Increased risk of stroke
- Increased risk of fatty liver
- Weight gain
- Increased inflammation
- Decreases in cognitive function during aging
The 2 kinds of cholesterol we are concerned with are HDL (good) and LDL (bad). HDL, which is from consuming things like plant based oils, raw nuts, and fresh fish, is considered “good” because it actually helps to remove LDL from the arteries.
LDL, which is from consuming red meats and dairy, is considered “bad” because it contributes to the formation of plaque in the arteries. Plaque is a hard deposit that can clog your arteries, inhibiting the free flow of the blood in the body, thereby resulting in nasty things like heart attacks, strokes, arterial sclerosis and peripheral artery disease.
Remember my reference to Kevin Bacon earlier on? He has actually stated that his cholesterol levels have gone up since he started drinking bulletproof coffee because of all the butter.
Effects on Cholesterol?
I should note, however, that a lot of the cholesterol claims from traditional medicine have been brought into serious question–and I will be the first to cede this. Some make strong arguments that higher cholesterol can actually be a good thing, as your body converts cholesterol into hormones.
My perspective is more a feeling that it seems a bit risky to blindly disregard any sense of caution or concern about massive amounts of saturated fat or cholesterol until we know 100%.
For instance, one study of women over 65 showed that those whose diets contained the highest amounts of saturated fat (think animal fats, like red meat and butter) had worse overall cognitive function and memory over four years of testing than those whose intake of such fats was moderate.
This study may not be perfect, but it did show that women whose diets were higher in monounsaturated fats like olive oil scored notably better on tests designed to measure their cognitive function, so I think the mental focus claim is overly optimistic too.
Butter, while mostly fat, also still contains very small amounts of milk solids–whereas something like ghee, which has been used therapeutically for thousands of years in Ayurveda–does not. If you’ve read my books or blogs, you know I’m not high on milk in any form. (I believe Bulletproof advocates use butter instead of ghee because the milk solids help create a frothier, more latte-like consistency.)
But again, milk has so many issues, even in small amounts. Not only can an overly acidic body prove detrimental to your digestion and overall health, but it can have an undesirable effect on your skin as well. The resulting wrinkles, premature lines, acne, and under-eye circles are something we can certainly do without!
What I am saying is that there are far better ways to get fats healthy fats into your body beyond consuming big chunks of butter first thing in the morning in your coffee.
Good Fat vs. Bad Fats
We should strive to eat more unsaturated, heart healthy fats like the ones found in avocados, nuts, seeds, and natural plant oils to help our bodies stay vital and youthful.
Natural unsaturated fats make our hair lustrous and shiny, and our skin radiant and beautiful while helping to keep our joints lubricated and healthy.
Of course, don’t have to concentrate on unsaturated fats, exclusively, as there are some good saturated fats as well!
Coconut oil (which is also found in coconut cream) is an excellent example of this. It is a cholesterol-free saturated fat made from medium chain fatty acids that will nourish the thyroid and can help us burn stored body fat. I find it wonderful to cook with, due to its high smoke point.
So what about the coffee?
Even though so many people have come to enjoy coffee, it is not really the best thing you can put into your body. That said, many of my clients look forward to drinking it, and anxiously ask if they have to give up coffee completely.
My advice for overall health and beauty is to keep it to no more than 1 cup a day if you find that you simply are not happy with alternatives.
*Just a few great reasons to consider alternatives to coffee:
1) Slightly acid-forming. It’s the nature of coffee. While there are some purportly less acidic coffee varieties out there (using an Aeropress or cold brew will reduce the acidity), but most of the coffee we all have access to is the “regular” kind. We should try to choose foods that will help us raise the alkalinity of our blood and our bodies to maintain peak health and beauty. If you really want some caffeine, there are so many teas that have caffeine, but also antioxidants and benefits (more below).
2) Nutrient depletion. Heavy coffee consumption can cause a deficiency in B vitamins, and specifically B1, thiamine. This can make us feel fatigued, nervous and short-tempered. The regular consumption of coffee can even prevent nutrients from being absorbed efficiently by the small intestine, which can further contribute to nutritional deficiencies and beauty issues.
3) Unnecessarily taxing for the liver (if not organic). The liver can get overloaded trying to detoxify out all the chemical residue in conventional coffee, along with all the caffeine. Fresh, clean blood facilitates the growth of healthy tissue.
4) Unnecessary stress on the adrenals. If you struggle with dark under-eye circles, attribute them to adrenal exhaustion. In fact, anything with caffeine encourages our body to secrete adrenaline, which then stimulates insulin secretion, and this in turn can–especially in those with adrenal fatigue–fuel hypoglycemia. What does that mean??
The bottom line for us can be craving for sweets a few hours later, unpredictable fluctuations in energy, and moodiness!
It’s generally recommended that those with adrenal fatigue, which an alarming number of people have, should give up caffeine for a period of time. So again, even with some of the legitimate benefits of the antioxidants in coffee, or the CLA in better, or MCT’s–is it worth continuing to tax your adrenal system? Would it not make sense to at least give your body a rest and see where you stand? These are some questions I don’t feel enough on the coffee bandwagon are considering.
What can I substitute for my coffee?
So glad you asked ☺! Why stay stuck in a rut? This may be the perfect opportunity to try something new and healthy for your body. If you are like me, you may even find that you don’t miss your coffee at all!
Some truly satisfying and healthy alternatives to coffee:
- Hot water with lemon (okay it doesn’t have caffeine, but great for those mornings when you may not need to douse yourself with caffeine. Try it!)
- Yerba mate (this can be very strong, so watch out!)
- Green tea
- Tulsi Tea
- Black tea (more caffeine than green)
- White tea (less caffeine)
- Rooibos tea
- Chamomile tea
- Fresh mint tea (try growing some mint on your windowsill!) with a little coconut nectar or stevia to sweeten it
What is really the best way to start my day?
As per the first bullet above, the very best way to wake up your body is with a steaming mug of fresh, hot water with lemon to rehydrate after your night’s sleep. Even if you’re having coffee later, start your day this way.
Hot water with lemon offers enzymes, reparative nutrients for the liver, and vitamin C to strengthen your immune system and help your skin remain vibrant and beautiful.
I really think it is best not to burden your body with food (or fats!) the very first thing in the morning, but rather to let it tell you when it is ready for food. It’s an Ayurvedic concept as well, from the world’s oldest medical system, that you shouldn’t consume heavy items in the morning.
Wait until your natural hunger starts to kick in, then go ahead and reward your body with your daily GGS (Glowing Green Smoothie) for a tasty, nutrition packed start to your day.
Your daily GGS is chock full of nutrition-rich fruit and magnificent green leafy vegetables, rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants to support your immune system while contributing to your overall health, beauty and energy.
Greens have more valuable nutrients than any other food group on the planet!
You might be surprised to learn that greens even provide high-quality, easily-assimilated amino acids – the building blocks of protein.
Blending helps make greens’ full spectrum of nutrition readily available to the body while preserving all that wonderful, cleansing fiber that our bodies use to help keep our GI tracts clean and functioning smoothly. Add in the vitamin-packed vitamins and other nutrients in the lemon and other fruit in the Glowing Green Smoothie and you have a totally beautifying and energizing start to every day.
Let me be clear that I respect Dave and the passionate following he has built and will even concede there are powerful antioxidants in coffee, some brain/focus benefits from the caffeine, good fats and other nutrients inside a cup of Bulletproof Coffee. I just question if it’s the best choice for everyone on a daily basis, especially given the plethora of options that are so nutritious and less risky for those with liver, weight or adrenal issues.
So ultimately, if adding butter to your coffee truly works for you–great. I just hope this post has helped you consider the whole picture…and to really look around and see all the other amazing options available to you instead.
In love and health,
Challenge: Replace your morning cup of coffee with a mug of hot water with lemon every day for 2 weeks. Try to really pay attention to how you are feeling as the days go by, and note small changes daily for review at the end. I would love to hear your comments!