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What is 'proffee' and is it good for you?

Can adding protein to your cup of joe help to give it a nutritional boost?
Time for a cuppa
Have you ever brewed a cup of "proffee"?Louise Beaumont / Getty Images

Protein coffee is exactly what it sounds like. Protein, usually in the form of powder, added to your morning brew. Sounds like a good idea, but is it good for you? As a registered dietitian, I'm here to help you break it down.

Coffee in its solo form can be good for us and it can be not so good for us. Coffee is loaded with antioxidants and it has been linked to a prevention of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson's diseases, Type 2 diabetes as well as cirrhosis. Coffee also contributes to our hydration status (when not over consumed) and, well, it makes many of us happy too! Your favorite morning bev is also a place for many of us to sneak in some much needed nutrients like calcium.

When is coffee not so great for us? When we load it up with processed creamers, sugar and artificial sweeteners. Coffee gets a thumbs up for your health or a thumbs down depending upon how you dress it up. In its purest form it certainly has multiple health benefits.

Should you add protein powder to your coffee?

Now, on to the protein part of the question. As a reminder, we need protein for building muscles (and skin and hair), hormones and enzymes, and even to build antibodies for a healthy immune system. Protein is also used in many bodily functions including cell maintenance and repair, and blood clotting.

And, starting the day with protein has been shown to help stabilize blood sugar levels as well as help people avoid overconsuming later in the day due to its ability to provide satiety.

Back to is coffee protein good for us? The answer is yes, it certainly can be. It is healthy for you if you’re adding it to your coffee that is already healthy.

For example, coffee (fair trade organic is even better) with no added sweeteners and a half scoop of a high quality protein powder can be a good option for upping your morning protein game. On the other hand, coffee with two Splendas, an artificial vanilla creamer and a poor quality protein powder is still unhealthy coffee. The additional protein won’t make it healthier — in fact, poor quality protein powder will only make it worse. If you want to add protein to your coffee, first make sure your coffee is healthy then add a high quality powder. Look for a powder with no artificial sweeteners and no unhealthy gums and fillers such as carrageenan.

Also, remember that adding milk already contributes to your coffee's protein count: Cow’s milk has 8 grams of protein per cup (as does soy) and almond milk has 2 grams. So, adding protein powder is essentially just taking your coffee up a protein notch. Just remember: Quality is of utmost importance.

The next thing to consider is, why are you even putting protein in your coffee in the first place? If it is because the thought of breakfast makes you say “yuck” and you think protein in your coffee may be an easy way to get some morning protein? Then, perhaps it is a good choice. Is it because you think skipping your egg scramble for protein coffee is a way to lose weight? Probably not the best choice. Or, do you love your morning eggs and are you just jumping on a trend? May not be a reason to give it a go either.

If you decide you want to start your day with a cup of "proffee," make sure you're using high quality ingredients and not using it as a meal replacement. It can be a healthy option for a lot of people — as long as you're drinking it in a healthy way.