Meet Connor - professional hockey player, new dad, and mental health advocate!
Keto Coffee: What Is Bulletproof Coffee? Is It Good For You?
This article has been written by experts and fact-checked by experts, including licensed nutritionists, dietitians or medical professionals. The information in the article is based on scientific studies and research.
It is designed to be honest, unbiased and objective, and opinions from both sides of an argument are presented wherever there is disagreement.
The scientific references in this article (marked by 1, 2, 3, etc.) are clickable links to peer-reviewed research material on the subject being discussed.
Those who want to lose weight, but haven’t tried the ketogenic diet, probably don’t know most of the diet’s ins-and-outs.
But here’s one thing they probably do know: a lot of delicious foods are off-limits. In fact, the restrictions are likely to be a major reason why they haven’t tried keto.
The list of beverages you’re supposed to avoid when you’re rigorously following keto guidelines is a long one. It includes soda, fruit juice, smoothies, energy drinks, sweetened iced tea and beer. Milk isn’t expressly forbidden, but it contains so many carbohydrates that just one glass would use up about half the diet’s daily allotment of net carbs.
What can you drink on keto? That list is a lot shorter: water, coffee, unsweetened tea and wine. Some diet sodas are OK, but they’re discouraged.
Wait a second…if coffee is already on the approved keto list, then what’s the big deal about keto coffee? Isn’t coffee keto-friendly if you skip the sugar and milk?
You’re right, it is – but that’s not the point of “keto coffee.” Keto coffee contains extra ingredients, specifically butter and/or certain types of oil, which are meant to help the body burn fat and lose weight faster and more efficiently.
If that sounds odd – and it undoubtedly does, if you’re not familiar with keto guidelines – it helps to understand how a ketogenic diet works.
So let’s take a look at the basics. After that, the whole idea of keto coffee should make a lot more sense. (Spoiler alert: it can be delicious.)
The A-B-Cs of the Keto Diet
What Is Keto?
The keto diet is a low-carbohydrate diet. On keto, you eat lots of fat and moderate amounts of protein; they become the body’s primary sources of calories, while most of the carbs we normally eat are eliminated.
Sugar and the processed foods that contain it, starches like bread, rice and pasta, potatoes, and legumes like beans and lentils, are all no-nos. Most fruit is out, as are sweets and the vast majority of packaged foods (even gluten-free ones, which usually contain sugar). They’re all way too high in carbohydrates for keto eating.
What’s the point?
Ketones and Ketogenesis
Here’s the weight loss rationale behind those draconian dietary rules.
Carbohydrates are basically chains of sugar. When we eat them, they’re broken down in the digestive system. And one of the important byproducts of that process is a type of sugar known as glucose, often called blood sugar. Glucose is the primary energy source for the body’s cells and brain; without enough glucose – or an acceptable substitute for glucose – neither the body nor the brain can function properly.
That key fact is why the keto diet works.
After 3-4 days of ketogenic eating (for most people), the body isn’t getting enough carbs to produce the energy it requires, and the extra glucose it’s stored for emergency use is gone. So desperately needing to find another energy source quickly, the body goes into a panic mode called ketosis.
In a state of ketosis, the body is able to produce the one suitable replacement for glucose: molecules known as ketones, produced by the liver. That process kicks into high gear when the body absolutely needs ketones to keep functioning.
We’ve finally reached the payoff of the story: in order to produce ketones, the body burns its stored fat. And, of course, fat burning is the key to weight loss.
To sum this all up in a sentence: the lack of carbs puts the body into ketosis, forcing it to burn stored fat for energy – and leading to weight loss.
Surviving – and Thriving - on the Keto Diet
Now you understand why you can’t cheat on the keto diet.
Once you start eating carbs again, the body no longer needs ketones so it no longer has to burn fat. If you give into temptation for just a day or two, the weight loss stops and you have to go back to square one: another 3-4 days of keto eating just to get back into ketosis. And that means going through another period of the so-called keto flu, the flu-like symptoms that occur when the body is transitioning into ketosis. (That’s also why intermittent fasting often doesn’t work; the body is constantly going in and out of ketosis.)
The “fear of failure” hangs over many people who decide to give the ketogenic diet a try. They know they can’t eat bread, pasta, cookies, cake, ice cream, junk food – they can’t even drink soda or put sugar in their coffee. That can seem overwhelming or even impossible, so many don’t even try. Others find they can’t make it very long before giving into temptation.
Another aspect of the diet that is difficult for some to handle: eating much more fat than they’re used to. The ideal keto eating plan has about 70% of daily calories coming from fats, when the government “healthy eating” guidelines have historically suggested limiting that amount to 35%.
The way that most dieters survive – and thrive – on the keto diet is by finding lots of imaginative recipes and approaches that boost the fat content in their diet. That’s not exactly what your parents teach you when you’re growing up.
Since this article is primarily concerned with the subject of keto coffee, let’s explain what it is and how it helps people stay on the keto diet and lose weight.
What is Keto Coffee, Anyway?
The short answer: keto coffee is just coffee with added fat.
The longer answer: keto coffee is regular coffee with low-carb, high-fat foods like coconut oil, butter or ghee added, in order to boost its fat content.
You may be wondering “Ghee? What’s that?” So instead of losing you to Google or Wikipedia, let’s take a brief detour and explain, since it’s a terrific ingredient to use in keto coffee.
What is Ghee?
Ghee is highly-concentrated, clarified butter; the water and milk solids have been removed, so all that’s left is “butterfat.” Ghee is commonly used in Indian cooking and often used in French recipes; you can buy it in any good supermarket, or you can make your own.
Ghee contains slightly more calories than butter, but more importantly, it contains a higher concentration of fat – with no unhealthy trans-fats. It also has high levels of healthy Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids. Ghee should be eaten in moderation because of its calories and cholesterol content, but it’s a perfect addition to a keto diet.
Now, back to our regularly-scheduled keto coffee content.
What Goes Into Keto Coffee
When you have your morning cup of coffee, and aren’t a huge fan of black coffee, you usually add milk, cream and/or sugar. None of those work for keto.
Sugar is nothing more than soluble carbohydrates, and is strictly forbidden on a ketogenic diet. (Most artificial and sugar-free sweeteners are out, too, except for raw stevia, monk fruit extract and erythritol.) Milk is carb-heavy, as are most commercially-sold coffee creamers, so they’re not options.
Cream is fine for those on keto, as long as it’s heavy cream (sometimes sold as whipping cream) and used in moderation because of its calories. However, it’s not the ideal keto additive alone, because cream still contains carbs and they can add up quickly if you’re not careful. Dairy-free milks like coconut milk and almond milk are acceptable, but won’t contribute as much fat as you get in keto coffee.
That brings us to the oil, butter and ghee we mentioned at the start of this section. Any of those will soften the bitterness of regular coffee, just as milk, cream and sugar would. But they superpower a dieter’s fat consumption at the same time.
Not just any oil will do. Keto coffee is made with something called MCT oil, which stands for medium-chain triglycerides. Without diving too deep into the science, the structure of MCT oils allows them to be absorbed without going through the digestive process, making them an immediate energy source. Additionally, MCT oil can be converted into ketones (remember them?) in the liver.
MCT oil has additional health benefits, too. It works to minimize or reverse metabolic syndrome, it has strong anti-inflammatory properties, and it has been shown to boost performance during workouts. In short, it’s a terrific addition to a diet, to a keto diet – and to keto coffee. Coconut oil is the most commonly-used MCT oil.
Not all butter is created equal, either. Keto emphasizes grass-fed butter, which comes from cows that have been fed with grass, not grain. It’s essentially raw fat, with no carbs, protein or sugars; it’s higher than regular butter in both Omega-3 fatty acids and vitamins. Grass-fed butter is among the best healthy fats to consumer on a keto diet.
So we have black coffee, ghee, grass-fed butter and MCT coconut oil. Let’s make some keto coffee.
Making Keto Coffee
There are several ways to make keto coffee. In fact, there are several terms used to describe keto coffee, and they don’t all describe the same thing. Let’s start by sorting out the verbiage.
Bulletproof coffee is the most common phrase used as a synonym for keto coffee. In reality, it’s a brand name.
David Asprey founded the company Bulletproof Coffee (and trademarked the name) after creating and popularizing his own version of keto coffee in 2008. He was inspired by sampling yak butter tea in Tibet, and came up with a recipe which has mushroomed into products, a retail business, and even Bulletproof Coffee cafés. His products are available on the Bulletproof website and Amazon.
The term literally refers to Asprey’s “Bulletproof Coffee” recipe, which blends his own branded ground coffee (he also sells the coffee beans), ghee or grass-fed butter, and his branded “Brain Octane Oil,” which is a pure MCT coconut oil.
Nevertheless, keto dieters usually describe all keto coffee as bulletproof coffee. Another name often used for it is “butter coffee,” for obvious reasons.
You may have noticed that we said that the ingredients of bulletproof coffee are blended. There’s a good reason for that: coffee is made with water, and MCT oil is oil. Remember what you learned in high school science class? Oil and water don’t mix. The only method to combine them to make keto coffee is to blend the ingredients at high speeds, which leaves a creamy froth (like the one on a latte) at the top of the coffee.
You can use a standard blender for that, but an easier way to generate the creaminess of keto coffee is to use an immersion blender or a milk frother. There’s less cleanup to do, too; just be careful when blending hot liquids.
OK, we’re finally ready to check out the recipes for keto coffee.
The Basic Keto Coffee Recipe
The basic recipe for keto coffee is simple, once you have the necessary ingredients. Blend:
- One cup of hot coffee
- 1-2 tablespoons of MCT coconut oil
- 1-2 tablespoons of ghee unsalted grass-fed butter
That was easy. Once you try it a few times, the taste will grow on you, too.
You can add collagen powder for added health benefits and energy, vanilla extract or cinnamon for taste, even cocoa powder to make a mocha coffee – essentially, feel free to play around to make your keto coffee taste just the way you want it to, as long as all the ingredients are keto-friendly.
Another Keto Coffee Option
More and more packaged and prepared foods have become available for keto dieters over the last few years. And one of them is a delicious keto-friendly coffee that’s ultra-low-carb and loaded with protein.
Super Coffee is made from 100% Arabica beans, sourced from Colombian organic growers – but the similarities with regular coffee end there. It contains MCT coconut oil, zero-carb monk fruit sweetener, and a lactose-free whey protein that gives the coffee a creamy body without using milk. One gram of carbs, ten grams of protein, extra health benefits – and it tastes like coffee is supposed to taste, delicious. Making your own keto coffee is easy. This is even easier, and it’s foolproof to boot.
Is Keto Coffee Bad For You?
Keto coffee can help you power up your weight loss when you’re on a keto diet, while providing additional health benefits. However, the oil, butter and/or ghee used to make keto coffee have nutritional downsides as well.
For example, one cup of bulletproof coffee can contain more saturated fat than the USDA recommends consuming in a full day. And drinking a cup of keto coffee for breakfast may fill you up until lunch (or later), but it won’t be helping you get the nutrients you’d normally receive from a healthy morning meal.
Here’s the takeaway.
The good news: keto coffee, in moderation, is a healthy and beneficial addition to a keto diet.
The bad news: it’s low in nutrients, high in saturated fat, and high in cholesterol.
The bottom line: if you’re not on a keto diet, or if you grow “too fond” of the taste and the energy it provides, it’s probably not the right choice for you.
And of course, it’s always a good idea to get medical advice before starting keto or any type of low-carbohydrate diet.