If you’ve been following the Paleo and Real Food movement for a while, you may have stumbled across people adding butter to their coffee.
Did I just say adding butter to coffee? Yes.
This practice actually isn’t anything new. I’ve known about it and dabbled with it since college where I was introduced to the idea at a Tibetan restaurant.
And yes, there’s a good story to go with this.
I went to college in a fairly progressive, yet small town. With tens of thousands of students in a small area, the restaurant scene is big out there, even for semi-rural Massachusetts.
When I saw there was a Tibetan restaurant, I knew I had to try it. Already I was missing the convenience of LA, where you have flavors from around the world within a few miles of your house. Even for me, Tibetan food was a new cuisine, so I convinced my roommate to visit this little establishment and try some food from the Himalayas.
Of course, I wanted to order all the “weird” stuff on the menu (always my M.O.), so when I saw Salted Yak Butter Tea, I knew immediately what I’d be drinking with lunch.
Well, lo and behold the salted yak butter tea tasted just as good as it sounds; not very.
It was super strong black tea with an oil slick of off-tasting butter on top. Oh, and the salt! It was verrrrry salty. Definitely not what I was expecting.
After that experience, I never even considered adding butter to tea until I attended a lecture by Dave Asprey, the guy behind the Bulletproof Executive, who popularized this practice of adding butter to coffee (or tea). He was speaking at a CrossFit gym where I was a Pilates Instructor at the time (and yes, teaching Pilates to Crossfitters is as hilarious and fun as you can imagine).
After being reminded of the benefits, I gave it a try again and was pleasantly surprised to find that:
- When you use good butter and hold the salt, the stuff tastes really good
- Blending it up make it into a creamy treat, not an oily cup of tea
- I felt fantastic after drinking it, with energy that lasted me way past my usual lunch time!
Many bloggers have reviewed the benefits to this practice, and while I don’t think it’s for everyone (or a cure-all by any means), I do think it’s helpful for a number of people. Below, I review some of the reasons you might want to try it out for yourself.
6 Reasons to Try Adding Butter to Coffee or Tea
1. You have difficulty eating breakfast in the morning
You know from my article, the healthy breakfast mistake, that I’m a fan of eating in the morning, as long as it’s the right foods. But there are a fair number of people who don’t wake up in the morning wanting to eat, who feel like their stomach is “still asleep” and who get nauseous if they do force down food. I’m absolutely a fan of listening to your body, but this can get you in a bit of an energy pickle.
If you’re not careful, you can go about your morning busying yourself with work and forget to eat, only to realize it’s almost lunch and you’re starving. Enter a gigantic lunch, eaten too fast, a horrific stomach ache, and then the dreaded 2pm crash. Not good.
Or maybe you’re just too busy to eat breakfast in the morning, so you drink straight coffee or tea to get a caffeine buzz. Unfortunately, you may be giving your stomach the sensation of being full (from all the liquid) and tricking your body into thinking you have energy (from the caffeine), but in reality your adrenal glands are pumping out high amounts of stress hormones to raise your blood sugar and keep you going through the morning. It’s simply not sustainable for your body long term and can lead to adrenal and hormonal problems down the road.
Adding butter to your tea or coffee will do two things:
1. It doesn’t overwhelm your digestive system with a heavy load of food, but does provide some necessary calories (from fat) to carry you through part of your morning.
2. Because that energy is coming from fat, it does this without giving you rebound hypoglycemia (or in real talk, crazy hanger, low energy, and cravings that you usually get after a typical high carb meal, like cereal or oatmeal).
2. You’re always starving before lunch
Maybe you’re the type of person with a fast metabolism in the morning. It seems no matter what or how much you eat, you need a snack (or two) before lunch otherwise you get seriously hungry or cranky. Since fat stabilizes your blood sugar without raising or lowering it, adding it to your coffee or tea is the perfect addition to make breakfast more satiating long term. It’s fantastic for those of us who easily go hypoglycemic (ahem- me!).
3. You’re frequently constipated
Anyone who’s constipated hears they should just “eat more fiber” and “drink more water”, but chances are you’ve tried that and it didn’t work. But what those “experts” didn’t tell you is that eating enough fats is crucial to keeping your digestive system moving. Every time you eat fat, your gallbladder releases bile. Aside from helping your body emulsify and absorb fats, bile serves another important function; it helps lubricate digested food as it moves through your GI tract. Bile also stimulates normal peristalsis, the contractions of your intestines that keep food moving normally. (The caffeine in coffee and tea also stimulate peristalsis.)
Now, if your body is not used to eating much fat, it can take a while for the system to adjust, so be sure to read the section below before you add a full tablespoon (or more) of fat to your morning beverage (as too much at once can trigger the opposite problem)!
If you have known gall bladder problems, which can worsen with high amounts of fat eaten at one time, I suggest avoiding this practice altogether.
4. You’re sensitive to caffeine
If you get the jitters from a cup o’ joe, you might try the butter trick. Anecdotally, having fat along with your morning dose of caffeine can dampen its effects. But if you’re anything like me and more caffeine sensitive than most people, you might be better off sticking to tea.
I’ve reviewed before how the caffeine in tea affects our body differently than coffee, and not just because the total quantity is lower. Tea also contains theobromines, compounds that counter the stimulant properties of caffeine. Researchers believe this is why tea tends to be less stimulating than coffee.
But hey, it’s worth an experiment to see what works for you!
5. You’re trying to lose weight
Naturally our bodies are more insulin resistant in the morning, partly due to a rise in cortisol upon waking. That means our bodies aren’t very efficient at metabolizing carbohydrates at breakfast. It also means the body naturally favors using fat for fuel in the morning (also called ketosis).
I’ve described a ketogenic diet before, one that relies more heavily on fats than carbohydrates and part of its benefit is that your body burns more fat. Well, start your morning with coffee/tea with butter in lieu of breakfast and your body will burn fat (ketones) for energy instead. It essentially mimics the effects of fasting, except you’re actually indulging in a pretty delicious drink. (Keep in mind adding any type of sugar to your drink negates this effect.)
Of course, weight loss will only follow if this butter trick results in less hunger later in the day and you end up eating less. This is usually the case when you increase your healthy fat intake, however, not everyone will lose weight or have reduced hunger.
(For example, I am pretty hungry in the morning, and no amount of butter alone will satiate my hunger. In other words, I need food in the morning. My energy is far better when I have a fat-and-protein-rich breakfast along with maybe a little carbs from vegetables or berries. Having butter in my tea will give me an extra hour or two of energy before I’m hungry for lunch, but it’s not enough to sustain me by itself.)
If you experiment with it and end up feeling the same way as me, it’s probably best to have your butter-spiked coffee or tea with a meal (or maybe ditch the idea altogether).
6. You want to maximize your antioxidants
Coffee and tea are both packed with healthful antioxidants. But, adding milk to coffee and tea negates some of the beneficial effects. One study found that adding milk to coffee reduced bioavailability of the antioxidants by 28%. It’s the proteins in milk that binds to the antioxidants, rendering them useless, not the fat.
Butter only has trace amounts of milk protein, meaning that it won’t interfere with your antioxidant absorption. Adding butter to your tea or coffee might actually increase the antioxidant benefits, since it’s well known that fats help your body absorb fat-soluble antioxidants, as I’ve discussed in this article.
So, if you like your coffee or tea with cream, consider switching to butter instead!
Want to try adding butter to coffee or tea? Read this first!
A lot of people aren’t used to eating enough real food fats, a by-product of incorrect nutrition dogma that’s plagued us for decades. Because of this, I suggest you start with a small amount of butter, say a teaspoon, so your digestive system can adjust (too much at once can trigger cramps or diarrhea). Over time you can increase this to however much you like, usually a tablespoon or a little more.
Some also like adding coconut oil to their coffee. It won’t blend up as creamy if you use it in lieu of butter, but it does add a good dose of healthy MCTs (and a yummy coconut flavor). I personally enjoy a combination of the two.
Use the best quality butter that you can find, preferably from grass-fed cows. Kerrygold is a commonly available brand, but there are others. Quality butter will be golden yellow in color and have a delicious flavor. Cheap store-bought butter will ruin a good cup of tea or coffee, so don’t even bother if you can’t access good butter (yes, call me a butter snob, but it’s in your best interest). Opt for unsalted butter (for – what I hope are – obvious reasons).
Use organic coffee or tea to minimize your exposure to pesticide residues. Coffee is one of the most highly sprayed crops when it comes to pesticides and fungicides.
Mix, Mix, Mix!
Emulsifying the butter in your drink is key to a latte-like result (vs. butter slick ala salted yak butter tea. Blech!) Personally, I prefer using an immersion blender because it’s so easy to clean, but a regular blender will work.
Start with a cup of strong black tea or coffee. Add the butter. Whiz it up for 30 seconds or so until it gets frothy and enjoy!
Don’t knock it ‘til you try it
As weird as this sounds, adding butter to your coffee or tea makes an indulgent latte. If you think about it, we all love whipped cream on a hot beverage. Mixing in (unsalted) butter is pretty much the same thing.
Now I’d like to hear from you:
- Have you ever added butter to tea (or coffee)? What did you think?
- Did you notice any of the above benefits or do you have another one to share?
Until next week,