If you frequent Paleo or Primal circles chances are you’ve either heard of or tried bulletproof coffee. But there’s some debate as to whether it’s actually Paleo (or even healthy) — and now with products like fat water, we have to wonder, is this a necessary part of an ancestral diet or caveman diet?
Bulletproof coffee came about when Dave Asprey, whose company and biohacking wellness research, led him to add grassfed butter and medium chain triglycerides (MCT) oil to his coffee to jumpstart the day with a load of beneficial fats and to spread out the way that the body metabolized caffeine.
Since then, many in the Paleo and Primal communities have adopted this bulletproof beverage, in some cases, replacing breakfast with it entirely. I spent a few weeks drinking bulletproof coffee for breakfast and while I didn’t find myself jittery or starving before lunch, I wasn’t ever really satisfied. I’m not really one who likes to drink my meals, but I also found I was missing out on the benefits of including more protein and vegetables into that oh-so-critical first meal of the day.
We get asked a lot if bulletproof coffee is healthy. Should you be drinking it? Is your Paleo diet somehow lacking if you don’t drink it? Is there any point in having decaf bulletproof coffee? What about bulletproof tea? But truly the number one question is: If butter isn’t Paleo, why do so many who are Paleo drink bulletproof coffee? Is butter Paleo?! Many of you have expressed confusion at the influx of Paleo authorities who are including grassfed butter in their diets. While we have a whole separate post about that, let me say that technically, butter — even when it’s grassfed — is not Paleo. However, because Paleo ultimately comes down to bioindividual tolerance, and butter is actually very low in milk proteins, many don’t officially consider it a diary product, but rather a fat product, and argue that it can, indeed, be Paleo.
We will leave the debating to a different post, but as for the question of bulletproof coffee being nutritious: it can be great to start your day off with a big boost of good quality fats. Since bulletproof coffee can be made with or without butter, some utilize coconut oil, ghee, or lard to keep it more Paleo. Of course, you can also get a nice infusion of fat for breakfast by consuming things like salmon, uncured bacon, grassfed meats, and pastured eggs, so bulletproof coffee isn’t the only way to fill this slot.
So is your Paleo diet lacking if you don’t drink bulletproof coffee? Not in any way. Should you be drinking it? That depends on the answer to a number of questions like how do you tolerate butter? How do you tolerate caffeine? Is breakfast a struggle for you? If you’re super sensitive to dairy products, then even the tiniest amount of lactose in grassfed butter may be problematic for you. You could leave the butter out and try different fat options, or you could stick with completely different breakfast options altogether. If you’re sensitive to caffeine but still like the idea of having a fat-bomb beverage to start off your day, try it with decaf. If you’re one of those people who just really has a hard time waking up and eating a meal, then bulletproof coffee could actually be very useful for you. You’ve undoubtedly heard how important breakfast is for breaking your fast, balancing your glucose, revving your metabolism, and equipping your body to have good energy throughout the day. If you just can’t bring yourself to cook or eat food before the lunch hour, bulletproof coffee could fill this void and actually have some brilliant nutritional impact on your body.
If you don’t like coffee, or you can’t have it because of intolerance or you’re following the AIP (autoimmune Paleo) protocol, you can replicate the same effects by including the same variety of fat options into tea. Black tea is an option for coffee haters, and dandelion tea or other herbal teas are alternates for those who can’t digest coffee well.
Okay, so let’s say you like the idea of starting off your day with lots of good quality fats and you just don’t do well with cooking breakfast, or maybe you can’t eat eggs or struggle to have “non-breakfast” foods for breakfast. We all have our own individual preferences when it comes to this first meal of the day, and that’s fine! You can also make a smoothie that is rich in good quality fats and can offer the same nutritional and metabolic benefits as bulletproof coffee. Full fat coconut milk makes an excellent base, and when you add in things like grassfed gelatin, MCT oil, cod liver oil, and avocado, combined with other traditional smoothie ingredients like fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds, you could have a delicious, fast, and on-the-go breakfast meal.
We three nutritionists here at Paleo Plan have various opinions on bulletproof coffee and butter, and here’s a summary:
Personally, I don’t think bulletproof coffee is going to kill you or be a make-or-break component of your food plan. I don’t think it should be the staple of your Paleo diet, as there are much better ways to achieve your daily fat intake (many mentioned earlier in this post!). But for an occasional treat or as a sidekick to your Paleo breakfast? Sure, why not? Especially since you can make it with or without the butter, allowing it to conform to any ingredient specificity that your body demands.
Sally Johnson, MS, RDN, LD and our meal-planning expert, says, “Bulletproof coffee is a tasty and satisfying option to have in your repertoire of morning Joe. You can use as much or as little grassfed butter and other components as you want to compliment your diet and lifestyle.”
And Kinsey Jackson, CNS, who is the face behind our weekly emails, has this to say: “Having challenged it in and out of my diet several times, I feel confident saying that I tolerate grass-fed butter well (despite tolerating other dairy sources poorly). I love blending up unsalted pasture butter with MCT oil in my coffee (in my own version of Bulletproof coffee), and truly feel that my mornings and coffee are all the better for it!”
So, to bulletproof or not to bulletproof? That is a question that really only you can answer, but we hope we’ve given you the info you need to make the best possible decision for your individual health needs!