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Explainer Healthy eating

What is Bulletproof coffee and is it good for you?

We take a deep dive into the java trend.

Butter Coffee

Mix butter, coconut oil and coffee and you get bulletproof coffee.

Richard Lautens/Getty Images

Like green juice or a wheatgrass shot, bulletproof coffee is both a beverage and a lifestyle statement. A mixture of coffee, butter (sometimes ghee) and coconut oil (or MCT oil), this cult-favorite isn't the same old java you can get at any coffee stand. And the mental and physical benefits it promises are way beyond what a caffeine buzz can do for you. So where did it come from? Why do people drink it? And is it related to the keto diet at all? Also, butter in your coffee? Seriously? We answer these questions and more. Spoiler alert: Don't toss your French press just yet.

What is Bulletproof coffee?

Concocted by Dave Asprey, an American entrepreneur and self-described "bio-hacker," Bulletproof coffee is designed to be an on-the-go alternative to breakfast that gives your body a dose of healthy fats and nutrients. Asprey introduced the concept in 2011 and the name "Bulletproof coffee" came from the line of wellness products and supplements originated by Asprey. 

Read: Coffee products you never knew you needed | The best coffee makers for 2019: Bonavita, Ninja, Oxo, Moccamaster and more 

But as the popularity of the breakfast beverage grew among gym fanatics and other early-adopters, now the term applies to any coffee concocted in roughly the same ratio as Asprey's original recipe: 8-12 ounces brewed coffee, mixed with one to two tablespoons coconut oil (or MCT oil) and one to two tablespoons of grass-fed butter or ghee. The mixture should then be blended to help emulsify it (simply mixing it will cause the fat and liquid to quickly separate) before drinking.

Amazon

The perfect Bulletproof bundle of ground coffee and brain octane MCT oil to get you started.  

Bulletproof coffee was originally designed to complement the keto diet or a low-carb, high-fat diet. As a meal replacement, the fat in the butter and coconut oil provides the necessary fuel to the body while allegedly minimizing hunger cravings thanks to the ingredient combo. In addition, Bulletproof coffee in the AM is supposed to keep your body in ketosis -- the metabolic state where your body is burning fat rather than glucose -- which is why it's popular with people on the keto diet. The concoction looks like a foamy latte and, naturally, has a rich and creamy texture.

Where did bulletproof coffee come from?

While Asprey monetized the concept and introduced it to the Western world, the concept of merging a caffeinated beverage with high-fat solids is hardly new. Asprey stumbled on the concept while trekking through the Himalayas. He found the yak butter tea offered to him by Tibetan hosts helped him navigate the harsh climate and high altitude of the Himalayas. Upon Asprey's return to the United States, he tinkered with the recipe, substituting coffee for tea, grass-fed butter for yak milk and adding coconut oil (marketed as Brain Octane Oil by Bulletproof).

While Asprey recommends that individuals use his line of Bulletproof products to create the original Bulletproof coffee, the name "bulletproof coffee" has been used by food bloggers, fitness enthusiasts, and cafes across the globe. To avoid trademark infringement, this concoction is sometimes called "Butter Coffee" on a menu and is a staple of paleo-friendly dining establishments, like Caveman Coffee in New York or Grass Fed Coffee in Los Angeles.

Read moreCoffee products you never knew you needed

While it's standard for Bulletproof coffee to contain oil, butter and coffee, some individuals choose to add other spices, supplements and taste enhancers to the blend. Additions to Bulletproof coffee can include collagen protein powder, turmeric, chocolate powder, vanilla powder and cinnamon.

Bulletproof coffee is said to promote weight loss, stave off hunger pangs, maximize mental efficiency and reduce the feeling of "brain fog." While anecdotal evidence abounds, there has been limited research on the effects of Bulletproof coffee.

Is bulletproof coffee really healthy?

The high-fat coffee concept has some nutritionists shaking their heads. Like any high-fat, low-carb diet, many experts caution that those with high blood pressure or cholesterol speak with their doctor before trying a keto or keto-type diet. And even though the ingredients -- coconut oil, grass-fed butter -- may be "healthy," they're also high in saturated fats and have been found in at least one study to cause a spike in cholesterol after being incorporated into a diet.

How many calories are in a cup of Bulletproof coffee? Almost 500 in a 12-ounce cup, with nearly 100% of those calories coming from saturated fat. And even though you may feel like you're skipping breakfast, the recipe means you're "eating" two sticks a week if you have the drink every day.

While not being hungry is described as a benefit of the drink, the downside is that a person may be missing out on getting a daily dose of necessary vitamins, minerals and fiber that could be found in a more balanced breakfast. Still, some people swear by it.

Read more5 ways to boost your energy level without caffeine

What's next for bulletproof coffee?

If you haven't tried Bulletproof coffee, or are skeptical to DIY it in your kitchen, you can get premade Bulletproof coffee at grocery stores including Whole Foods. Whole Foods cafes in New York have freshly brewed Bulletproof coffee on the menus in their cafes and Bulletproof Cafes are popping up in the US with three locations: Seattle, Santa Monica and Los Angeles.

  • This article was written by Anna Davies and originally appeared on Chowhound.

The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.