Butter has found its way into coffee cups for its purported fat-burning and mental clarity benefits, despite many coffee drinkers finding this non-traditional.
You may wonder if adding butter to your coffee is healthy or another trend driven by false claims.
This article provides evidence-based information on the potential health benefits and risks of adding butter to your coffee, so you can decide if you want to try it.
Butter coffee vs. Bulletproof coffee
Butter coffee is a drink consisting of brewed coffee, unsalted butter, and medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs), an easily digested type of fat.
It’s similar to Bulletproof coffee, developed by an entrepreneur named Dave Asprey. Asprey’s Bulletproof coffee uses a specific coffee bean, a liquid high in MCTs, and grass-fed, unsalted butter.
Butter coffee is a do-it-yourself (DIY) version of Bulletproof coffee that doesn’t require special coffee beans or MCT oil. Any coffee with unsalted butter and coconut oil, a good MCT source, will work.
Butter coffee is often consumed in place of breakfast by those following a keto diet, which is high in fat and low in carbs.
Here’s how to make butter coffee:
- Brew about 1 cup (8–12 ounces or 237–355 ml) of coffee.
- Add 1–2 tablespoons of coconut oil.
- Add 1–2 tablespoons of unsalted butter, or choose ghee, a type of clarified butter lower in lactose, if you don’t eat regular butter.
- Mix all ingredients in a blender for 20–30 seconds until it resembles a foamy latte.
Summary: Butter coffee is a DIY version of the branded beverage Bulletproof coffee. You can make it using ingredients from your local grocery store. Butter coffee is often used to replace breakfast by people following a keto diet.
Butter coffee nutrition
A standard 8-ounce (237-ml) cup of coffee with two tablespoons of both coconut oil and unsalted butter contains:
- Calories: 445
- Carbs: 0 grams
- Total fat: 50 grams
- Protein: 0 grams
- Fiber: 0 grams
- Sodium: 9% of your daily need
- Vitamin A: 20% of your daily need
Nearly 85% of the fat in butter coffee is saturated fat.
Although some studies have linked saturated fat to increased risk factors for heart disease, such as high LDL cholesterol, research suggests that saturated fat doesn’t directly lead to heart disease.
Nonetheless, butter coffee’s amount of saturated fat is excessively high for just one serving.
Research shows that replacing some of the saturated fats in your diet with polyunsaturated fats can lower your risk of heart disease. Foods high in polyunsaturated fats are nuts, seeds, and fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, herring, or tuna.
Aside from its high-fat content, butter coffee contains other essential nutrients, namely vitamin A. Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin necessary for skin health, immune function, and good vision.
Although butter coffee also contains minute amounts of calcium, vitamins K and E, and several B vitamins, it’s not a good source of these nutrients.
Summary: Butter coffee is high in calories and dietary fat. It’s a good source of vitamin A but not a good source of other nutrients.
Myths vs. facts
Many people swear by butter coffee, claiming that it provides lasting energy, boosts mental clarity, and supports fat loss by suppressing hunger.
Also, while there’s no evidence to suggest that butter coffee can help you reach a state of ketosis quicker, it can provide additional fuel in the form of ketones for those in ketosis. Still, it may not raise your blood ketone levels more than eating MCT oil alone.
Although no studies have directly examined the beverage’s potential health benefits or risks, it is possible to make assumptions based on current research.
Suggested read: Coconut oil in coffee: Good or bad?
Proponents of butter coffee claim that it suppresses hunger and helps you lose weight by helping you eat less.
Butter coffee contains a large amount of fat, which slows digestion and may increase feelings of fullness.
Specifically, the coconut oil in butter coffee is a rich source of MCTs, a type of fat that may promote feelings of fullness more than the long-chain triglycerides (LCTs) found in other high-fat foods like oils, nuts, and meat.
For example, one study found that men who ate a breakfast containing 22 grams of MCT oil for 4 weeks consumed 220 fewer calories at lunch and lost more body fat than men who ate a breakfast high in LCTs.
Studies have also reported reduced hunger and more significant weight loss in people following low-calorie diets with the addition of MCTs compared to the addition of LCTs. However, these effects appear to diminish over time.
Adding MCTs to a reduced-calorie diet may improve feelings of fullness and promote short-term weight loss when used in place of LCTs. Yet, there’s no evidence that just adding MCTs to your diet without making other dietary changes will promote weight loss.
Butter coffee is believed to provide steady, long-lasting energy without a blood sugar crash. In theory, since fat slows digestion, the caffeine in the coffee is absorbed slower and provides longer-lasting energy.
While it’s possible that the fat from butter coffee may slow the absorption and prolong the effects of caffeine, the effect is likely insignificant and unnoticeable.
Instead, the MCT oil is likely responsible for butter coffee’s purported long-term, energy-boosting effects. Given their shorter chain length, MCTs are rapidly broken down and absorbed by your body.
This means they can be used as an instant energy source or turned into ketones, molecules your liver produces from fatty acids that can help boost energy levels over an extended period.
Suggested read: 11 healthy foods that help you burn fat
Butter coffee is said to boost mental clarity and improve cognitive function.
Following a keto diet, your liver converts MCTs into ketones. These ketones are a key source of energy for your brain cells.
Although the utilization of ketones by your brain has been shown to benefit some neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, there’s no evidence to suggest that MCTs as a source of ketones enhance mental clarity.
Instead, there’s evidence to suggest that the caffeine in coffee is responsible for the purported boost in mental focus and alertness experienced after drinking butter coffee.
Summary: The MCTs in butter coffee may help promote fullness and aid weight loss when used with a calorie-restricted diet. Also, the caffeine and MCTs in butter coffee may help boost your energy and focus. That said, more research is needed.
Butter coffee downsides
It’s important to note that butter coffee is not a balanced way to start your day.
Replacing a nutritious breakfast with butter coffee displaces many essential nutrients. Moreover, drinking the beverage and a typical breakfast likely adds many unnecessary calories.
Given that all of the calories in the drink come from fat, you miss out on other healthy nutrients like protein, fiber, vitamins, and minerals.
Two scrambled eggs with spinach, along with half a cup (45 grams) of oatmeal with flaxseed and berries, is a more nutritious meal that will do more good for your energy and overall health than a serving of butter coffee.
The high amount of fat in butter coffee can also cause stomach discomfort and other gastrointestinal issues like bloating and diarrhea, especially if you’re not used to consuming high amounts of fat.
Furthermore, butter coffee contains a significant amount of cholesterol. Fortunately, dietary cholesterol doesn’t affect most people’s cholesterol levels much.
That said, approximately 25% of people are considered cholesterol hyper-responders, meaning high-cholesterol foods significantly raise their blood cholesterol.
For those considered hyper-responders, trying butter coffee may be an excellent idea.
Summary: By opting for butter coffee over an otherwise balanced, nutritious breakfast, you miss out on many essential nutrients like protein and fiber. Butter coffee is also high in fat, which may cause side effects like diarrhea in some people.
Should you add butter to your coffee?
If you wish to try butter coffee and like it, keep balance in mind.
Suggested read: MCT oil: A review of medium-chain triglycerides
To make the rest of your day’s diet adequately nutritious, fill in on extra protein, fruits, and vegetables. You should also reduce your fat intake at other meals — unless you’re following a keto diet — and keep your fat intake balanced the rest of the day.
Butter coffee is very high in saturated fat, so prioritizing sources of mono- and polyunsaturated fats like avocados, nuts, seeds, and fish oil for the rest of the day is a brilliant idea.
For those following a ketogenic diet, remember that there are many highly nutritious, keto-friendly meals, such as eggs, avocado, and spinach cooked in coconut oil, that you can choose instead of butter coffee to provide your body with the nutrients it needs.
Summary: If you have butter coffee for breakfast, make sure to balance your day with sources of mono- and polyunsaturated fats and increase your intake of vegetables, fruits, and protein-rich foods at other meals.
Butter coffee is a popular drink that contains coffee, butter, and MCT or coconut oil.
It’s said to boost your metabolism and energy levels, but these effects have yet to be proven.
Though butter coffee may benefit those on a ketogenic diet, there are several healthier ways to start your day.