Is Cultured Buttermilk Healthy? As a probiotic drink, cultured buttermilk offers a round of health benefits from its active cultures such as Lactobacillus, Bifidobacterium, and Streptococcus. Usually found in dairy products like milk, yogurt, and cottage cheese, buttermilk is its fermented form which supplies millions of lactobacilli bacteria. Cultured buttermilk is a milk product that consists mainly of pure dairy milk and cultures like Lactobacillus acidophilus and Lactobacillus bulgaricus. It has been used for its medicinal properties since ancient history. It can be consumed as-is or used in various recipes. So, let’s find out whether it is healthy or not, the advantages and the disadvantages by this article.
Is Cultured Buttermilk Healthy?
Buttermilk is a good source of calcium, protein and other nutrients. Limited research also suggests buttermilk might promote heart health. Drinking or baking with buttermilk can be part of a healthy diet. Most often buttermilk is used in baking as a healthier alternative to sweetened-condensed milk.
Buttermilk can play a role in a healthy diet because it contains calcium and protein. Buttermilk that contains live cultures also is a source of probiotics, which are beneficial for the gut.
Buttermilk And Its Uses
Buttermilk comes in two types: traditional and cultured. The traditional variety originated as the protein-rich liquid left after butter was churned from fresh cream, explains the University of California Berkeley School of Public Health. The beverage remains a staple in Nepal, India, and Pakistan. While a few small dairy farms in America make this “real” traditional buttermilk, most of the buttermilk in supermarkets is cultured.
Cultured buttermilk is primarily made in the U.S. by mixing pasteurized milk with lactic acid-producing bacteria, such as Lactococcus lactis or Lactobacillus bulgaricus. After mixing, it’s allowed to ferment for 12 to 24 hours, notes the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture.
It comes in either salted or unsalted varieties. Anyone on a low-sodium diet should be cautious with the salted kind because it’s often high in sodium.
Buttermilk uses are varied. The beverage makes a good substitution for milk, cream, butter or sour cream in recipes. When used to make baked goods, it imparts a tender texture and slightly tangy taste. Buttermilk is also delicious in salad dressings, smoothies and soups.
The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services states that buttermilk will stay good in the refrigerator for about two weeks. Experts don’t recommend freezing cultured dairy foods.
Benefits Of Active-Culture Buttermilk
Buttermilk with active cultures (which you can make at home if you can’t find it in stores) contains probiotics. Such microbes enhance immunity, improve digestion and boost nutrient absorption, notes Harvard Health.
In a healthy gut, the population of friendly bacteria is larger than that of unfriendly bacteria. Probiotics help create a barrier against the unfriendly bacterial strains. Foods with probiotics also reverse the imbalance in the gut bacterial community caused by antibiotics, which kill the beneficial, as well as the harmful microbes.
Cleveland Clinic notes yet more potential advantages of probiotic foods like buttermilk, including prevention and treatment of diarrhea, yeast infections in women and urinary tract infections.
Probiotics are also being studied for remediation of joint stiffness, sleeping disorders, mental illness and skin infections. The microbes may also be of value for childhood respiratory and stomach infections.
Buttermilk vs. Milk
People who are lactose intolerant don’t make enough lactase, the enzyme needed to digest the main carbohydrates in milk called lactose. Consequently, they experience symptoms like bloating, diarrhea and abdominal cramps when they eat dairy foods. Kefir, yogurt and buttermilk with active cultures may be acceptable dairy substitutes for regular milk, according to the Mississippi State University Extension.
The Dairy Council of California explains that probiotic foods help digest lactose in the small intestines before it reaches the colon. So, try buttermilk for stomach problems caused by lactose intolerance.
A study published in the British Journal of Nutrition in December 2018 compared the effect of fermented and nonfermented dairy products on cardiovascular health. It found that participants who consumed the most fermented dairy products had a 27-percent reduced risk of heart disease compared to those who consumed the least.
In contrast, individuals in the BJN study who consumed the most nonfermented dairy products had a 52-percent higher risk. The authors concluded that fermented and nonfermented dairy foods can have opposite effects on heart disease likelihood.
Another advantage of buttermilk involves the diet that doctors recommend for gastrointestinal reflux disease (GERD) in which the stomach contents back up into the esophagus and cause burning.
Low-fat dairy products, including buttermilk, are on the list of foods considered safe for GERD, but whole-fat dairy products are on the list of foods that possibly trigger the condition. Most of the buttermilk in supermarkets is either nonfat or low in fat.
Make Buttermilk At Home
If you have difficulty finding buttermilk with a live culture in the supermarket, you can make it at home, says the Probiotics Center. First, buy a carton of buttermilk and add either a starter or buttermilk starter to initiate the fermentation process. It’s a good idea to put in a little milk because it adds sugar that the bacteria will eat to make lactic acid.
Leave the buttermilk out at room temperature for 18 to 24 hours. If you live in a cool climate, put the bowl of buttermilk near a radiator or source of heat. The longer you let the mixture sit, the tangier and more sour it will become. Start tasting it after 18 hours to see if it suits your preference. Once it tastes right, you can store it in the refrigerator for up to five days.
Buttermilk Benefits For Health
Nutrients in buttermilk include protein, calcium, riboflavin (vitamin B12) and potassium. Some manufacturers add vitamins A and D. The U.S. Department of Agriculture says calcium strengthens bones and teeth, potassium promotes healthy blood pressure and vitamin D fosters optimal levels of calcium and phosphorus.
All dairy products reduce the likelihood of osteoporosis. Aim to include 3 cups of dairy foods in your diet each day.
Low-fat buttermilk contains 8 grams of protein, 100 calories and 2 grams of fat per cup; while whole buttermilk contains 150 calories, 8 grams of fat and 5 grams of saturated fat per cup.
Authors of a small clinical trial of 34 people featured in Nutrition in January 2014 state that buttermilk contains a constituent called milk-fat globule membrane, which is plentiful in unusual bioactive proteins. Several prior studies suggest it has anticancer and cholesterol-lowering properties, as well as antibacterial and antiviral actions.
After investigating the effects of short-term buttermilk consumption, the researchers in the Nutrition trial discovered it significantly decreased blood pressure.
A small clinical trial of 34 participants published in Nutrition, Metabolism & Cardiovascular Diseases in December 2013 studied the effects of buttermilk on cholesterol. It found that consuming two servings per day of reconstituted buttermilk powder for four weeks resulted in lower LDL, or bad, cholesterol, in individuals who began the trial with high cholesterol. Researchers also noted very small decreases in total cholesterol and a reduction in triglycerides.
The above two studies had statistically significant findings, but aren’t clinically relevant, says the University of California Berkeley School of Public Health. The takeaway from them is that buttermilk didn’t raise blood pressure or cholesterol.
A one-cup serving of cultured 1% buttermilk contains:
- 110 calories
- 9 grams of protein
- 3 grams of fat
- 13 grams of carbohydrates
- Less than 1 gram of fiber
- 12 grams of sugar
Buttermilk is an excellent source of protein, which your body needs to build healthy muscles, skin, and bones. Most buttermilk on the market is also fortified with extra vitamins and minerals, such as:
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin D
Potential Health Benefits Of Buttermilk
The vitamins, minerals, and probiotics in buttermilk provide some excellent health benefits. For instance, the vitamin A in fortified buttermilk is an important part of keeping your eyes healthy. Vitamin A is part of a group of vitamins known as retinoids because they’re a crucial part of keeping your retinas in good shape. Vitamin A also boosts your immune system and keeps your lungs, heart, and kidneys healthy.
Buttermilk provides some other significant health benefits:
It can give you more energy. The riboflavin in buttermilk is a B vitamin that is vital for your body’s energy production systems. Riboflavin also helps regulate your body’s amino acids, which make up proteins.
It can give you another option if you’re lactose intolerant. People who have lactose intolerance may find buttermilk easier than standard milk to digest. The process of making buttermilk involves adding bacteria that break down and digest lactose in the milk. The bacteria convert lactose into lactic acid, lowering the total amount of lactose.
Health Benefits Of Drinking Buttermilk:
- Natural Coolant for the Body:
Buttermilk is amazingly refreshing and quickly cools down our bodies. A glass of buttermilk topped with cumin seeds, mint and salt, is well suited to quench our thirst and cool our bodies in the hot summer months from April to July.
It can also be topped with ice cubes and proves to be a good alternative to the chemical-laden cold drinks available in the market.
A glass of buttermilk can also provide relief to post-menopausal women who experience hot flashes.
- Prevents Dehydration:
Buttermilk is made using curd and water. It contains around 90 per cent of water and electrolyte like potassium.
Thus, buttermilk is effective in maintaining water balance in the body and prevents dehydration.
- Good for Our Digestive System:
Buttermilk is a boon for our digestive system. Healthy bacteria and lactic acid in buttermilk help digestion and improve our metabolism.
It also helps maintain regular bowel movements and helps people who suffer from constipation. Buttermilk is also helpful to treat Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS).
It also helps to prevent stomach infections, lactose intolerance and colon cancer.
- Boosts Energy:
It provides more energy and keeps you active throughout the day. The riboflavin in buttermilk is a B vitamin that is vital for your body’s energy production systems. It also helps regulate your body’s amino acids, which make up proteins.
- Good for Bones & Teeth:
Buttermilk is a good source of calcium. 100 ml of buttermilk contains around 116 mg of calcium.
Calcium is essential for a healthy skeletal system. It makes our bones and teeth strong. Calcium helps to prevent degenerative bone diseases like osteoporosis.
Calcium is also required for clotting of blood, contraction of muscles and beating of our heart.
- Relieves Acidity:
Oily and spicy foods can often lead to acid reflux and cause heartburn. A glass of buttermilk topped with black pepper and coriander helps in instantly easing our symptoms of acidity.
The lactic acid in buttermilk normalizes the acidity in the stomach and gives a soothing effect.
- May Help to Lower Cholesterol Levels:
Drinking buttermilk regularly helps to lower blood cholesterol levels and triglycerides.
It thus helps to maintain cardiovascular health.
Read More: 10 Foods to Lower Cholesterol
- May Reduce Blood Pressure :
Regular consumption of buttermilk effectively reduces blood pressure and thus helps patients with hypertension and heart diseases.
Potassium in buttermilk also reduces blood pressure.
Read More: 7 Foods that Help Lower Blood Pressure
- Good for Immunity:
Drinking buttermilk every day strengthens our immune system and protects us from a variety of infections.
- Good for Our Skin:
Probiotics in buttermilk keep our digestion proper and thus help in removing toxins from our bodies. The lactic acid in buttermilk is good for our skin.
Buttermilk keeps our skin glowing and is an excellent skin cleanser and toner. It also helps to remove tan, acne spots and blemishes. It moisturizes and brightens our skin, thus delaying ageing.
All these benefits make buttermilk a blessing for our skin.
Read More: 7 Home Remedies for Glowing Skin
- Loaded with Vitamins:
Buttermilk is rich in B complex vitamins and vitamin D. Vitamins are very important and help our body in numerous ways.
- Helps in Weight Loss:
Buttermilk is rich in proteins, vitamins and several minerals but low in calories and fats.
Drinking buttermilk keeps us hydrated and energetic. It also makes us feel full, thus reducing the unnecessary consumption of junk food. It is an ideal drink for people who want to lose weight.
Read More: 8 Exercises That Help With Weight Loss
- Helps in Detoxification:
Buttermilk contains riboflavin that helps in converting food into energy which can be used by the body to perform various functions. It also helps in the secretion of certain hormones, improves liver function and facilitates detoxification of the body.