Whole30 Coffee: What Is It? Can You Make It Yourself?

Low-carb diets continue to be extremely popular among those trying to lose weight. The annual Food and Health Survey reports that about 40% of Americans tried dieting last year. 20% of those dieters followed a low-carb eating plan.

Keto. Paleo. Atkins. South Beach. Bulletproof. Whole30. There are many low-carb options to choose from, each with different guidelines.

Some have become so ingrained in American culture that there are even coffee recipes bearing their name: keto coffee and Bulletproof coffee. (Spoiler: they’re essentially the same thing; the big difference is that “Bulletproof” is a trademarked name.)

The Whole30 diet has gained traction over the last few years. Is there a Whole30 coffee, too?

Let’s find out.

Low-Carb Diets and Coffee

Even those who don’t have to worry about their weight know some of the “forbidden” foods for low-carb dieters: starches, sugar, legumes, most grains and types of fruit, and of course, bakery treats. What they may not realize is that beverages can also be a problem. Soda, juices, energy drinks, beer and cocktails are on the “bad” list for most low-carb meal plans.

That brings us to America’s favorite beverage, coffee.

Sugar, most sweeteners and most creamers are out (as are Starbucks coffee drinks, of course), but many dieters use coffee as a way to add fat or healthy ingredients to a low-carb diet.

That’s what Bulletproof and keto coffee are all about, since the recipes call for two major ingredients to be added to black coffee. One addition is a high-quality fat like grass-fed butter or ghee, for two reasons. It adds high levels of healthy Omega-3 fatty acids, and fat is the macronutrients that replaces carbs in those diet plans. The other ingredient is MCT oil or coconut oil, which reportedly help with fat burning. 

Bulletproof coffee isn’t suitable as an all-day beverage for those who drink a lot of coffee, though. Even two cups a day contain way too much saturated fat and cholesterol, and too many calories, to successfully sustain any type of diet.

What about regular coffee on low-fat diets? Eating plans like Keto and Atkins say coffee’s OK if you use a compliant creamer like almond milk, coconut cream or coconut milk, collagen creamer or just plain full-fat cream. South Beach only allows you to drink black coffee – no added sugar, added sweeteners, milk, cream, or dairy-free coffee creamers. Paleo discourages coffee completely, even if you usually drink it black.

And then there’s the Whole30 diet.

What Is The Whole30 Diet?

Whole30 is quite different than the other low-carb diets we’ve mentioned.

Most low-carb eating plans determine what you can and can’t eat based on one primary goal: weight loss. The optimal mix of dietary carbs, fat and protein is aimed at forcing the body to burn stored body fat for energy, instead of burning carbs as it normally does.

By contrast, Whole30 is a gluten-free, dairy-free and soy-free approach to healthy eating, with no firm limits on how the amounts of carbs, fat or protein you consume.

For 30 days, dieters eliminate foods that are said to cause cravings, prevent proper blood glucose and hormone regulation, cause inflammation, and create digestive or immune system issues. There’s a long list of those foods, most of which are also forbidden on the other low-carb diets. That’s why many people compare Whole30 to Keto, Atkins and the like.

The Whole30 diet theoretically “resets” the body and prepares it for a healthier future. After the first 30 days, foods that have been eliminated from the diet are reintroduced, one-by-one. Dieters figure out whether each food causes them health issues, decide whether to keep eating it, and move on to the next food on the list. 

The reason for “30” in the name of the diet should be obvious; you follow the plan for 30 days. “Whole” is short for “whole foods,” not the supermarket. They’re foods that occur naturally, haven’t been processed, and have no added ingredients. Think vegetables and fruit, unprocessed proteins, natural fats, and nuts and seeds; they’re all whole foods. Forget sugar, grains, legumes, dairy, packaged food, frozen food, and fast food when you’re on Whole30.

The majority of dietary experts agree that whole foods are the healthiest to eat, even if not all believe that a whole foods diet is necessary or ideal.

That doesn’t answer one important question, though. What about coffee?

Whole30 and Coffee

Coffee is allowed on most whole foods diets, usually with restrictions on what can be added to it. Whole30 is no different.

Here’s their official stance on coffee:

“Yes, you can have your coffee. You’re welcome. You can drink it black, add unsweetened compatible nutpods, coconut milk, almond milk, or add cinnamon or vanilla beans to the brew.  But remember, Whole30 guidelines exclude milk, cream, non-compatible milk substitutes, and added sweeteners—including date paste or stevia (more on that below).”

Date paste is just processed dates, so it makes sense that it wouldn’t be Whole30 compliant. But we might as well see what Whole30 has to say about stevia.

“While it’s not highly processed like its liquid or powdery cousins, the only purpose of stevia leaf is to sweeten something that was not already sweet. This is something we want you to avoid during your Whole30. Instead, learn to appreciate the natural flavors of your foods, and don’t rely on sweet tastes to prop up sugar cravings.”

That holds true for other processed or artificial sugar substitutes as well; dairy products and most coffee creamers are out, too. So if you enjoy your coffee black, you’re all good. Otherwise you’ll probably have to make some adjustments.

Let’s consider some options.

How Do You Make Whole30 Coffee?

The best place to start is with the coffee itself.

Since the goal of Whole30 is to eliminate processed foods and focus on healthy, high-quality ingredients, your best bet is to avoid your local coffee shop and brew your own coffee. There’s nothing wrong with coffee shops, diners, or wherever else you usually buy coffee on the way to work, of course. But Whole30 places a premium on high-quality food and beverages, and you’re better off doing your own quality control.

First, that means buying whole bean coffee and grinding it at home. Pre-ground coffee loses much of its natural flavors, aroma and health benefits as it sits in a bag or can. Grinding beans right before brewing produces the best-tasting, freshest – and healthiest – cup of coffee.

It’s just as important to purchase high-quality coffee beans. We’re not talking about light roast vs. dark roast, or Colombia vs. Kona, or French press vs. espresso. Those are matters of personal preference. Here’s what we are talking about:

  • Single origin: Many manufacturers sell blends of beans from a number of farms or countries. They may do that to “smooth out” the overall flavor of the coffee, to save money, or (if they mix robusta beans into Arabica beans) to boost caffeine content. Single-origin beans all come from the same source; that not only makes the flavor and aroma more consistent, but it’s also a sign of higher-quality coffee.
  • Organically-Grown: There won’t be any residual pesticides or chemical fertilizers in your coffee. That’s certainly a good thing.
  • Shade-Grown: Coffee plants grown under shade trees will grow longer before being ready for harvest, giving the beans’ flavor and aroma more time to develop.
  • Roasting Date: Quality coffee will always be packaged with its roasting date printed on the label. If the beans were roasted more than a few weeks before they’re ground and brewed, the coffee is more likely to be stale.

The highest-quality beans will produce the healthiest, best-tasting coffee. And that’s exactly what Whole30 is all about.

Even so, all you have so far is a terrific cup of black coffee. There’s a lot more you can do with it.

What You Can Add to Whole30 Coffee

We’ve already quoted from Whole30’s guidelines, which prohibit dairy products and sweeteners, but give the green light to unsweetened nutpods, unsweetened coconut or almond milk, cinnamon and vanilla beans.

Those are just examples, though. If you use your imagination, there are many more natural ingredients you can use to spice up an ordinary cup of coffee. If cinnamon is OK, so is nutmeg, pumpkin spice and sea salt. If vanilla beans are fine, then so is vanilla bean powder and vanilla extract. And that means almond extract, lemon extract and all other alcohol-based extracts from botanical ingredients are also OK to add to coffee. (We checked to make sure.)

Have a hankering for mocha? Raw cacao powder is Whole30 compliant. If you’ve developed a taste for Bulletproof coffee, MCT oil and ghee can be added to coffee when you’re following Whole30. And the collagen peptides that some add to their beverages are fine as well.

(If you’ve been wondering about “nutpods,” it’s a dairy-free coffee creamer made from almonds and coconuts, and you can buy it on Amazon or in many grocery stores. Only the unsweetened versions are compliant with Whole30 guidelines, though.)

So there are lots of options if you’re not a black coffee fan. There are even lots of recipes for coffee drinks designed specifically for those who are following the Whole30 plan.

Whole30 Coffee Recipes

These require virtually no prep time (other than the shopping), and can all be made in a total time of one minute or less. Who needs expensive coffee drinks?

Whole30 Latte (courtesy: thewholesmiths.com)

Mix 1¼ cup coffee, ½ cup unsweetened almond milk, 2 tablespoons coconut oil and ½ teaspoon cinnamon in a large cup, and blend thoroughly with a hand blender (immersion blender). You won’t believe how much froth you’ll get!

Whole30 Cashew Coffee (courtesy: cleanfoodiecravings.com)

Combine ½ cup hot coffee (or cold brew coffee), ¼ cup unsweetened almond milk, ¼ cup raw cashews, ¼ teaspoon nutmeg, 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon and a pinch of sea salt in a blender. Blend until frothy and creamy. Nutty and delicious!

Whole30 Pumpkin Spice Latte (courtesy: runtoradiance.com)

Combine in a blender: one cup dark roast coffee, ½ cup unsweetened coconut milk, two tablespoons canned pumpkin puree, ¼ teaspoon vanilla, 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon, and a few dashes of allspice, cloves and nutmeg. Blend for ten seconds, and you won’t miss that seasonal trip to Starbucks!

Whole30 Iced Coffee (courtesy: farmsteadchic.com)

Combine ½ cup strong coffee, two tablespoons nutpods original creamer (unsweetened), one tablespoon MCT oil (or coconut oil), and one scoop of collagen peptides. Blend well with a milk frother, and fill glass with ice. Add more nutpods creamer to taste, if desired. It will feel like summer even if there’s snow on the ground!

Try one of our ready to drink flavors today!

Sip Now

Written by Ben Knox

10 Min read

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