Extreme diets—looking at you, keto and Paleo—bring with them lots of quirky food trends, like fat bombs, carb backloading, and egg white chips. (I’m still not so sure about the latter.) Some catch on and some don’t, but one that definitely seems to have staying power is butter coffee.
Touted for improving energy, focus, and satiety, java mixed with a big dollop of fat has caught on on in the mainstream food world, fast. Over the past few years, it’s appeared on menus at tons of coffee shops—and not just the brick-and-mortar homes of Bulletproof, the OG butter coffee brand. But more recently, a butter alternative has been gaining popularity among the caffeinated crowd: ghee, an Ayurvedic cooking staple that’s basically butter with the water and milk solids removed. So, what’s the deal?
If you’re looking for a drink with the benefits of butter coffee but a better taste, ghee coffee is probably your best bet. “Ghee is a lot nuttier and sweeter than butter, so if you’re on keto—or just trying to avoid artificial sweeteners—you’ll have an easier time with ghee,” says Mark Yu, a company principal at Grass Fed Coffee, an LA-based butter-coffee startup. “Grass-fed ghee is rich in essential fatty acids, omega-3s, omega-9s, and fat-soluble vitamins A, D, and E. It also has a high butyric acid level,” Yu explains. “These are all essential gut health nutrients and support a healthy metabolism.”
Another great thing about ghee is that it can be easier on the stomach than butter. “If you’re sensitive to dairy, then ghee will be beneficial to you because all the lactose is removed in the process of making it,” Yu explains.
“Grass-fed ghee is rich in essential fatty acids, omega-3s, omega-9s, and fat-soluble vitamins A, D, and E. It also has a high butyric acid level.”—Mark Yu, Grass Fed Coffee
Although Yu warns that ghee is slightly oiler than butter, which may scare some people away, he believes that proper grass-fed ghee is superior to regular old butter—and this is coming from a guy who runs a butter-coffee biz. “Ghee is a bit more expensive than butter, but it’s definitely worth it,” he proclaims.
That said, other experts are totally opposed to butter and ghee in coffee. Keto diet guru Maria Emmerich, author of Keto: The Complete Guide to Success on the Ketogenic Diet, argues that many people are drinking it for the wrong reasons—namely, because they think they can simply swap it for their breakfast and lose weight.
“If your body is not in ketosis and you’re drinking fatty ghee coffee, you’re just going to end up gaining weight,” she explains. “People will see a lot more success if they just focus on chewing real food instead of trying to drink their calories. Chewing food registers brain signals and hormones that tell your body that you are eating and should feel satisfied and full.”
And what if you’re not trying to lose weight, but you just like the creamy texture of butter- or ghee-infused joe? It’s certainly not likely to harm you—as long as, like everything else, you sip it in moderation.
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