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Butter Your Toast, Not Your Coffee

Sep 25, 2014

Some people take their coffee with sugar, some take it with cream, and now a growing number are taking it with a large dollop of butter. They aren't just doing it for the taste. Proponents of "bulletproof" coffee as it is known, say using the drink as a replacement for breakfast makes them healthier and more mentally alert. They also claim it helps keep their weight in check.

But how much of this is fact, and how much is caffeine-fueled hype?

"A breakfast that consists solely of butter and coffee is a missed opportunity," says Jean Zancanella, a professor of nutrition with the University of Utah College of Health. "I have read the claims about the butter and coffee breakfast, and yes it might give you a bit of mental clarity because caffeine will do that," she says. "One to two tablespoons of butter will give you 100-200 calories of fat and that might keep you feeling full for a while. However, you will not get any of the other needed nutrients that a good breakfast can provide."

It also may not help you lose or maintain a healthy weight. "Weight loss does occur in individuals following a ketogenic diet (very low carbohydrate), but strict adherence to the diet is required and the long term health benefits are debatable," says Zancanella.

What if the butter in question isn't just the normal variety found in the supermarket though? The buttered coffee faction says the reason their drink is superior is that it is made with butter from grass fed cows. This butter, they say, is a good source of vitamin K, and has properties that control cholesterol levels. While that sounds impressive, it isn't exactly true. "There is a theory that dairy products from grass fed cows are healthier because of higher levels of Conjugated Linoleic Acid, but good quality human studies are lacking," Says Zancanella.

If buttered coffee isn't the magic bullet it is supposed to be, what kind of breakfast should you be having? "One suggestion for assembling a healthy breakfast would be to include a serving of protein, a whole fruit and a serving of grain. These three foods would provide you with enough energy and fiber to keep you feeling full for several hours," says Zancanella. "Coffee is optional."