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Bullet Proof Coffee: Friend or Foe?

What is it? Coffee + 2 Tbs coconut oil, butter or Ghee + 1 TBS of other MCT oil (recipes vary). All frothed together. Yes, YUMMY indeed! What is MCT oil? Read more here. Depending on how you make it, total calories: 350-400 Calories and 35-40 grams of total fat. How could this stuff people call coffee “crack” NOT be delicious?! But is it right for your body?

Why are people drinking it? There are all sorts of reasons people are drinking it. There is some merit to getting some coconut oil and MCT oil in your diet, “some” being the key word. It’s all about balance and finding what works for you. For the most part people claim to feel amazing on it, increased energy, no more coffee jitters, and not hungry for hours! Some claim to lose weight but that is not a reason to start ingesting 30 grams of fat for breakfast, especially on top of a normal breakfast. These could all be very valid reason people are enjoying it (not to mention the amazing taste) but if these were clients I would need to ask some questions: “How were you drinking your coffee before? What are you eating for breakfast and what time? When do you drink your bullet proof coffee?” Before I gave any personal advice I would also need to know: “What time do you get up?; When do you exercise? What are your health and fitness goals?; What is your lipid profile (aka: cholesterol numbers)?; What are your blood sugar levels, A1C? How’s your digestion and bowels?” So you see, there is no simple answer if you “should” be drinking this.

Is it “good” for you? As a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist in the field for nearly 20 years, I tend not to use the words “good” and “bad” because they’re generic labels that don’t help your personal situation and often don’t get to the root of why you’re asking the question. Blanket statements using good and bad don’t show the full picture and definitely don’t take you, as a completely unique person, into account. With my vast medical and nutrition knowledge I would not walk around saying, “yes, it’s good for you, drink it!” without knowing more about you (blood work, goals, lipid profile, etc). I most likely wouldn’t add this to your recommended foods even with knowing those things. Why? Most clients want to optimize their health! With nearly 80% of Americans overweight and nearly 30% obese it’s very hard to “recommend” a 400 calorie drink, especially if there is food to go along with it. Yowza! I’d rather talk about what FOOD and nutrients you may want to include to reach your goals. Despite what people think I do as a dietitian I do not take foods away from people, so if you drink this and want to keep drinking it, we’d talk about how to fit it into your lifestyle and goals.

Isn’t fat good for us? Sure, and despite what the media says, this is 100% NOT new information. Portions and total fat grams still matter, especially when it comes to overall health, weight, energy, lipids and more. I do complete cardiac panels for many clients to assist them with blood sugars, heart health, lipid profile, inflammation, and to optimize omega levels. Working in a lipid clinic was my very first specialty area in nutrition and remains close to “heart” and one of my all time passions. Looking inside someone (so to speak) and personalizing foods based on goals and concrete, accurate blood work is an art and a true profession. Depending on the client, a general recommendation of fat intake might be 25-35% of total calories, which varies based on the person, their weight, goals and exercise. So this drink might contain half of that goal. We have to decide what other fats you want in your diet: avocado, nuts and seeds, fish, dairy, etc. and then balance that with a drink like this.

Isn’t saturated fat “good” now? Again that word “good”. We’ve also known for 20 + years that saturated fat from plant sources is far better than saturated fat from animal sources because there are more Medium Chain Triglycerides vs. Long Chain Triglycerides which are easier to process, better on lipid profiles, and may cause slight increases in energy expenditure (aka: calories burned), especially when you replace LCT with MCTs. I remember learning this nearly 20 years ago when I worked in the Lipid Clinic at OHSU. Keep in mind, “replacing” is the key word: adding more fat on top of your way of eating isn’t necessarily going to outweigh the risks. There has always been and still is a limit on saturated fat, around 10% of total fat calories, so maybe 15-20 grams/day depending on the person. Again - NOT new information. Better sources of saturated fat (vs. low-fat and full fat dairy and red meat) are from nuts and seeds, avocado, Ghee, coconut oil, etc. However, too much of that and you could be getting too much fat and calories = weight gain, lipid imbalances, etc. So it’s about trade-offs and deciding what is right for your body.

What if I’m losing weight on it! If something has been working for you for quite some time (>6 months steadily) there may not be a reason to change it, but still get annual blood work to check your insides. Also, questions to ponder: Is this keeping you from grabbing carbohydrate treats? Did it replace something higher in calories? Is it limiting your snacks and cravings? Did you make other changes around the same time? All good questions to ask yourself or we would explore those together. I am NOT about taking away something that is working for you but we might fine tune it to make it work even better for you and your health long term.

What if I’m eating a ketogenic diet? Well that’s another topic for another newsletter. Most people aren’t eating this way 100% of the time or doing it enough to call it a keto lifestyle. Many are going off and on it and then it’s more of a short term “diet”. I have found many people can’ t exercise very hard (especially cardio) or you may experience shortness of breath with excretion, so this isn’t for everyone. We would explore if this is medically necessary for you and if you’re truly doing a keto diet and then do it healthy. A keto diet is generally less than 100 grams of carbohydrates a day. Remember, fruits and veggies have carbs in them and FIBER - which is the cornerstone of health. Again, another newsletter for another time.

I heard coffee is good for you so maybe I should start drinking it? It’s rare I would tell someone to START drinking coffee because it’s hard on the central nervous system and most people have far too much stress in their life. Adrenal fatigue is real so why add fuel to the fire. We don’t need another stressor and something to process through our liver. If you like it and you know it doesn’t bother you, you don’t get jittery, you drink a moderate amount and you don’t have inflammation in your body, then we’d talk about works for you. If it makes you jittery, impedes on water intake or healthy food intake, you’re using it to stay regular on bowels, you have inflammation or digestion issues, get headaches…then let’s talk! MRT LEAP might be in your near future. This is the only program I offer that decreases inflammation, heals the gut (yes “leaky” gut and SIBO) and eliminates many symptoms for life! Read more here.

Bottom Line: As a dietitian it is my passion to educate, guide, motivate and assist my clients to make clear choices for their body. Keep in mind that bullet proof coffee has an exorbitant amount of fat and calories. It might satisfy you but at what trade off? Maybe it’s a once/week treat?! If so - enjoy it, savor it, sip it, bask in the creaminess and move on. No guilt! There is a daily limit on saturated fat so maybe start with seeing how much you are eating in a day (non-plant based saturated fat is found in low fat, fast food and regular dairy and meats). I often do this for clients with water and steps: quantify first, modify and make goals second.

Here’s another option for you:

  • Bullet Proof “Coffee” Alternative: Four Sigmata (10% off with losolutions) or Teccino teas or Dandelion blend + 1 Tbs Chocolate vegan superfood mix (has protein!) + 1-2 teaspoons coconut oil or organic grass fed Ghee + water or nut milk of choice. Warm +Froth = delicious and full of nutrients!

Know the Facts:

2 Tbs Coconut oil: ~230 calories and 25 grams saturated fat (1.5 monounsaturated, 0.5 polyunsaturated). Total fat: 26 grams. No cholesterol (because not from an animal)

2 Tbs Ghee (clarified butter): 225 and 16 grams of Saturated fat (8 monounsaturated, 1 polyunsaturated, 60 mg cholesterol), Total: 25 fat. What is Ghee? Read more here or here.

2 Tbs Butter: 205, 15 grams saturated (6 monounsaturated, 1 polyunsaturated, 60 mg cholesterol). Total fat: 23 grams

MCT oil which is required for the drink: 125 Calories and an additional 14 grams saturated fat.

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