As if deciding between soy milk, coconut milk, half and half and almond milk in your coffee wasn’t complicated enough, how adding some butter to the mix? In case you haven’t heard, adding butter and MCT (medium chain triglycerides) oil to coffee is kind of a big deal among Paleo peeps and enthusiasts claiming greater mental clarity and weight loss. Allegedly, the consumption of saturated fat first thing in the morning curbs cravings and jump starts the body’s fat-burning potential for the day. But if the idea of putting a couple of pats of butter and oil into your morning cup of joe sounds gross to you, (and it did to me too), as your human guinea pig, I tried it out so you don’t have to. You’re welcome.
But first, I did my homework.
Where did this craze come from?
A version of buttered coffee is a tradition in different parts of the world like Ethiopia and Tibet. The recipe for “Bulletproof Coffee” was popularized by Dave Asprey, an American technology entrepreneur, who claims to have lost 100 lbs with minimal exercise and raised his IQ by 20 points by drinking his special coffee recipe. He explains his humble inspiration while doing stuff rich white dudes do, like hiking in Tibet – “I learned about the power of butter at 18,000 feet elevation near Mt. Kailash in Tibet when I staggered into a guest house from the -10 degree weather and was literally rejuvenated by a creamy cup of yak butter tea. The biohacker in me asked, ‘why?’ and that was the genesis of my recipe below, which is widely heralded as a cognitive enhancing recipe.”
• Start with 1 cup (8 oz.) filtered water, just off the boil.
• Measure 2 1/2 heaping tablespoons freshly ground Bulletproof® Upgraded™ Coffee beans (approximately 2 rounded tablespoons per 6 oz. water) and brew using your favorite coffee brewing method. (Why this is important)
• Pour in 1 teaspoon Bulletproof® Upgraded™ Brain Octane™ (build up to 1-2 tablespoons over several days).
• Add 1 tablespoon grass-fed, unsalted butter or ghee (build up to 2 tablespoons or more over several days).
• Mix in a blender for 20 seconds until the oil and butter are emulsified so the drink is frothy and looks like a creamy latte without a film of oil on the surface.
I briefly considered buying the Bulletproof brand of coffee since it was supposedly lower in mycotoxins. But since the internet is a cesspool of misinformation, I decided to conduct my own research on what those scary-sounding mycotoxins were and if I needed to spend $18.95 + shipping for a tiny 12-oz bag of “upgraded” coffee.
WHAT ARE MYCOTOXINS?
Basically, fungus is among us and it’s unavoidable. Mycotoxins are the naturally occurring toxins from fungal contaminants in all kinds of foods including fruit, pasta, nuts, peanut butter, wine, apple juice, milk, etc. The only way to avoid them is to avoid eating altogether. Yet of the thousands of mycotoxins contaminating our foods, only a small few truly pose a health and safety challenge. The FDA and EU sets strict limits on maximum levels of mycotoxins on food products, so obviously any coffee sold in supermarket shelves is considered “safe.”
As for the claims of lower mycotoxins in “Bulletproof Coffee,” competitors in the coffee industry dismiss these claims (not a surprise either). According to the Carlini Coffee Company, “Reality is that the fungus associated with mycotoxins is present in every coffee bean (wet, dry or hulled methods) and there is currently NO reliable and easy method available for measurement of mycotoxin levels, nor do the brokers have readings or records available on the lots they sell relating to mycotoxin levels – therefore everyone is flying blind.”
Furthermore, according to this scientific study, the roasting process further reduces the mycotoxins in coffee up to 80%.
I decided to stick with my Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf brand of French Roast coffee.
I also passed on the $45.95 bottle of “Upgraded Brain Octane” and substituted a cheaper version of MCT oil by using a tablespoon of Trader Joe’s Organic coconut oil instead.
However, I did spring for the Kerrygold unsalted, grass-fed butter.
I also consulted our contributing blogger and dietitian, Jennifer Krohn, MS RD, for her professional opinion on this coffee fad.
“I searched high and low to find some research or even pseudo science that this may be based on, but I am at a loss. As far as the energy aspect of this drink, you are mixing caffeine with fat (the most energy dense nutrient out there) so it may result in an increased level of energy; at least temporarily. As far as a weight management tool, if you take a drink that naturally has 0 calories and add pats of butter to increase that to 200 calories, you can expect some weight gain eventually, unless you cut back on those calories elsewhere. Some dietitians get tagged as the food police and my approach is very different from an eat this, don’t eat that point of view. I believe first and foremost food and beverages should be enjoyable and this bulletproof coffee sounds quite the opposite. The best way to have sustained energy and achieve weight loss is to eat plenty of high fiber foods like fruits and vegetables and keep an active lifestyle.”
So, no magic bullets in her professional opinion. Party pooper.
THE HUMAN GUINEA PIG BEGINS THE COFFEE EXPERIMENT
I quickly discovered that blending all that oil, butter and coffee in the blender was simply one step too many during a hectic morning when desperate for a caffeine fix (and trying to get two children ready for school). So while my coffee brewed, I sleepily plopped a couple of pats of butter and a teaspoon of coconut oil into a coffee cup and stuck it in the microwave to melt for 20 seconds and stirred vigorously, hoping for the best.
The coffee lightened up to a golden brown with a light film of oil on the surface. I took a hesitant sniff. It smelled like fresh, buttered popcorn which was disconcerting but since I love popcorn, how bad can drinking that be? It turns out, pretty bad. It didn’t help that I failed to blend it properly and swallowed a small chunk of butter. Ack!
I added a packet of Stevia to see if that helped and the sweetness improved the flavor so it was like drinking liquid coffee-flavored Kettlecorn. It was so rich, I had trouble drinking more than half of it without feeling queasy. But hey, the nausea did kill my cravings and curbed my appetite for breakfast, so I totally see how you can lose weight drinking this concoction.
Yet within half an hour, I definitely felt the effects of the caffeine rush and it really seemed amplified, and not in a good way. Although I’d only consumed half a cup, I felt jittery and twitchy in that over-caffeinated way.
JUAN VALDEZ’S REVENGE
There’s no way to put this delicately, so I won’t bother. Unless your GI tract is “butt-proof” or “bulletproof” as well, prepare for this greasy, caffeinated sludge to move your bowels like a speeding bullet. Coffee on its own has proven laxative effects, so does grease, like butter and oil. Combine the three together and you have Juan Valdez’s revenge in a cup.
So, unless you like pooping at work ALL DAY LONG, this coffee is definitely NSFW.
Although I was initially skeptical about the appetite-suppressing, weight loss, mental clarity claims about buttered coffee, it all makes sense to me now.
There’s nothing quite so appetite suppressing as nausea and weight loss inducing as diarrhea and the mental focus that comes from keeping track of the nearest public bathroom at all times. Not to mention, the extra IQ points earned from all that extra reading time on the potty. In short, if you’re going to indulge in butter coffee, prepare for a world of butt hurt.
Minsun Park is a blogger, writer and a black belt in taekwondo who gets her ass handed to her daily by her two sons. She’s written for iVillage, SheKnows, ePregnancy and is featured in “The Hot Mom’s Handbook” by Jessica Denay. She can also be found on Facebook and Twitter: @MinsunPark